GREENSBORO North Carolina (Reuters) - Camilo Villegas, refreshed after a quick trip back to his native Colombia, carded seven-under-par 63 to earn the lead after the first round at the Wyndham Championship on Thursday.
Villegas compiled an eagle and five birdies for a one-stroke edge over Americans Webb Simpson and William McGirt in delightful conditions on a mild summer’s day at Sedgefield.
“It was nice to go without any bogeys and I think it probably showed it was a consistent round,” Villegas told reporters.
“I kept it on the fairways, on the greens and just made the putts when I hit it close. My birdie putts weren’t even that long. I just hit the ball nicely.”
Villegas, 32, a three-time PGA Tour winner, was heavily promoted by the PGA Tour as the next big thing when he burst on tour in 2006.
But his career stalled as he battled minor injuries and loss of form and he fell to 148th on the rankings in 2012.
“Do I feel like I have played to my potential the last two-and-a-half years? No,” he said. “But it’s not everything about golf. You’ve got to be a little bit easy on yourself and just enjoy life. The game has been good to me. I have no complaints.
“Did I see (a 63) coming? Not really, but I felt good on the range this morning and just kept it going.”
A keen cyclist, he returned home last week to visit his parents in Medellin, where he enjoyed some strenuous rides around the mountainous terrain.
As well as Villegas played, he could not steal much local attention away from North Carolina-born Webb Simpson, the 2012 U.S. Open champion who lives in nearby Charlotte.
Charlotte is also home to Martin Laird, though the Scot was born much further afield in Glasgow.
Laird has won three times on tour, most recently the Texas Open last year, but rather than using those successes as a springboard, he has regressed this season.
However, a return to coach Mark McCann six weeks ago has the 31-year-old hopeful he is back on the right track after missing all four majors this year.
“I’d been struggling with my ball-striking a little while, kind of searching,” Laird, who had been in sight of the early lead after shooting a five-under 65, told reporters.
“We started working on some things that we worked on in the past and with that little comfort factor knowing I played my best golf working with him in the past, we clicked and I started playing a little better and building the confidence week by week.”
Editing by Gene Cherry/Greg Stutchbury