Coming off a missed cut Villegas starts strong

By Associated PressFebruary 6, 2009, 5:00 pm
2006 Buick InvitationalSAN DIEGO ' The shot was worthy of a much louder celebration.
Camilo Villegas was in a bind on his second hole of the Buick Invitational, hitting his tee shot to the right and leaving himself some 50 yards to the hole with a bunker limiting his view to the top portion of the flag. With a new 63-degree wedge, he hit a perfect flop toward his target and wound up with an eagle.
My caddie said, It went in. Early in the round, not much of a reaction, Villegas said.
There wasnt much of a crowd at Torrey Pines on Thursday, when Villegas tied his personal best with a 9-under 63 on the easier North Course to build a three-shot lead over Davis Love III and Aaron Baddeley. Across the way, Phil Mickelson patched together enough great par saves for a 70 on the South Course that put him in good shape.
One reason for the thin gallery was the absence of the four-time defending champion, Tiger Woods.
Now that might be reason for Villegas to celebrate.
The 27-year-old Colombian picked up his first PGA Tour victory last year in the BMW Championship, where Woods was the defending champion but unable to play because of his season-ending knee surgery. A week later, Villegas won in a playoff at the Tour Championship, where Woods also was the defending champion.
The Buick Invitational is the third straight PGA Tour event that Woods is not able to defend.
Is it any surprise to see Villegas name atop the leaderboard?
Its very early in the week, Villegas said. I mean, I played one round. I played great today.
Even so, this is one place none of the players particularly miss the worlds No. 1 player. Woods is the four-time defending champion of the Buick Invitational, with six victories in all, that doesnt include the U.S. Open he won last summer at Torrey Pines, a public course that he has turned into a private playground.
Im glad hes not here, Villegas said. He plays pretty good around here, I can tell you that.
Villegas didnt fare too badly himself, although it will take another round to sort out the real contenders. Few other courses have such a disparity in scoring'the South hosting a U.S. Open and stretching over 7,600 yards, the North a pedestrian 6,915 yards with hardly any rough to punish errant shots.
The average score on the North was 71.73, while the South played to an average of 75.37.
Thats where Villegas is headed on Friday, with rain that began falling late Thursday afternoon in the forecast the next two days. He realizes he could face thicker rough, firmer greens'and he doesnt seem the least bit bothered.
Who knows, man? he said. Just go out there and hit some shots.
British Open and PGA champion Padraig Harrington played in the same group with Villegas and tried to keep pace early, making three birdies on the opening four holes. But his round unraveled on the 17th hole, when he four-putted for double bogey and wound up with a 71.
Love hung with the Colombian, too, finishing with three birdies over the final five holes for a 66'same as Baddeley, playing alongside him. It was a good start for Love, who is No. 58 in the world ranking and needs to stay in the top 64 after next week at Pebble Beach to qualify for the Accenture Match Play Championship.
The ultimate goal'next to winning'is to get into the top 50 after March to qualify for the Masters. Thats a lot of math, but the only numbers Love cares about at the moment are what he puts on his scorecard.
Its hard not to watch it, but I know that if I continue to do the things Im doing, the ranking will keep continuing to improve, Love said. Im just going out and trying to play to win and not play to try to get to 58th. I just keep trying to work my way up.
Stuart Appleby was in the group at 68, but the names worth noting at 69 included Scott Sterling and Matthew Goggin, simply because they toiled on the South Course.
And there was Mickelson, of course, who was pleased to start with a 70 on the South.
He has a new driver this week'compared with his last start at Torrey Pines for the U.S. Open, when he had no driver'but the putter is what saved his round, especially on the par-5 ninth hole at the end of his day.
Mickelson hit his driver off the fairway with hopes of running it up toward the green for a simple up-and-down for birdie, only to see it sail to the right and into the face of a bunker. He blasted out to another bunker by the green, again in a bad lie, did well to get it onto the putting surface 15 feet away, and he wound up with a par.
It wasnt the smartest play there, he said. I should have hit 3-wood down there and taken 6 out of play. But thats what happens. I was fortunate to walk away with par.

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  • Rahm, Koepka both jump in OWGR after wins

    By Will GrayNovember 20, 2017, 1:19 pm

    Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka both made moves inside the top 10 of the Official World Golf Rankings following wins in Dubai and Japan, respectively.

    Rahm captured the European Tour season finale, winning the DP World Tour Championship by a shot. It was his third worldwide victory of 2017 and it allowed the Spaniard to overtake Hideki Matsuyama at world No. 4. It also establishes a new career high in the rankings for Rahm, who started the year ranked No. 137.

    Koepka cruised to a nine-shot victory while successfully defending his title at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix. The victory was his first since winning the U.S. Open and it helped Koepka jump three spots to No. 7 in the latest rankings. Reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele, who finished second behind Koepka in Japan, went from 30th to 24th.

    After earning his maiden PGA Tour victory at the RSM Classic, Austin Cook vaulted from No. 302 to No. 144 in the world. Runner-up J.J. Spaun jumped 48 spots to No. 116, while a hole-out with his final approach helped Brian Gay rise 73 spots to No. 191 after finishing alone in third at Sea Island.

    Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas with Rahm and Matsuyama now rounding out the top five. Justin Rose remains at No. 6, followed by Koepka, Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson. Rory McIlroy slid two spots to No. 10 and is now in danger of falling out of the top 10 for the first time since May 2014.

    With his return to competition now less than two weeks away, Tiger Woods fell four more spots to No. 1193 in the latest rankings.

    Love to undergo hip replacement surgery

    By Rex HoggardNovember 20, 2017, 1:08 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Two days removed from arguably the most hectic week of his year, Davis Love III will undergo replacement surgery on his left hip.

