DORAL, Fla. (AP) — Given his history, it’s easy to see why Camilo Villegas enjoys South Florida so much.
First, the obvious: He’s Colombian and there’s a huge South American population in the greater Miami area. If past years are a proper indicator, they’ll turn out in droves to watch Villegas in the CA Championship beginning Thursday at Doral, where he tied for second behind Tiger Woods in 2006.
But there’s also plenty of other reasons, namely that one of his big breaks came in the region a decade ago.
Villegas won the Junior Orange Bowl championship as a 17-year-old in 1999, perhaps the most significant of the many early steps he took toward golf stardom. From there, he got a scholarship to play at Florida, turned pro in 2004 and finally got his first two wins on the PGA Tour last season.
Now the 10th-ranked player in the world, a World Golf Championships win would make another great Miami memory for Villegas.
“I have great memories about the tournament,” Villegas said. “And when that happens, you look forward to going to those places again and again.”
Villegas has such popularity in Miami, he was the focus of some pre-tournament TV ads put together by organizers at Doral. The spots appeared in both English and Spanish, playing to the dynamic of the South Florida population.
Villegas is hardly alone in feeling at home at Doral: Spain’s Sergio Garcia, who could overtake Woods for the world’s No. 1 ranking this week, said he also gets warm welcomes when playing in Miami.
“I enjoy the course. I enjoy the city. It’s a great city,” Garcia said. “There’s a lot of Spanish speakers here, and it just makes it a little bit more special to come back here, being Spanish and everything.”
MICKELSON’S MASTERS: Phil Mickelson is getting a head-start on preparing for the Masters.
The 2004 and 2006 Masters champion played 27 holes at Augusta National on Tuesday, checking out some minor changes to the course that he’s played 62 competitive rounds upon over the years.
That doesn’t mean the thrill is gone. Not even close.
“There’s just one or two courses in the world I get excited to play, whether it’s in a tournament or not, and Augusta National is one of those,” Mickelson said. “I was giddy the night before. I was out putting in the dark. I was so excited once I got there.”
Temperatures got into the 80s on Tuesday at Augusta, but could fall into the 50s this weekend – a common swing for springtime in Georgia.
But even with the swinging weather, Mickelson gave high marks to the condition of the course.
“I thought the golf course was in incredible shape, as always,” Mickelson said. “A lot of coverage, a lot of grass. The greens were perfect.”
WOODS TO TAVISTOCK: Tiger Woods has committed to another tournament.
Woods will play Monday and Tuesday in the Tavistock Cup, the annual matchup of pro members from the Lake Nona and Isleworth clubs in central Florida.
Isleworth will be captained by Mark O’Meara and will also have Robert Allenby, Stuart Appleby, Daniel Chopra, Darren Clarke, John Cook, J.B. Holmes, Charles Howell III and Nick O’Hern in its roster. Ernie Els is captain for Lake Nona, playing with Ben Curtis, Chris DiMarco, Retief Goosen, Trevor Immelman, Graeme McDowell, Mark McNulty, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson.
Woods will team with Cook to play fourball Monday against Stenson and DiMarco. He’ll play concurrent singles matches Tuesday against Stenson and Poulter, who won the individual event last year.
RELIEVED LOVE: Davis Love III got into the CA Championship by 0.0009 points in the World Golf Rankings, the extremely thin margin he held over Anders Hansen of Denmark when the latest numbers came out Monday morning.
“The skin of my teeth,” Love said.
And that’s not exactly what he’s striving for.
Above all else – getting into the Masters next month (he has a good shot, but it’s not yet guaranteed), winning for the 21st time on the PGA Tour and qualifying for more major championships – Love says he’s striving to get off the top-50 bubble.
In other words, he thinks he’s got plenty of great golf left to play.
“The ultimate goal is not to be 50 by .0009. It’s to be in the top five, where I got used to being for a long time,” Love said. “Just got to keep working at it. Obviously, this is a great boost if I play well this week, to move up some. And whatever happens in the next two weeks, I’ll try to play well and get in Augusta.”
Love didn’t play the Masters last year, saying he only caught bits and pieces of Sunday’s final round.
“I went turkey huntin’,” he said.
HERE AND THERE: Defending CA Championship winner Geoff Ogilvy is an avid reader, and his latest book is “From Lance to Landis,” a story of various doping scandals and controversies at the Tour de France. “If you like cycling, it’s probably best not to read it,” Ogilvy said. … Tiger Woods will play the first two rounds with Mike Weir and Robert Karlsson. Woods and Weir played a practice round Wednesday.