Camilo Villegas follows through on his tee shot at No. 17 on Thursday during… (Ben Margot / Associated…)
Reporting from La Quinta -- Camilo Villegas shot a "chill round" of nine-under-par 63 Thursday at the Nicklaus Private Course in the first round of the Humana Challenge. Villegas, a fitness buff who once posed for nude for the ESPN the Magazine body issue, is not shy about flexing his muscles for a female fan.
At La Quinta Country Club, David Toms was the other guy in his group, the one wearing an orange shirt and playing with the biggest draw in the field, Phil Mickelson.
The galleries that gathered at every hole to cheer for Mickelson actually perked up Toms, who also had a 63 and tied Villegas for the first-round lead.
There are four men a shot behind the leaders at eight under: PGA Tour rookies Ted Potter Jr., and Sang-Moon Bae of South Korea, along with Brandt Snedeker and Bob Estes. Defending champion Jhonattan Vegas, whose only PGA Tour win was here a year ago, opened with a two-under 70 at the PGA West Palmer Private course.
Mickelson, a two-time winner of this tournament, shot a two-over 74 in his first time in the field since 2007. He is tied for 134th and in danger of missing the cut, which comes after Saturday's third round.
A cheery Mickelson, though, said he was close to playing well. He hit two shots out of bounds on the back nine, one of which former President Bill Clinton saw in person.
Clinton had made a personal request for Mickelson to join the field after Humana and the Clinton Foundation became the primary sponsors of the event that had been known as the Bob Hope Classic, and Clinton bounced around the course and sponsors tents Thursday, seeming as eager as the fans to watch the pros.
Greg Norman, 56, who will play with Clinton on Saturday and who also received a personal request from the former president to play here, shot 72 and said he was happy to get off the course in par.
"It was just pure rust, that's all it was," Norman said. "Just rusty, rusty, rusty."
But if Mickelson and Norman had the presidential stamp of approval, it was Villegas and Toms who owned the golf.
Villegas is only 5 feet 9 and 160 pounds and is playing this tournament for the first time. It was upon arrival at the University of Florida in 2001 when the Colombian realized he was not as large as most golfers that he decided to become a workout fiend.
His round Thursday included nine birdies and no bogeys and the 63 was just one shot higher than his career-best 62 recorded at the Phoenix Open in 2010, a year when Villegas finished 16th on the money list.
Last year wasn't as good for Villegas, who opened the season by being disqualified at the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii after a television viewer called to point out a rules violation.
"I was very excited to start this year," Villegas said. "Last year wasn't the best one."
At the end of the season, Villegas said, he went back to Colombia for four weeks and didn't play much golf. "Then I went back to Florida," he said, "and practiced for four or five days. It's a funny game and sometimes being mentally fresh is most important."
Toms, 45 and owner of a major championship in his career, started out with four pars, birdied the par-five fifth hole and took advantage of the crowd enthusiasm when Mickelson nailed a long eagle putt. "I made my birdie putt as well and that got the crowd energized. It made for a fun day and after that it was just a lot of solid golf," Toms said.
More fun for him than his playing partner.