Villegas sets early pace as more players bolt qualifier

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – The thunderstorms held off, at least for the morning wave, but that didn’t stop nearly three dozen players from withdrawing from Monday’s U.S. Open sectional qualifier in Columbus.

Twenty-eight players withdrew before play began and another four bolted after starting their rounds. Camilo Villegas, however, ignored the forecast and set the early pace with an opening 8-under 64 on the Lakes Golf & Country Club.

Villegas had an eagle and seven birdies and was followed by Bo Van Pelt, who held a share of the lead on Day 1 at the Memorial, who carded a 7-under 65 on the Lakes.

Seven of the top nine scores in the morning came on the easier Lakes layout and the field swaps golf courses for the afternoon rounds.

Despite a forecast that called for an 80 percent chance of early thunderstorms and largely led to the pre-qualifier exodus, the morning round was played as scheduled.

“I saw the weather report, but I had the weekend off after missing the cut [at the Memorial],” said Daniel Summerhays, who carded a 67 at Brookside. “It’s a no-brainer to have a chance to play in your national championship.”

Despite all of the withdrawals – a list that included the likes of Justin Leonard, Davis Love III, Brendan Steele and Freddie Jacobson – the number of spots allotted to the Columbus qualifier remained similar to past years, with 15 places into the U.S. Open compared to 16 last year.

“You just don’t know, I mean if Steve Jones [who won the 1996 U.S. Open] withdrew from his qualifier he wouldn’t have won the U.S. Open,” said Aaron Baddeley, who carded a 1-under 71 on the Lakes in Round 1. “You just don’t know what will happen and I have a good record at qualifying.”