SOUTHPORT, England — It’s a battle of generations, but not styles, at Royal Birkdale Friday. A run of five consecutive birdies to finish his second round propelled Colombia’s 26-year-old star Camilo Villegas up the leaderboard, leaving him two shots behind the leader, K.J. Choi, and one shot behind another one-time swashbuckling star, 53-year-old Greg Norman.
Villegas shot a five-under-par 65 despite starting with back-to-back bogeys. But then his putter turned hot. He took just 23 putts Friday, 11 fewer than in the opening round.
“The 18th was interesting,” Villegas said. “My caddie wasn’t too happy that I hit driver. Then I had 176 yards to the pin and hit pitching wedge. That’s how funky it is around here.”
His approach shot hit the pin and ended up just off the back of the green from where he made a 25-foot putt for birdie. “I got a little lucky,” he admitted.
“It’s a good funky not a bad funky,” he said, smiling and sipping from a can of Red Bull. “One time you can hit driver 370 yards, then into the wind it’s 230 yards. At the 6th, I had 205 yards to the front of the green and really killed a 3-wood and only just made it. My 3-wood usually goes 260.”
Villegas is perhaps the only person in Britain who has a good word to say about stay-away Kenny Perry because he only made the field when Perry declined his invite. “I’m glad he didn’t come,” Villegas said.
This is only Villegas’ third test of links golf, having played British Amateur championships at Hoylake and Royal County Down. He took full advantage of a master class practice round Tuesday with Norman.
A rainstorm blew in right after Villegas played, but he isn’t bleating about the weather, even if the prediction of 40MPH gusts on Saturday comes true. “If the weather is the same for everybody, who cares?” he said. “You’ve just got to grind it out.”