The Spider is back! It’s been a while since we’ve seen Camilo Villegas on a leaderboard anywhere, let alone at the top of one. The 31 year old from Medellin, Columbia would solve that problem in the first round of the Honda Classic on Thursday afternoon when he went for the green at the par 5 18th hole, and put an eagle three on his score card. He would sign for an opening round -6 under 64, and a one shot lead at the very difficult PGA National Champion Course in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
“My caddie said, `Where are you going to go with the one,’” Villegas said. “And I said, `I’m looking straight at that flag.’ And I hit a great shot.”
Four years ago, most TV commercials around golf included at least one of the University of Florida grad performing a spider kneel on the green to line up a putt. I’m still not sure what the move is, but Villegas is the only one with the strength and agility to read greens in that manner.
After wining the Honda Classic in 2010, his golf game went into a downward spiral that would eventually see him lose his tour card, and fail to win it back in the final Q School this winter. A popular draw, he has received ample sponsor exemptions to get through the year and can build a full schedule. His game hasn’t improved much this season with a T49 at the Humana Challenge, and missed cuts at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, and The ATT National ProAm.
In 2008, Camilo Villegas won two tournaments during the FedEx Cup Playoffs. He picked up wins at The BMW Championship, and the Tour Championship. The success during the 2008 season pushed him all the way up to number seven in World Rankings(OWGR). Villegas is in search of his first top-10 finish since the 2011 BMW Championship, an event he won in 2008. In 2012, he made 15 cuts in 25 starts, with a best finish being a T18 at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
South African, Branden Grace had the clubhouse lead after he posted an early -5 under 65. It was eventually good for a share of second place with Canadian Graham DeLaet, Rickie Fowler, and Robert Streb. Grace is one of the fine young players from the Sunshine Tour, and has had an exceptional spring. His best finish this year was a tie for fifth place at Abu Dhabi. The youngster from Pretoria has four wins on the European Tour, and is currently 14th in Race To Dubai Points. He is ranked 30th on the OWGR.
The young South African went bullish through The Bear Trap with birdies at all three. He followed up with another birdie at 18. The Bear Trap, aptly named after course designer, and tournament host Jack Nicklaus, for being one of the toughest three hole stretches on the PGA Tour. It is said to rival Amen Corner at Augusta.
The toughest hole at Palm Beach Gardens proved to be the par 4 tenth hole with a 4.245 average. There were only eight birdies on Thursday to go along with 41 bogeys. The par 5 18th hole was the easiest, yielding seven eagles, and 61 birdies. There were only seven bogeys, and had a scoring average 4.254.
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