Friday’s golf roundup: Camilo Villegas takes 1-stroke lead at Wyndham
Greensboro, N.C. — Camilo Villegas got away from golf for a little while, and his game came back.
A recharged Villegas shot a 7-under 63 on Thursday to take a one-stroke lead after the first round at the Wyndham Championship.
North Carolina natives Webb Simpson and William McGirt shot 64, and Scott Langley, Heath Slocum, Paul Casey, Andrew Loupe and Martin Laird were another stroke back in the final event before the PGA Tour’s playoffs.
Villegas hasn’t won since 2010 and has only two top-10 finishes in the last three years.
After pulling out of the Canadian Open after one round last month, he spent the past week back in his native Colombia for “a little recharge” — leaving his clubs behind in Florida.
“I just thought it was appropriate to hop on a plane and see mom and dad and recharge a little bit,” Villegas said.
It helped him make a late charge up the Sedgefield Country Club leaderboard.
Starting on the back nine, he had three early birdies before getting even hotter late: He followed his birdie on the fourth with an eagle on the par-5 fifth, placing his second shot about 3 feet from the stick.
He claimed sole possession of the lead two holes later with a birdie, sinking a 15-foot putt on the par-3 seventh.
But early leads have been something of a curse at Sedgefield. Since the tournament returned to the course in 2008, the only first-round leader to win was Arjun Atwal in 2010.
And first-round leads haven’t exactly been kind to Villegas lately, either. He held two of them last year, but missed the cut at the Honda Classic and finished 71st at the John Deere.
“I’ve also played great rounds and played some good ones after that,” Villegas said. “It’s a matter of just coming out here and playing good golf tomorrow. There shouldn’t be any relationship between Thursday-Friday and Friday-Saturday or Saturday-Sunday.”
Simpson, the 2011 winner, hopes to make an impression on U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson. His three captain’s picks are due next month. Simpson finished 15th on the Ryder Cup points list.
“It’s on my mind a little bit, but there are so many things I can’t control with what the captain does and how other guys play,” Simpson said. “I think if I have a good week this week — not just today but this week — it’ll show that I really want to make the team. I want to make a good argument for myself to be a pick.”
Simpson has always been a local favorite and top draw at this tournament — even before he claimed his first PGA Tour victory here three years ago, and well before he won the 2012 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club. The Raleigh native played college golf at nearby Wake Forest and lives in Charlotte.
Playing in the marquee grouping of the day along with fellow Wyndham winners Brandt Snedeker (2007) and Patrick Reed (2013), Simpson birdied his first four holes.
He was briefly at 7 -under before he wound up with a bogey on the 17th when his 3-foot par putt hit a spike mark.
“Normally, the ball will kind of pop right over, but it got it pretty good and went right,” Simpson said. “Late in the day, it happens to everybody.”
Lexi Thompson and South Korea’s Meena Lee shot 6-under-66 to share the first-round lead in the LPGA Championship, the fourth major championship of the season.
Thompson, the Kraft Nabisco winner in April for her first major title, and Lee each made eight birdies and a pair of bogeys at Monroe Golf Club to finish a stroke ahead of ahead of Brittany Lincicome, Colombia’s Lisa McCloskey and Canadian rookie Jennifer Kirby.
Shanshan Feng of China, the tournament winner two years ago, was tied for sixth at 68 with 2010 champion Cristie Kerr. Catriona Matthew of Scotland, runner-up a year ago to South Korea’s Inbee Park, was tied at 69 with seven other players. Park was at even-par 72, one shot better than Paula Creamer and Karrie Webb.
Top-ranked Stacy Lewis, a three-time winner this year, started on the back nine and birdied three of the first five holes, then faltered with three straight bogeys before the turn. She finished at 71.
South Korea’s Gunn Yang advanced to the U.S. Amateur quarterfinals, birdieing the final three holes to beat top-ranked Ollie Schniederjans 1 up at Atlanta Athletic Club.
Yang, a San Diego State sophomore making his first appearance in the tournament, was down a hole against Schniederjans, a senior at Georgia Tech, after 15 holes. Yang won the par-16th with a 6-foot putt, took the par-3 17th with another 6-footer and finished off the hometown favorite with a tap-in on the par-5 18th.
In the morning, Yang beat England’s Paul Howard 4 and 3 in the round of 32. Yang will play Cameron Young of Scarborough, New York, in the quarterfinals. Young beat Kyle Jones of Taylor, Arizona 1 up.
In the other upper-bracket quarterfinal, 36-year-old Pittsburgh financial adviser Nathan Smith will play Frederick Wedel of The Woodlands, Texas. In the lower bracket, Canada’s Corey Conners will play Zachary Olsen of Cordova, Tennessee; and Roman Robledo of Harlingen, Texas, will face Denny McCarthy of Rockville, Maryland.
Made in Denmark
Danish star Thomas Bjorn shot a 5-under 66 for a share of the first-round lead in the Made in Denmark tournament, boosting his chances of securing a spot on Europe’s Ryder Cup.
The 43-year-old Bjorn has 15 European Tour victories. Chile’s Felipe Aguilar and Wales’ Bradley Dredge also shot 66. Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen was fourth after a 69 at Himmerland.