    Love, who hosted and played in last week’s RSM Classic, said he tried to avoid the surgery, but the pain became too much and he will undergo the procedure on Tuesday at the Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala.

    “I had a hip problem the last few years, and I had a hip resurfacing trying to avoid hip surgery because I’m a chicken, but after playing [the CIMB Classic and Sanderson Farms Championship] I realized it was an uphill battle,” Love said.

    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

    Love said doctors have told him recovery from the procedure will take between three to four months, but he should be able to start work on his chipping and putting within a few weeks.

    Love, who missed the cut at the RSM Classic, said earlier in the week that his goal is to become the oldest PGA Tour winner and that the only way to achieve that was by having the surgery.

    “Now I’m excited that I’ve crossed that bridge,” said Love, who will turn 54 next April. “Once I get over that I can go right back to the Tour. I won after a spine fusion [2015 Wyndham Championship] and now I’d like to win with a new hip. That’s the reason I’m doing it so I can get back to golf and keep up.”

    LPGA awards: Ryu, S.H. Park tie for POY

    By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 1:56 am

    NAPLES, Fla. – In the end, the CME Group Tour Championship played out a lot like the entire 2017 season did.

    Parity reigned.

    Nobody dominated the game’s big season-ending awards, though Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park came close.

    Thompson walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for low scoring average. If she had made that last 2-foot putt at the 72nd hole Sunday, she might also have walked away with the Rolex Player of the Year Award and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Park shared the Rolex Player of the Year Award with So Yeon Ryu. By doing so, Park joined Nancy Lopez as the only players in LPGA history to win the Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year titles in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park also won the LPGA money-winning title.

    Here’s a summary of the big prizes:

    Rolex Player of the Year
    Ryu and Park both ended up with 162 points in the points-based competition. Park started the week five points behind Ryu but made the up the difference with the five points she won for tying for sixth.

    It marks the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

    Ryu and Park join Inbee Park as the only South Koreans to win the award. Park won it in 2013.

    Vare Trophy
    Thompson won the award with a scoring average of 69.114. Sung Hyun Park finished second at 69.247. Park needed to finish at least nine shots ahead of Thompson at the CME Group Tour Championship to win the trophy.

    There were a record 12 players with scoring averages under 70.0 this year, besting the previous record of five, set last year.

    CME Globe $1 million prize
    Thompson entered the week first in the CME points reset, but it played out as a two-woman race on the final day. Park needed to finish ahead of Thompson in the CME Group Tour Championship to overtake her for the big money haul. Thompson tied for second in the tournament while Park tied for sixth.

    By winning the CME Group Tour Championship, Jutanugarn had a shot at the $1 million, but she needed Park to finish the tournament eighth or worse and Thompson to finish ninth or worse.

    LPGA money-winning title
    Park claimed the title with $2,335,883 in earnings. Ryu was second, with $1,981,593 in earnings.

    The tour saw a tour-record 17 players win $1 million or more this season, two more than did so last year.

    Ryu came into the week as the only player who could pass Park for the title, but Ryu needed to win to do so.

    Rolex world No. 1 ranking
    The top ranking was up for grabs at CME, with No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Sung Hyun Park and No. 3 So Yeon Ryu all within three hundredths of a ranking point. Even No. 4 Lexi Thompson had a chance to grab the top spot if she won, but in the end nobody could overtake Feng. Her reign will extend to a second straight week.

    Rolex Rookie of the Year
    Park ran away with the award with her U.S. Women’s Open and Canadian Pacific Women’s Open victories among her 11 top-10 finishes. She had the award locked up long before she arrived for the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

    Ko ends first winless season with T-16 at CME

    By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 1:07 am

    NAPLES, Fla. – Lydia Ko carved a hybrid 3-iron to 15 feet and ended the most intensely scrutinized year of her young career with a birdie Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

    “Nice to finish the season on a high note,” Ko said after posting a 3-under-par 69, good for a tie for 16th. “Obviously, not a top-10 finish, but I played really solid. I feel like I finished the season off pretty strong.”

    Ko posted two second-place finishes, a third-place finish and a tie for fifth in her last eight starts.

    “Ever since Indy [in early September], I played really good and put myself in good positions,” Ko said. “I felt like the confidence factor was definitely higher than during the middle of the year. I had some opportunities, looks for wins.”

    Sunday marked the end of Ko’s first winless season since she began playing LPGA events at 15 years old.

    Let the record show, she left with a smile, eager to travel to South Korea to spend the next month with family after playing a charity event in Bradenton, Fla., on Monday.

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    Much was made of Ko beginning the year with sweeping changes, with new equipment (PXG), a new coach (Gary Gilchrist) and a new caddie (Peter Godfrey).

    In the final summary, it wasn’t a Ko-like year, not by the crazy high standards she has set.

    She saw her run of 85 consecutive weeks at No. 1 end in June. She arrived in Naples holding on to the No. 8 ranking. She ends the year 13th on the LPGA money list with $1,177,450 in earnings. It’s the first time she hasn’t finished among the top three in money in her four full years on tour. She did log 11 top-10 finishes overall, three second-place finishes.

    How did she evaluate her season?

    “I feel like it was a better year than everyone else thinks, like `Lydia is in a slump,’” Ko said. “I feel like I played solid.

    “It's a season that, obviously, I learned a lot from ... the mental aspect of saying, `Hey, get over the bads and kind of move on.’”

    Ko said she learned a lot watching Stacy Lewis deal with her run of second-place finishes after winning so much.

    “Winning a championship is a huge deal, but, sometimes, it's overrated when you haven't won,” Ko said. “Like, you're still playing well, but just haven't won. I kind of feel like it's been that kind of year.

    “I think everybody has little ups and downs.”