Villegas shines on open debut

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A dazzling finish of five successive birdies gave the 26-year-old Colombian – not even in the event until American Kenny Perry turned down his spot two weeks ago – a five under par 65 and rocketed him into second place in the clubhouse, just one sjhort back from two-time winner and current leader Greg Norman.

Villegas, one over at halfway as a result, summed up his impression of British seaside golf in one word. “Funky”.

On the final hole, for example, the colourful South American found himself in a bad lie in the left rough and 176 yards to the flag.

Yet he pulled out only a pitching wedge and watched as it flew downwind, hit the pin and rolled 25 feet just off the back edge of the green.

After making the putt he said: “That tells you how funky it is to play golf around here.

“When you get on the first tee you never think about a score. You just think about every single shot because you don’t know when the weather is going to get like it was yesterday.

“I bogeyed the first two holes (to be eight over), but somehow my caddie just told me to keep battling, keep grinding. I obviously played unbelievable and I’m very excited to be right in it.

“When I say ‘funky’ I don’t mean anything bad. I’m just saying it’s so different.

“I mean, downwind you can hit a driver that goes 370 yards and then into the wind it’s 230.”

The conditions are not totally alien to Villegas, who comes from the town of Medellin unfortunately best known, of course, for drugs and crime.

He appeared in two British amateur championships at nearby Hoylake and Royal County Down in Northern Ireland.

“I love it – it requires a lot of imagination.”

As for his roots and the Florida-based player commented: “I love my country first of all. It’s a great, great place and I really, really miss it.

“Just like every country it’s got its’ problems and we tend to have that reputation – fortunately enough, I’ve never been directly involved with what goes on there – but I guarantee everyone when you guys visit it’s completely different than what the news says.

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