Villegas shoots 63, leads by one at Wyndham

By Associated PressAugust 14, 2014, 11:22 pm

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.


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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.''

McGirt also played well after spending some time away from the game.

After his tie for 25th at the Canadian Open, the fourth-year pro took a break to paint his garage and - as the father of a 17-month-old son - joked that there were a ''lot of dirty diapers I got to change.''

He also made a visit to his coach in Charleston, South Carolina, but otherwise kept his clubs in their travel case. He said he typically doesn't play at all when he's home.

''I mean, I love to play golf,'' McGirt quipped. ''But not that much.''

The 35-year-old McGirt who grew up near the North Carolina-South Carolina line in Fairmont closed with five birdies on the back nine to make up for two early bogeys. He wrapped up by sinking a 25-foot birdie putt on the 18th.

Laird needs a strong week here to climb into the playoffs beginning next week in New Jersey. He arrived at No. 136 on the points list and the top 125 qualify for The Barclays.

It's a familiar position for him: As a rookie in 2008, he came to the Wyndham outside the playoff picture before his fourth-place tie pushed him into The Barclays.

''Since then, I've always liked this golf course,'' Laird said. ''It's just a position course. Get in the fairway and kind of pick and choose your spots where you can go at flags. That's the kind of golf I like.''

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J. Korda fires flawless 62, leads by 4 in Thailand

By Associated PressFebruary 23, 2018, 12:48 pm

CHONBURI, Thailand – Jessica Korda shot a course-record 62 at the Honda LPGA Thailand on Friday to lead by four strokes after the second round.

Playing her first tournament since having jaw surgery, Korda fired eight birdies and finished with an eagle to move to 16 under par at the halfway point, a 36-hole record at the tournament.


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Korda, who is the daughter of former tennis player Petr Korda, leads fellow American Brittany Lincicome, who carded a 65 to go 12 under.

Minjee Lee of Australia is third and a shot behind Linicome on 11 under after a 67. Lexi Thompson, the 2016 champion, is fourth and another shot behind Lee.

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Simpson, Noren share Honda lead after challenging Rd. 1

By Doug FergusonFebruary 23, 2018, 1:25 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Tiger Woods had what he called ''easily'' his best round hitting the ball, and he didn't even break par at the Honda Classic.

Alex Noren and Webb Simpson shared the lead at 4-under 66 in steady wind on a penal PGA National golf course, and felt as though they had to work hard for it. Both dropped only one shot Thursday, which might have been as great an accomplishment as any of their birdies.

''When you stand on certain tee boxes or certain approach shots, you remember that, 'Man, this is one of the hardest courses we play all year, including majors,''' said Simpson, who is playing the Honda Classic for the first time in seven years.

Only 20 players broke par, and just as many were at 76 or worse.

Woods had only one big blunder - a double bogey on the par-5 third hole when he missed the green and missed a 3-foot putt - in an otherwise stress-free round. He had one other bogey against three birdies, and was rarely out of position. Even one of his two wild drives, when his ball landed behind two carts that were selling frozen lemonade and soft pretzels, he still had a good angle to the green.

''It was very positive today,'' Woods said. ''It was a tough day out there for all of us, and even par is a good score.''

It was plenty tough for Adam Scott, who again stumbled his way through the closing stretch of holes that feature water, water and more water. Scott went into the water on the par-3 15th and made double bogey, and then hit into the water on the par-3 17th and made triple bogey. He shot 73.


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Rory McIlroy was at even par deep into the back nine when he figured his last chance at birdie would be the par-5 18th. Once he got there, he figured his best chance at birdie was to hit 3-wood on or near the green. Instead, he came up a yard short and into the water, made double bogey and shot 72.

Noren, who lost in a playoff at Torrey Pines last month, shot 31 on the front nine and finished with a 6-foot birdie on the ninth hole into a strong wind for his 66.

The Swede is a nine-time winner on the European Tour who is No. 16 in the world, though he has yet to make a connection among American golf fans - outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma, from his college days at Oklahoma State - from not having fared well at big events. Noren spends time in South Florida during the winter, so he's getting used to this variety of putting surfaces.

''I came over here to try to play some more American-style courses, get firmer greens, more rough, and to improve my driving and improve my long game,'' Noren said. ''So it's been great.''

