PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Camilo Villegas is proving that practice is overrated.
Sleep, too, for that matter.
His trip to the Honda Classic could have been an easy five-hour flight from Phoenix. Instead, it was a 2 1/2-day whirlwind through his native Colombia, replete with sponsor events and youth clinics, all as he helped kick off the Nationwide Tour Pacific Rubiales Bogota Open – the first PGA Tour-sanctioned event in his home country.
Villegas didn’t even get a practice round in before the Honda. All worth it, he said.
A second consecutive round of 66 has Villegas tied with Anthony Kim entering Saturday’s third round, both players having shot 8-under 132 through 36 holes.
“It’s been a long week but it’s been a good one,” Villegas said, holding a giant bottle of energy drink, possibly for good reason. “Having the first Nationwide Tour event in Colombia is awesome. It’s a dream come true for my country. It’s a dream come true for myself. It’s great for Latin American golf and hopefully it’s the beginning of some other countries hosting big events.”
Villegas was one of many players to take advantage of a rare easier – but not easy, many players insisted – day at PGA National.
Vijay Singh (66) was a stroke back at 7 under, Jerry Kelly (65) was alone in fourth at 6 under, and a fivesome of players – Mike Weir, Matt Every, Graeme McDowell, Chez Reavie and first-round co-leader Nathan Green – all will enter the weekend three shots off the lead.
“I think we got the favorable wind today,” Stephen Ames said.
Everybody did. Thursday was marked by wind gusts over 30 mph; Friday merely had occasionally strong breezes and little else.
It showed in the scoring.
Entering Friday, there had been 1,445 competitive Honda rounds played at PGA National, with just two rounds of 64: Luke Donald in 2008 and Greg Chalmers in 2009. On Friday alone, there were four – with Ames, Paul Casey, Weir and Kim all getting there.
“Probably only about half a club of wind, which was nice at times,” said Ames, who is 3 under. “A lot different than it was yesterday.”
It didn’t start that way. A record low for the date of 39 degrees was recorded Friday morning, and a brisk northwest wind made the air feel downright frosty when play started.
Then the scoring spree began. The nine players within three shots of the lead combined to shoot 37 under – including an even-par 70 by Green, and McDowell getting penalized two strokes.
“It’s very, very tough,” Casey said. “Not necessarily enjoyable, but that’s what we require out here.”
Forecasters say wind gusts topping 20 mph are expected for Saturday.
Wind or no wind, Villegas will play the course the same way.
“There’s not too many birdies out there,” Villegas insisted. “And you have some really tough holes. You’ve just got to be careful.”
He made few mistakes; the most grievous might have been hitting his tee ball into the water on the par-3 15th, but Villegas minimized the damage by rolling in a 15-footer for bogey. He strung together four straight birdies later in the round, getting to 9 under at one point.
Weir was a late arrival at the Honda as well, after the Canadian took his family to the Vancouver Olympics. He didn’t get to South Florida until late Tuesday night after a 10-day break from golf, shot a relatively unspectacular 71 on Thursday, and faced a 15-foot par putt on his opening hole Friday.
It rolled in, and Weir was on his way to a bogey-free round.
“Just a little chilly in the start and then it got better,” said Weir, who removed his jacket on his 12th hole. “My game was pretty good. I hit most of the fairways and you know, scrambled a little bit out there, but you’re going to do that on this golf course.”
Singh rolled in a 65-foot birdie putt at the par-3 17th to get him to 7 under, his sixth birdie in an 11-hole stretch.
Kim – the top-ranked American player in the field – had some late-round dramatics as well, chipping in at the par-3 7th, and found his way into the final group with Villegas for Saturday’s round.
“It’s just a matter of time before I put four good ones together and start winning some golf tournaments again,” Kim said.
McDowell was a shot off the lead when he got to the 18th. He sent his tee shot way right, the ball coming to rest in a few inches of water. On his backswing, he caused the water to move a tiny bit, and wound up getting penalized two strokes after a lengthy post-round review.
“It’s a bit of a bittersweet end to the day,” McDowell said. “I’m glad it’s Friday. It could be Sunday and that would hurt a lot more. I’ve got all weekend to repair the damage.”