GREENSBORO, N.C. — Camilo Villegas got away from golf for a little while, and his game came back.
A recharged Villegas shot a 7-under 63 on Thursday to take a one-stroke lead after the first round at the Wyndham Championship.
North Carolina natives Webb Simpson and William McGirt shot 64, and Scott Langley, Heath Slocum, Paul Casey, Andrew Loupe, a former LSU golfer, and Martin Laird were another stroke back in the final event before the PGA Tour’s playoffs.
Villegas hasn’t won since 2010 and has only two top-10 finishes in the last three years.
After pulling out of the Canadian Open after one round last month, he spent the past week back in his native Colombia for “a little recharge” — leaving his clubs behind in Florida.
“I just thought it was appropriate to hop on a plane and see mom and dad and recharge a little bit,” Villegas said.
Starting on the back nine, he had three early birdies before getting even hotter late: He followed his birdie on the fourth with an eagle on the par-5 fifth, placing his second shot about 3 feet from the stick.
He claimed sole possession of the lead two holes later with a birdie, sinking a 15-foot putt on the par-3 seventh.
Simpson, the 2011 winner, hopes to make an impression on U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson. His three captain’s picks are due next month. Simpson finished 15th on the Ryder Cup points list.
“It’s on my mind a little bit, but there are so many things I can’t control with what the captain does and how other guys play,” Simpson said. “I think if I have a good week this week — not just today but this week — it’ll show that I really want to make the team. I want to make a good argument for myself to be a pick.”
Playing in the marquee grouping of the day along with fellow Wyndham winners Brandt Snedeker (2007) and Patrick Reed (2013), a former University High golf, Simpson birdied his first four holes. Reed finished with a 71, eight shots off the lead
McGirt also played well after spending some time away from the game.
After his tie for 25th at the Canadian Open, the fourth-year pro took a break to paint his garage and — as the father of a 17-month-old son — joked that there were a “lot of dirty diapers I got to change.”
Laird needs a strong week here to climb into the playoffs beginning next week in New Jersey.
Thompson, Lee share LPGA Championship lead: In Pittsford, N.Y., Lexi Thompson and South Korea’s Meena Lee shot 6-under-66 to share the first-round lead in the LPGA Championship, the fourth major championship of the season.
Thompson, the Kraft Nabisco winner in April for her first major title, and Lee each made eight birdies and a pair of bogeys at Monroe Golf Club to finish a stroke ahead of ahead of Brittany Lincicome, Lisa McCloskey of Colombia and Jennifer Kirby of Canada.
Shanshan Feng of China, the tournament winner two years ago, was tied for sixth at 68 with 2010 champion Cristie Kerr.
Catriona Matthew of Scotland, runner-up a year ago to South Korea’s Inbee Park, was tied at 69 with seven other players. Park was at even-par 72, one shot better than Paula Creamer and Karrie Webb.
Top-ranked Stacy Lewis, a three-time winner this year, started on the back nine and birdied three of the first five holes, then faltered with three straight bogeys before the turn. She finished at 71.
“It’s all about confidence,” Thompson said. “You just have to go into every shot just telling yourself you’re going to pull it off.”
Bjorn shares early lead at Made in Denmark: In Aalborg, Denmark, Thomas Bjorn shot a 5-under 66 to share the lead midway through the first round of the Made in Denmark event Thursday, boosting his chances of securing a place in Europe’s Ryder Cup team.
Playing in his home tournament, Bjorn made five birdies and did not drop a shot in gusty conditions. He is tied for first place with Felipe Aguilar of Chile and Bradley Dredge of Wales.
Bjorn hasn’t played in the Ryder Cup since 2002 but a victory in Aalborg will guarantee him a spot in the European team for the match against United States at Gleneagles next month.
Bjorn has occupied a position in the automatic qualifying places since December.
“I am happy with the day and happy with the start. It was pretty solid all way round,” said Bjorn, who earned his first professional victory at the Himmerland Golf and Spa in 1995.
Paul Lawrie of Scotland and Soren Larsen of Denmark pulled out of the tournament because of injuries.
This is the inaugural edition of the tournament, and the first time since 2003 that a European Tour event is held in Denmark.