Villegas shows consistency
Camilo Villegas picked a great time to grind out one of his best rounds of the year.
The 2011 season could hardly have started more poorly for the 29-year-old Colombian, who has a disqualification, a withdrawal and three missed cuts to his credit in nine PGA Tour events, with a tie for 35th at the WGC-Cadillac Championship representing his best finish.
But he used a hot streak in the middle of his back nine in Thursday's opening round at the Masters Tournament to finish with a 2-under 70 - tied for his third-best score in a competitive round this year.
"Yes, it hasn't been my best start of the year and I'm maybe not feeling the best, but you know what, you've gotta go out there with whatever you have," Villegas said. "You've gotta battle, you've gotta grind, you've gotta play with your heart and play with courage and I think that's kinda what I did today. I was patient all day."
His early patience began to pay off when he started hitting it close. Villegas birdied three straight holes - Nos. 13-15, moving to 3-under - and nearly pushed his birdie run to four in a row.
"I hit it really tight on 16. I should've birdied that one, but pulled my putt a bit," Villegas said. "So there's birdies to be made out there. You've just got to be careful and you've gotta play with patience and you've gotta know when to go and when to back up."
Villegas gave back a stroke with bogey on No. 17, but he made par on 18 to complete one of his most consistent rounds of the year. With his mostly disappointing start to the season in mind, Villegas was particularly pleased by the way he avoided trouble throughout his first round.
"I only hit it in one really bad spot today, which was when I hit it in the right bunker on 10 (leading to a bogey that put him at even par)," Villegas said. "Other than that, I took my medicine and made my fives and played steady."
Villegas blamed his uneven results this spring on overexertion, after deciding at the end of last season that he needed to work harder.
"Maybe I just overtried a little bit and got a little tense and things were not going the way I wanted them to go at the beginning of the year," he said.
Perhaps a return visit to Augusta National Golf Club was exactly what he needed, as he credited his patience Thursday to his growing understanding of the course.
He missed the cut in each of his first two Masters appearances before tying for 13th and 38th in the last two years - and those Masters visits instructed Villegas on the importance of picking his spots and waiting for prime opportunities to present themselves.
"The first two years really taught me a lot. More than anything, it's that it's a golf course that you have to respect, but can't fear," he said. "After my second year, I played a lot better just with that in my mind. The reason why is because there's a lot of tough holes out there, but there are a lot of holes for birdie."