Veteran Percy takes WWT lead, Villegas in mix

Veteran Percy takes WWT lead, Villegas in mix

Cameron Percy of Australia fired a 10-under-par 62 Thursday afternoon to soar into the first-round lead at the World Wide Technology Championship in Los Cabos, Mexico.

Percy holed a pitch shot for eagle at the 601-yard, par-5 sixth hole and added eight birdies without a bogey to set the early pace at El Cardonal at Diamante, the first Tiger Woods-designed course to be used for a PGA Tour event.

The 49-year-old led Michael Kim, Nate Lashley and Colombia’s Camilo Villegas by two.

“I hit the ball beautifully,” Percy said. “Didn’t hit it quite close enough coming in, but I had a few looks. I couldn’t make ’em all.”

Percy is nearly old enough for the PGA Tour Champions, and he plans to played the Champions Tour’s Q-School next month. Lapping the youngsters, even for one day, will give him a morale boost.

“I’m 152 I think on the [FedEx Cup standings], so finishing top-150 at my age would be fantastic,” Percy said. “That’s sort of — I want to at least do that, but if I can keep the ball rolling like I did today, I should be able to finish a lot higher than that, and then lead into Q-School with the Champions Tour. Yeah, I’m looking forward to that.”

Villegas shot an 8-under par 64 during the morning wave for a share of the early lead with Kim. Lashley joined them not long after.

Starting on the back nine in the morning wave, the 41-year-old Villegas carded eight birdies. A birdie on his 17th hole of the day pulled Villegas even with Kim, whose 64 earlier in the day included nine bogies and a lone bogey.

Villegas is a four-time winner on the PGA Tour, but the most recent of those came in 2014. Despite embarking on his announcing career earlier this year, Villegas said he has been working hard on his game with new instructor Jose Campra.

“It’s been a slow year from a performance point of view, but it’s been a very hectic year from a working [one], so there’s been a lot of work there,” Villegas said. “It’s always nice to see a low score.”

Kim, 30, believes the winning score come Sunday will be in the 20s (under par), so he needs to keep his foot on the gas.

“It’s definitely a second-shot golf course,” he said. “You can use a lot of bowls to your advantage if you hit it in the right spots. You know, you need some good iron swings.

Matt Kuchar, 45, kept the veterans theme going with a 7-under 65. He was tied with Cameron Young, the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 17, among others.

Sahith Theegala is playing in his final official event of 2023. He opened with a 2-under 70 on Thursday.

Michael Block, the teaching pro who finished 15th at the PGA Championship, opened with an even-par 72. Maverick McNealy shot a 2-over 74 in his return from a shoulder injury that has sidelined him since June.

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