Villegas sets pace
Camilo Villegas tees off on the sixth hole during the first round of the Northern Trust Open golf tournament
Pacific Palisades - Struggling Jordan Spieth cards 79 at Northern Trust Open
Colombia's Camilo Villegas rebounded from missed cuts in his last four PGA Tour starts to seize a three-shot lead at the Northern Trust Open on Thursday, while world number one Jordan Spieth made a terrible start. Villegas soared to the top of the leaderboard with an eight-under-par 63 at Riviera Country Club as Spieth spluttered to a 79 that included eight bogeys and a double on his final hole.
"In the course of a career, I imagine it's going to happen," Spieth said. "Just unfortunate when it actually does."
And there was one more surprise for everyone. Riviera, which played so fearsome during the practice rounds under a hot sun, was softer than usual after a steady overnight rain that never cleared until moments before the first round began.
Spieth said he couldn't trust how the course was playing. Villegas also was stunned when he heard players from the morning round talk about 4-irons stopping on the green, instead of taking a hard bounce. "You don't really shoot 8 under around this place not playing good," Villegas said. "Obviously, the rain yesterday made the golf course a lot more accessible."
Bubba Watson, who won at Riviera two years ago with a 64-64 weekend, opened with a 66 along with Chez Reavie and Luke List.
Rory McIlroy, making his first PGA Tour start this year and his debut at Riviera, opened with two quick birdies and added two more on the front nine for a 67. He was in a large group that included 22-year-old Charlie Danielson, the Illinois senior who earned a spot in his first PGA Tour event by winning a collegiate qualifier on Monday.
"I just went out and tried to enjoy the day," Danielson said. "I had no idea if I would shoot 80 or 66, so I just went out with no expectations and it worked out." Spieth didn't have any expectations of a 79 - or worse. Still to be determined is whether his ball moved before hitting a chip on the ninth green. Spieth asked rules officials to review the video. He said he was fairly certain it didn't move, but wanted to be sure. A decision was not expected until Friday morning. It would be a one-shot penalty under Rule 18-2 if the ball did move.
That was the least of his worries. The round got away from him on the back nine when he kept missing greens and leaving himself short par putts that are difficult on poa greens in the afternoon. Spieth dropped six shots over the last seven holes, including a three-putt double bogey from 8 feet on the 18th.
Camilo Villegas tees off on the sixth hole during the first round of the Northern Trust Open golf tournament. — AP