PALM BEACH GARDENS: Tiger Woods, who saved par with a barefoot shot in water, and Rory McIlroy fired even-par 70s at the Honda Classic on Thursday that left the world’s top two golfers six shots back of first-round leader Camilo Villegas.
Colombian Villegas capped a flawless six-under-par 64 with an eagle at the par-five 18th that left him one stroke ahead of South Africa’s Branden Grace, Canada’s Graham DeLaet and Americans Rickie Fowler and Robert Streb. Villegas, who won here in 2010 but has struggled over the past 18 months, was one-under through 12 holes at PGA National but grabbed the outright lead with a scorching finish that saw him pick up five strokes over his final six holes.
World No 1 McIlroy had a similar day to Woods with a pair of birdies and bogeys and remained hopeful of getting in the frame for the weekend. Woods, who started on the back nine, had a rough start with bogeys on his first and fourth holes but recovered with two birdies on the back nine in unusually chilly conditions for Florida.
The 14-times major winner bogeyed the par-four 10th hole and added another at the par-four 13th before recovering with a birdie on the par-five third hole. On the par-four sixth, Woods hooked his tee shot into the water hazard but managed to save par after going barefoot, putting on his rain pants and playing out of the water.
“It was only half submerged so I could play some sort of explosion shot and get it back in the fairway,” said Woods, who used a nine-iron out of the water. “I wasn’t trying to hit it very far, just get it back on the fairway and give some sort of wedge shot in there — which I did and got up and down.” It might have been uncomfortable for Woods but his decision to get wet saved his round, particularly when he followed the par with a birdie on the seventh.
Villegas has not won on the PGA Tour since winning Honda Classic in 2010 and he looked at home hitting 10 of 14 fairways and 14 greens in regulation, needing just 27 putts, including nine one-putts.