PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Camilo Villegas was the star attraction at a youth golf clinic in his native Colombia two days before the start of the Honda Classic.
One kid, maybe 8 or 9 years old, piped up with a question.
“How does it feel to be the second-best player in the world?”
Villegas could only laugh.
He might not be the second-best player in the world, but he was second to none this week at the Honda.
And Villegas made it look easy most of the way, too, capping his day with a 20-footer for birdie, then raising both hands skyward.
“It’s very special,” Villegas said. “I’m just very privileged to do what I do. But trust me, it’s tough. These guys are good. That is so true. Those guys are good.”
He led by only two after Vijay Singh made a 45-foot birdie putt at the par-3 fifth, but three straight birdies – starting with a 25-foot putt on No. 8 – sent Villegas to 15 under and six shots clear of the field.
Good thing he had that cushion, because his putter stopped working after that.
Fortunately for Villegas, no one made much of a run.
He missed short par putts on 11 and 12, three-putted from 50 feet on the par-3 15th for another bogey, but never lost control.
“Those finishing holes are tough,” Villegas said. “I just picked my targets, put good swings and took care of business.”
Kim shot 67 and Justin Rose had by far the best round of the day, a 64 that was three shots better than anyone else. Paul Casey (67) and Vijay Singh (72) tied for fourth, seven shots back.
“I hung in there,” said Kim, who got his best finish since tying for second at the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship in 2009. “I still haven’t put four good ones together but I’m trying as hard as I can to get there. I’m working on the right things and I’m sure it will come.”
Villegas didn’t even play a practice round at PGA National this week, after a travel schedule that he somehow found exhilarating.
After finishing tied for eighth at the Phoenix Open, Villegas headed to Colombia on Monday for a slew of events – sponsor dinner, youth clinic, pre-tournament party, all within about a 36-hour window – to help open the Nationwide Tour’s Pacific Rubiales Bogota Open, the first PGA Tour-sanctioned event in South America.
He returned to South Florida on Wednesday, never missing a beat.
“I’ve just had good vibes in me all week,” Villegas said.
Rose is still looking for win No. 1 in the U.S., though he feels he’s getting closer.
Down by 10 at the start of the day, Rose needed a win to get into the CA Championship at Doral and enhance his chance of qualifying for the Masters, where he tied for fifth in 2007.
Rose opened with four straight birdies on his way to going out in 5-under 30 – the best front nine of the tournament – and ended up becoming the fifth player of the week to shoot 64, matching the low round on the Champion course since the Honda moved there.
He won’t play Doral. Augusta remains possible, and he admits that getting back into the world’s top 50 is preying on his mind.
“I think I’m where I am because I’ve been thinking about it too much,” said Rose, who started the week 76th in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Rose said he’s taking a tip from Villegas, trying to think less and enjoy more.
There probably hasn’t been many weeks Villegas enjoyed more than this one.
“It’s been a long week, man,” Villegas said. “But man, it’s been a good one. I just loved every second of it.”
NOTES: Sam Saunders, Arnold Palmer’s grandson, shot 73 and finished the week even par, topping his coach in one area: Saunders made $68,444.45 this week, while Palmer’s biggest check in a tour event was $50,000 in the 1971 Westchester Classic. … Michael Connell was tied for sixth, his first career top-10 in a PGA Tour event. … Villegas led the field with 22 birdies for the week. … No one was bogey-free on Sunday.