Through 18 holes of the RSM Classic, there are a handful of intriguing names at the top of the leaderboard, including England’s Matt Wallace, eternal nice guy Peter Malnati and 2011 PGA champion Keegan Bradley. The harsh reality: no one outside of their family members will be cheering for them the rest of the week.
The collective golf world will be clapping and cheering loudly for Camilo Villegas, who opened with a six-under 64 on Sea Island’s Seaside course to grab a share of the lead. It marks his lowest round on the PGA Tour since, oddly enough, the third round of the 2016 RSM Classic, a week he wound up finishing co-runner-up after losing in a playoff. The 38-year-old from Colombia has posted just one top 10 in 42 tour starts since.
Less than four months ago, Villegas went through an unspeakable tragedy when he lost his 22-month-old daughter Mia to cancer. No one would have blamed him if he never picked up a club again, but in a heartfelt interview, Villegas said that he would attempt to reconnect himself with the game of golf and that “despite not being able to change what happened, we will try to seek to the future, with the memory of Mia by our side”.
After taking a month off, Villegas made his return to the Korn Ferry Tour in August. This season he is playing on a major medical extension, having made five starts so far in the PGA Tour’s “Super Season”.
Given how seldom first-round leaders go on to actually win the tournament, we don’t want to jinx Villegas’ chances just yet. But simply put, if you’re not rooting for him to win this week, there is something wrong with you. Here’s what he had to say on Thursday when asked how he made his first round look so easy.
“It was kind of nice this morning,” Villegas said. “I got on the range and see a little rainbow out there. I start thinking about Mia and said hey, let’s have a good one. I was pretty free all day. It’s tough to be free under these conditions, but I found a way to do it.”
Welp, it could be a tissue-box-by-your-side weekend on the PGA Tour, folks. Go Camilo Go!