With one bold swing, Camilo Villegas turned a solid round at the Honda Classic into his lowest start in more than a year. Villegas drilled a 3-wood...
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — With one bold swing, Camilo Villegas turned a solid round at the Honda Classic into his lowest start in more than a year.
Villegas drilled a 3-wood from 263 yards over the water to about 8 feet for an eagle on the par-5 18th hole at PGA National for a 6-under-par 64 that gave him a one-shot lead and another jolt of confidence as he tries to regain his status on the PGA Tour.
Branden Grace was bullish when it came to the “Bear’s Trap” by making birdie on all three holes of the notorious stretch late on the back nine. He made it four in a row with a birdie on the 18th hole and was at 65 with Rickie Fowler, Graham DeLaet of Canada and Robert Streb.
Defending champion Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods each opened with 70 and walked away feeling much differently about their day.
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Woods played in the cool, cloudy morning and was in danger of a big number late in his round when he decided to take off his socks and shoes, don rain pants and step into a creek to play a shot half-submerged in the water. Instead of taking a drop that could have led to double bogey, he escaped with par and rallied for a 70.
“I wasn’t trying to advance it very far, just make sure I got it back in the fairway and give myself some kind of wedge shot in there, which I did,” Woods said.
McIlroy was 1 under for his day when his wedge from 105 yards sailed over the 18th green, he chipped to just inside 8 feet and took bogey when he missed the putt. It felt even worse coming on the easiest hole at PGA National, which played about a half-shot below par.
Just four years after Villegas’ back-to-back wins in FedEx Cup playoff events and climbing to as high as No. 7 in the world, the 31-year-old Colombian went into a slump so bad that over the last 18 months he lost his card and didn’t earn it back in Q-school. A popular draw, he’s playing this year on sponsor exemptions.
“This game is great when you’re playing good,” Villegas said. “When you’re out here missing cuts and missing cuts, I don’t care what people say. Yes, we’re blessed to have this job, but it’s not that much fun.”
Kyle Stanley of Gig Harbor and former Husky Troy Kelly each shot a 70. Former Husky Richard H. Lee had a 72.
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• Spain’s Azahara Munoz shot a 7-under 65 for a two-stroke lead after the first round of the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore, which features 17 of the top 20 LPGA players.