John Rollins was one shot behind, and achieved more than anyone imagined.
On a tough day for scoring, Rollins holed out a 9-iron for eagle and made six birdies on his way to an 8-under 64 that at least gave Villegas some company heading into the weekend.
Villegas teed off in a steady rain, and when he reached the exposed holes along the Pacific bluffs, more rain arrived equipped with gusts up to 25 mph that made the San Diego weather feel more like Sun Valley. But he scrambled for pars, took advantage of a few par 5s and wound up with a 70 that put him at 11-under 133.
I looked at my caddie walking down the 10th fairway ' it was just pouring ' and I told him, Listen, lets find a way to keep it around par and maybe get it in the red numbers, Villegas said. I scrambled pretty good and 2 under, Im happy with it.
Villegas was among the early starters, and his solid round looked like this Buick Invitational might turn into a runaway. That changed when Rollins played the front nine (he started on No. 10) in 31.
When I saw he was at 11 (under), I was just trying to get in position to be in the last couple of groups, just staying in the mix, Rollins said. It just so happened things started going in.
He caught Villegas at 11 under with a birdie on the par-3 eighth and had a chance to match the South Course record since 2002 ' when Rees Jones first began to lengthen the course for the U.S. Open ' until a bogey on the par-5 ninth.
It wasnt his best round on Tour, but it felt like it.
Charley Hoffman, who grew up in San Diego and is coming off a playoff loss last week at the FBR Open, shot a 66 on the easier North Course and was at 7-under 137. The group at 138 included Paul Goydos, who wasnt planning to play the Buick Invitational.
Goydos learned two weeks ago that his ex-wife had died, and he said he would take a break from the PGA Tour to be with his two daughters, for whom he had full custody. He said he did not want to talk about his family yet, preferring to answer questions only about his golf and his chances on the weekend.
Im not overly excited about playing long ball with Camilo on the South Course the next two days. Theres really not much advantage for me there, he said. But Im just happy to be playing well, and happy to be playing on the weekend.