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Familiar start has Wi on top

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Getting off to a quick start is nothing new for Charlie Wi. The hard part is finishing what he starts.

Wi took the 18-hole lead for the third time this year — and the eighth time in his winless PGA Tour career — by closing with back-to-back birdies Thursday for 8-under 64 on the easier Palm Course at the Walt Disney World Resort. That gave him a one-shot lead over former Gator Camilo Villegas and Tommy Gainey in the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic.

This is the 184th career tour start for Wi. Getting his first win would give him a chance to get into the top 30 on the money list and earn his first trip to the Masters. "Top 30 is definitely a goal," Wi said. "I at least want to give myself a chance."

Villegas, 30, hasn't won since 2007, failed to qualify for any major this year and is No. 150 on the money list. The top 125 earn full tour cards for next year. If Villegas falls out of the top 150, he'll have to go to the second stage of qualifying school. "Trust me, people remind you, 'Hey, you're 150th on the money list.' And I'm kind of like, 'Life is good. Just keep going,' " he said. "If you're good at this game, if you're out, you'll be back in."

Tampa resident Ryuji Imada was at 3 under.

The first two days, also being played on the Magnolia Course, are a pro-am. Rays pitcher David Price, named Wednesday a finalist for the American League Cy Young Award, shot an adjusted 12 under on the Magnolia to share the amateur lead with comedian Bill Engvall and Orlando real estate investor Lothar Estein.

LPGA: Michelle Wie shot 6-under 66 for a share of the first-round lead in the Lorena Ochoa Invitational with Angela Stanford and Candie Kung at Guadalajara, Mexico. Stacy Lewis, coming off her tour-leading fourth victory Sunday in Japan, was in a group of five one stroke back. Ochoa, who won 27 titles before retiring at 28 in 2010, had 71. Seminole's Brittany Lincicome and Tampa resident Kristy McPherson also shot 71.

european: Chapchai Nirat shot 6-under 65 today for the first-round lead of the rain-delayed Singapore Open. Play was halted Thursday due to rain and the threat of lightning with 78 golfers on the course. The round was concluded this morning, followed by Round 2. Rory McIlroy, trying to match Luke Donald's 2011 feat of winning the European and PGA Tour money titles, shot 70. Phil Mickelson had 73.

Times staff writer Marc Topkin contributed to this report.

Familiar start has Wi on top 11/08/12 [Last modified: Thursday, November 8, 2012 11:58pm]
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