Villegas will be easy to find at Doral during the CA Championship, which starts Thursday. Just look for the people wearing “Colombia” across the chests of their yellow, blue and red T-shirts, carrying their country’s flag, and shouting at him in Spanish after just about every shot.
He was born 1,100 miles away in Medellin, but this week, Villegas may as well be a Miami native son. Whenever he plays Doral, his countrymen come out to watch.
“It’s awesome to see the Colombian flags and the guys with the shirts and all that good stuff, but you’ve got to be careful,” Villegas said. “I mean, you’ve got to be careful because it can distract you a little bit. So you know they’re there. You know they’re supporting you. But it’s one shot at a time. You’ve got to be focused, look forward, and just focus on playing good golf.”
In other words, do what he did last week at the Honda Classic.
Villegas started last week in Colombia, helping kick off the celebration of the first Nationwide Tour event ever played there, and the overloaded schedule he had to keep meant he didn’t even get to PGA National in time for a practice round. No matter — he won with ease, by five shots over Anthony Kim, shooting 68 or better in every round.
He made it through last week on adrenaline, and on Tuesday, the fatigue finally kicked in.
“Last week I felt fine,” Villegas said. “I kind of had a good feeling last week. Everything seemed to be going the right way and I was excited, and I didn’t really feel tired. Then Monday, I did a couple hard workouts, and then [Tuesday] I was just beat. I was like, ‘Man, I need to relax.'”
He played only nine holes Tuesday, then nine more Wednesday.
“Try and recover and be fresh,” Villegas said.
Nick Watney did everything right a year ago at Doral.
Played his way into the final group of the tournament with Phil Mickelson. Chipped in from behind the ninth green on Sunday, then eagled the next hole to pull into a tie for the lead and make Mickelson — who spent the previous night fighting off dehydration — sweat a bit more. Had a 30-footer on the 18th green to force a playoff.
It stopped one revolution short of dropping.
Watney settled for second, taking a check for $820,000 for his effort. He quickly pointed out that he beat 78 of the world’s best players that week, and would like to think he can do one better when this year’s CA Championship opens Thursday at Doral.
“When you win, you know, some lucky things always happen,” Watney said Wednesday. “I would have liked to be sitting here and said that was the turning point for getting the victory, but as it stands, it was fun just to be able to compete and play at a high level like that when it mattered like that and I hope I get a chance to do that again soon.”
Watney’s off to a solid start in 2010, with two top-10s in six events (by comparison, he had only one top-10 in 27 starts in 2008), including a trip to the round of 16 at Match Play.
He tied for fifth last year at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, another World Golf Championships event where he played with Mickelson.
Like at Doral, Mickelson won there, too.
“I think I owe him one,” Watney said.
Chances are, someone’s going to go low to win the CA Championship.
That tends to happen at Doral.
Phil Mickelson shot 19-under 269 to prevail last year, and in the 2000s, the winning score was 271 or better every year but one. Tiger Woods shot 278 to win in 2007, a year marked by plenty of rain and wind.
And rain could be on the way this time.
Forecasters say there’s a chance of thunderstorms starting around midafternoon Thursday, when every player is scheduled to be on the course. More rain is forecast for Friday.
Padraig Harrington knew he was slipping in the world rankings. That’s why he stopped looking at the world rankings.
And when he was told how far he slipped Wednesday — he’s now No. 13 — Harrington feigned outrage.
“Thirteen? Now I know why I don’t look,” he said.
Harrington is used to relatively slow starts, and this year isn’t much of an exception. His best result in 2010 is a tie for 16th at Pebble Beach, and he tied for 40th last week at the Honda.
Plenty of time left, the Irishman said, to turn it around.
“As I said, you don’t look as you are going backwards, but you generally have a feel that a couple of wins will get you back up to certainly inside top-five, and then you know, another couple of weeks on top of that, and you’re challenging second place,” Harrington said. “I think it’s about 10 wins I need before I’ll be challenging first place.”