Thursday, January 18, 2018
Golf

Remember him? Villegas grabs lead

PALM BEACH GARDENS — With one bold swing, Camilo Villegas turned a solid round at the Honda Classic into his lowest start in more than a year.

The former Gator drilled a 3-wood from 263 yards over the water to about 8 feet for eagle on the par-5 18th hole at PGA National for 6-under 64 that gave him a one-shot lead and a 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," making birdie on all three holes of the notorious stretch (Nos. 15-17) named in honor of course designer Jack Nicklaus. He made it four in a row with birdie on 18 and was at 65 with Rickie Fowler, Graham DeLaet and Robert Streb.

Defending champion Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods each opened with 70 but had different feelings about their day.

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 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," Woods said.

McIlroy was 1 under when his wedge from 105 sailed over the green. He chipped to just inside 8 feet and took bogey when he missed the putt. It felt even worse coming on the course's easiest hole, which played about a half-shot below par.

"I only had 105 yards in for my third shot and ended up taking a 6," McIlroy said. "Wasn't the nicest way to finish. I saw enough pretty good golf out there to be positive going into the next few days."

Villegas, who won here in 2010, will take just about anything posi­tive at this stage in his career.

Just four years after his 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.

"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. … The game was kicking my butt. … But I know who I am. I know I belong out here."

LPGA: Spain's Azahara Munoz shot 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 tour players. Five shared second at 67: Stacy Lewis, Karin Sjodin, Lizette Salas, Pornanong Phatlum and Sun Young Yoo. Seminole's Brittany Lincicome was at 69 and Tampa's Cindy LaCrosse at 70.

Comments
McIlroy returns from injury, trails by 3 in first round of European Tour event

McIlroy returns from injury, trails by 3 in first round of European Tour event

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Rory McIlroy’s patience was tested Thursday on his comeback and he needed three late birdies to shoot 3-under 69 that left him three strokes behind first-round leaders Tommy Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara at the Abu D...
Updated: 6 minutes ago
Patton Kizzire beats James Hahn in marathon Sony Open playoff

Patton Kizzire beats James Hahn in marathon Sony Open playoff

HONOLULU — A day after a false alarm caused some panic at the Sony Open, there was more drama — of a much more benign sort.Patton Kizzire made par on the tournament-record sixth playoff hole Sunday to beat James Hahn and win his second PGA Tour title...
Published: 01/14/18
False alarm on missile launch triggers anxiety at PGA Tour event in Hawaii

False alarm on missile launch triggers anxiety at PGA Tour event in Hawaii

HONOLULU — Charles Howell was eating breakfast in his hotel when the restaurant at the Kahala started buzzing. Everyone had their phones. Everyone received the same push alert. "BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS...
Published: 01/13/18
Brian Harman extends good play in Hawaii, takes Sony Open lead

Brian Harman extends good play in Hawaii, takes Sony Open lead

HONOLULU — Different islands, vastly different golf courses, same good play from Brian Harman. One week after Harman shared the 36-hole lead at Kapalua, he ran off three straight birdies and closed with a 15-foot eagle putt for 7-under 63 and a three...
Published: 01/12/18
Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson share lead at PGA’s Sony Open in Hawaii

Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson share lead at PGA’s Sony Open in Hawaii

HONOLULU — Zach Johnson and Chris Kirk kept clean cards on a gorgeous day and each shot 7-under 63 Thursday to share the lead after the first round of the Sony Open. Jordan Spieth wasn’t as fortunate. Spieth hit four trees with four shots on the par-...
Published: 01/11/18
Dustin Johnson romps to 8-shot victory in Hawaii

Dustin Johnson romps to 8-shot victory in Hawaii

KAPALUA, Hawaii — A new year brought out the best in Dustin Johnson, who powered his way to 8-under 65 and an eight-shot victory Sunday in the Tournament of Champions. In a field that featured the top-five players in the world, Johnson made a strong ...
Published: 01/07/18
Missouri senior uses playoff birdie to win New Year’s Invitational in St. Petersburg

Missouri senior uses playoff birdie to win New Year’s Invitational in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — Cold and windy conditions didn’t affect Hayden Buckley last year when he won the New Year’s Invitational, and they didn’t affect him again this year in the 92nd edition of the event.The University of Missouri senior repeated as champ...
Published: 01/07/18

Dustin Johnson surges into lead at Tournament of Champions

KAPALUA, Hawaii — Dustin Johnson holed out with a wedge for eagle, made birdie on every par 5 and powered his way to 7-under 66 to build a two-shot lead going into the final round of the Tournament of Champions. Coming off his lone bogey from a poor ...
Published: 01/06/18
Tiger Woods’ return includes Torrey Pines, Rivera

Tiger Woods’ return includes Torrey Pines, Rivera

Tiger Woods is playing twice in California over the next six weeks as he begins another comeback on the PGA Tour from back surgery. Woods announced Thursday that he will play the Farmers Insurance Open on Jan. 25 at Torrey Pines, the San Diego course...
Published: 01/04/18