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Villegas storms into early lead

CAMILO Villegas chipped in from the rough to eagle the par-four second on his way to a scintillating nine-under-par 63 and a three-shot lead in the Buick Invitational first round on Thursday.

The 27-year-old Colombian also piled up eight birdies against a lone bogey on the undulating North Course in San Diego, the easier of the two par-72 layouts hosting the fifth event on the PGA Tour.

Despite the challenge of blustery conditions and bumpy greens, Villegas matched his lowest score on the PGA Tour to surge three ahead of American Davis Love III and Aaron Baddeley of Australia.

"It was a pretty fun day," the world No. 11 told reporters after covering his back nine in a blistering five-under 31.

"Two chip-ins, that certainly helps. But even if you take them out, I played pretty good. I drove it nicely, I hit some great shots and left myself some good opportunities," said Villegas, who broke through into the top flight last year by winning the final two playoff events of the PGA Tour's FedExCup.

Playing with Irish world No. 3 Padraig Harrington, who opened with a 71, Villegas chipped in from the rough from 50 yards to eagle the second.

The Colombian also birdied the third and sixth before bogeying the seventh to reach the turn in four-under 32.

He picked up further shots at the 10th, 12th, 14th, 15th and 17th to tighten his grip on the tournament.

Love birdied three of his last five holes to set the early pace with playing partner Baddeley.

Australian Stuart Appleby opened with a 68 on the North Course to lie five strokes off the pace with Americans Jeff Overton and Robert Garrigus.

In Bangkok, Finland's Toni Karjalainen began his rookie year on the Asian Tour strongly when he carded a 64 for a 12-under total to take a one-shot lead after two rounds at the Asian Tour International yesterday.

Overnight leader Marcus Both of Australia was a shot behind after posting a 68 for a 11-under 131 while Japan's Tetsuji Hiratsuka was third after a 68.

Compatriot Hirotaro Naito finished with a 66 to sit in fourth place while South Korea's Ted Oh and Indian Gaganjeet Bhullar are among eight players bunched together in fifth at 134.

Defending champion Lin Wen-tang of Chinese Taipei missed the cut after rounds of 73 and 72.


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