Course flexes its muscle to get better of Villegas

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Spider-Man. Golf punk. Ripped. Call Camilo Villegas what you will. His agility while lining up putts on one leg and one finger has led to one nickname. His look and his six-pack have led to others. But whatever happens today to the freshest breath of air that Birkdale has conjured in human form this week, the nascent Colombian has made his mark in his debut Open.

His 65 on Friday, compiled with a run-in quintet of birdies, was not only the lowest round of the tournament so far by two clear shots, but the lowest second round in this course's tournament history.

Click here for the latest leaderboard and statistics

And while the man from Medellin could not hit such heights again yesterday, the likable, laid-back resident of Jupiter, Florida, was still in a similar orbit to some of the world's best players.

During a logjam at the 10th hole he wasn't just in the same orbit but sitting on top of the same table. With several groups ahead not yet finished when he arrived, Villegas first sat on the ground twiddling his thumbs. Then he spent a few moments clapping, and then passed a short time with his hands pressed together. He was more praying mantis than arachnid.

And then he got restless and hopped up on to the table outside the halfway hut, where he was soon joined by Greg Norman, also caught in the bottleneck.

Spidey and the Shark had an amiable chat, and we can only guess that it progressed along these lines: "I never expected to be here." "Me neither."

The South American only just squeezed into the field when America's Kenny Perry decided to pull out because he didn't fancy links golf. Villegas evidently does, although his chat with Norman did him no immediate favours.

He went on to double-bogey the 10th and the 13th, and hit bogeys on 12 and 14. Even a birdie on the 15th could not prevent a nine-over-par 79 on the day to leave him 10 over par overall. Still, that's good enough for a share of 20th place on the final morning.

One snooty spectator was overheard joking that the 5ft 9in hunk of surfer-boy muscle and tousled hair "looks like he'd qualify for an Asbo".

Given that the 26-year-old hails from one of the planet's most notorious nations for kidnapping, murder and general mayhem, the snoot was right to keep his opinion to a whisper.

That said, the most recent figures available show that Colombia's homicide rate is now only the seventh worst in the world (with 37 annual murders per 100,000 people), as opposed to the worst by a mile not long ago, when 66 per 100,000 were slain in 2002. Villegas, the first golfer of note from his country, is at pains to stress that anyone visiting his homeland on holiday is, in all likelihood, going to have a generally peaceful time.

But that said, the murder rate even in the badlands of the USis a mere six stiffs per 100,000 per year, while here in genteel Britain it is two.

On this course, the wind settles for slaughter of a different kind, of the players' scorecards. Villegas, like pretty much everyone else, struggled with the gusts and on the front nine alone bogeyed the first, fourth, seventh and ninth holes.

If there was solace, it came in the fact that even a bogey on some holes was not to be sniffed at, not least when the wind was peaking near 50mph. The Spanish-speaking world cannot have been expecting Villegas to be their big story here, and probably now he will not be. Sergio Garcia was the pre-tournament favourite to lift the Claret Jug but has struggled in the breeze. Yet he willbegin his final round at nine under par after a four-over-par 74 yesterday.

Padraig Harrington pipped Garcia from six shots back last year, and Garcia starts today seven off the pace.

A pessimist would say he had another poor day at the office. An optimist would say that in a raging gale, which threatened to tear the roofs from more than one tent here, four over was actually fine. A realist would fall somewhere in between, and expect neither he nor Villegas to be toasting glory tonight.

Comments