PGA champion Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Morgan Hoffmann - who all live up the road in Jupiter - opened with a 67. There's not much of an advantage because hardly anyone plays PGA National the other 51 weeks of the year. It's a resort that gets plenty of traffic, and conditions aren't quite the same.

Louis Oosthuizen, the South African who now lives primarily in West Palm Beach, also came out to PGA National a few weeks ago to get a feel for the course. He was just like everyone else that day - carts on paths only. Not everyone can hole a bunker shot on the final hole at No. 9 for a 67. Mackenzie Hughes of Canada shot his 67 with a bogey from a bunker on No. 9.

Woods, in his third PGA Tour event since returning from a fourth back surgery, appears to be making progress.

''One bad hole,'' he said. ''That's the way it goes.''

It came on the easiest hole on the course. Woods drove into a fairway bunker on the par-5 third, laid up and put his third shot in a bunker. He barely got it out to the collar, used the edge of his sand wedge to putt it down toward the hole and missed the 3-foot par putt.

He answered with a birdie and made pars the rest of the way.

''I'm trying to get better, more efficient at what I'm doing,'' Woods said. ''And also I'm actually doing it under the gun, under the pressure of having to hit golf shots, and this golf course is not forgiving whatsoever. I was very happy with the way I hit it today.''

Woods played with Patton Kizzire, who already has won twice on the PGA Tour season this year. Kizzire had never met Woods until Thursday, and he yanked his opening tee shot into a palmetto bush. No one could find it, so he had to return to the tee to play his third shot. Kizzire covered the 505 yards in three shots, an outstanding bogey considering the two-shot penalty.

Later, he laughed about the moment.

''I was so nervous,'' Kizzire said. ''I said to Tiger, 'Why did you have to make me so nervous?'''

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Players battle 'crusty' greens on Day 1 at Honda

By Randall MellFebruary 22, 2018, 11:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods called the greens “scratchy” on PGA National’s Champion Course.

Rory McIlroy said there is “not a lot of grass on them.”

Morgan Hoffmann said they are “pretty dicey in spots, like a lot of dirt.”

The first round of the Honda Classic left players talking almost as much about the challenge of navigating the greens as they did the challenge of Florida’s blustery, winter winds.

“They looked more like Sunday greens than Thursday,” McIlroy said. “They are pretty crusty. They are going to have a job keeping a couple of them alive.”

The Champion Course always plays tough, ranking annually among the most challenging on the PGA Tour. With a very dry February, the course is firmer and faster than it typically plays.

“Today was not easy,” Woods said. “It's going to get more difficult because these greens are not the best . . . Some of these putts are a bit bouncy . . . There's no root structure. You hit shots and you see this big puff of sand on the greens, so that shows you there's not a lot of root structure.”


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Brad Nelson, PGA National’s director of agronomy, said the Champion Course’s TifEagle Bermuda greens are 18 years old, and they are dealing with some contamination, in spots, of other strains of grasses.

“As it’s been so warm and dry, and as we are trying to get the greens so firm, those areas that are not a true Tifeagle variety anymore, they get unhappy,” Nelson said. “What I mean by unhappy is that they open up a little bit . . . It gives them the appearance of being a little bit thin in some areas.”

Nelson said the greens are scheduled for re-grassing in the summer of 2019. He said the greens do have a “crusty” quality, but . . .

“Our goal is to be really, really firm, and we feel like we are in a good place for where we want them to be going into the weekend,” he said.

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McIlroy, Scott have forgettable finish at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 22, 2018, 11:03 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rory McIlroy and the rest of his group had a forgettable end to their rounds Thursday at the Honda Classic.

McIlroy was even par for the day and looking for one final birdie to end his opening round. Only two players had reached the par-5 finishing hole, but McIlroy tried to hold a 3-wood up against the wind from 268 yards away. It found the water, leading to a double bogey and a round of 2-over 72.  

“It was the right shot,” McIlroy said. “I just didn’t execute it the right way.”

He wasn’t the only player to struggle coming home.


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Adam Scott, who won here in 2016, found the water on both par 3s in the Bear Trap, Nos. 15 and 17. He made double on 15, then triple on 17, after his shot from the drop area went long, then he failed to get up and down. He shot 73, spoiling a solid round.

The third player in the group, Padraig Harrington, made a mess of the 16th hole, taking a triple.

The group played the last four holes in a combined 10 over.