Sat, Jan 21, 2012 - Page 20 News List

Villegas, Toms set pace at Humana

Reuters

Anthony Kim runs up a hill to check his shot on the 17th hole of the Nicklaus Private course at PGA West during the first round of the Humana Challenge in La Quinta, California, on Thursday. Kim finished the day with a two-under 70.

Photo: AFP

Refreshed after a lengthy end-of-season break, Colombian Camillo Villegas fired a sizzling nine-under 63 to share the first-round lead in the Humana Challenge at La Quinta, California, on Thursday.

The 30-year-old from Medellin took advantage of near-perfect conditions with a flawless display on the Nicklaus Private course, one of three venues hosting the pro-am celebrity event.

In pursuit of his fourth USPGA Tour title, the muscular Villegas ended the day level with American veteran David Toms, who carded a bogey-free 63 at LaQuinta Country Club.

“It’s a really nice way to start the year,” a smiling Villegas told reporters. “Nine-under, I kept the ball in play, made a lot of great putts and had a lot of fun out there.”

The Colombian, who took an extended break in South America at the end of last year, was especially delighted with his opening round after enduring a relatively poor USPGA Tour campaign last year.

“Last year wasn’t the best one, but it did finish a lot better than the way it started,” Villegas said of a season that featured only 14 cuts in 25 appearances on the US circuit.

“I went back to Columbia and had a great four weeks with family and friends, with not much golf. Then I came back to Florida and practiced for just four or five days,” he added. “So it’s one of those things where you feel you’re a little rusty, but at the same time you’re mentally fresh. It’s a funny game and sometimes being mentally fresh is more important.”

USPGA Tour rookie Bae Sang-moon of South Korea opened with a 64 to lie one stroke off the pace alongside Americans Brandt Snedeker, Bob Estes and Ted Potter Jr.

While most of the players in the 144-strong field recorded sub-par scores in ideal weather conditions in the California desert, twice champion Phil Mickelson hit two shots out of bounds on the way to a roller-coaster 74.

Long-hitting Venezuelan Jhonattan Vegas, who won last year’s title in a playoff with Americans Bill Haas and Gary Woodland, opened with a 70 on the Palmer Private course at PGA West.

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