The 2016 Northern Trust Open got off to an interesting start on Thursday at as it looked like the day might end with a three-way tie between Bubba Watson, Chez Reavie and Luke List.
It was quite the turnaround for Villegas, who did not make the cut in his last time out at the Phoenix Open earlier this month, per the PGA Tour:
The former Florida Gator celebrated his performance with his school's signature chomp, per Gator Golf:
Here's a quick look at the top 10 after the first day:
|Northern Trust Open 2016 Top 10 Thursday Leaderboard|
|T. 2||Chez Reavie||-5||66|
|T. 2||Bubba Watson||-5||66|
|T. 2||Luke List||-5||66|
|T.5||Charles Howell III||-4||65|
|T.5||Charlie Danielson (a)||-4||65|
|T. 5||Ben Crane||-4||65|
|T. 5||Tyrone van Aswegen*||-4||65|
|PGATour.com/*Through 16. Play suspended because of darkness.|
Watson, who won the event in 2014, was at the top despite a rough start to the day, per the PGA Tour:
Reavie bounced back from a tough go-around last weekend at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. He was the early leader with an eight-under 63 in Round 1 but finished tied for 26th after a 77 on Sunday. Jim McCabe of Golf Week noted Reavie's strong Thursday play:
It wasn't just leaders who had highlights throughout the day. Rory McIlroy started his round off with a birdie and finished at four under, per the PGA Tour:
He also showed off his elite skills by reaching the 589-yard No. 11 in just two shots. However, the 26-year-old acted like it was just another day at the office, per the PGA Tour:
Veteran Fred Couples has had plenty of days at the office and was playing in his 34th tournament at Riviera, per the PGA Tour:
However, the 56-year-old was not in contention as the round ended, finishing with a two-over 73 despite chipping in on No. 5 after Justin Thomas did the same, according to the PGA Tour:
When it came to long putts, Justin Leonard (45 feet) and James Hahn (61 feet) delivered the goods, shown here by the PGA Tour:
No. 1 delivered for the field as well, playing about as easy as any hole you'll see on the tour, according to the PGA Tour's Twitter account:
It wasn't all fun and games for everyone on the day, including the top-ranked player in the world, Jordan Spieth, who had eight bogies and proved after missing this short birdie attempt on No. 11 that golf can be a rough game, per the PGA Tour:
His 79 put him in a tie for last in a field of 144 golfers.
Some made the game look easy at times, though, including Hahn and Adam Scott, who hit a couple of nice approaches, per the PGA Tour:
Spieth is the one generally dominating headlines, but it was Villegas everyone was talking about on Thursday. With one hole to go, Eric Christensen of CBS4 in Denver couldn't believe his eyes:
Of course, there were those talking about Spieth, who finished 16 strokes behind Villegas, for all the wrong reasons, including ESPN.com's Jason Sobel:
It remains to be seen if Villegas can keep up his hot play, but it certainly was a great start for the 226th-ranked player in the world who has four career PGA Tour victories.
As Reavie can attest, no golf tournament is won on a Thursday, but the golf world was certainly turned upside down on a day that included many highlights and one shocking performance from the best player in the world.
Officials suspended play because of darkness with 14 golfers—all of whom played at least 15 holes—yet to complete their rounds.
Villegas' scorecard was a rare sight, per Mike McAllister of the PGA Tour's official website:
Villegas acknowledged what everyone else thought while watching him play, per golf writer Ron Mintz: "You don't really shoot eight-under around this place not playing good."
You also don't shoot 79 without playing poorly, which is exactly what Spieth did. He called his performance "a day to forget," per the PGA Tour:
Spieth talked about his rough day to Golf Channel (via Alec Brzezinski of Sporting News).
"There were a couple of rounds last week where I shot two-under and was more miserable than I am now," Spieth said. "It was just a bad day. It's weird because I feel really confident about where my game is. I had a good range session. I just didn't hit good shots."
At one point, he was the only golfer working on his game after the round, per the PGA Tour:
McIlroy, who was playing in his first West Coast swing tournament and had his strong day overshadowed by talk surrounding Villegas and Spieth, said he was happy with his performance, per Kyle Porter of CBSSports.com.
"Tee-to-green was pretty good...I felt like my pace on the greens was good," McIlroy said. "I left myself a lot of longer putts and I felt like my pace was good and I lag putted well. I think all of the things that you need to do around this golf course, I did pretty well today and I'm happy with a four-under."