Wi grabs lead at Disney

2012-11-09 08:47

Florida - Charlie Wi got off to a quick start on Thursday and will try to make his one-stroke, first-round lead stand up in the PGA Tour's season-ending event at Walt Disney World Resort.

South Korea's Wi had an eagle and eight birdies in an eight-under 64 on Disney's par-72 Palm Course, the easier of two layouts in use for the tournament called the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic.

Wi, who took the first-round lead for the third time this season, closed his round with back-to-back birdies to gain a one-shot edge on Colombian Camilo Villegas and Tommy Gainey.

While interest this week is focused on players trying to gain or preserve full playing privileges for next season by finishing in the top 125 on the money list, Wi has aims of his own: securing a first victory in his 184th career start on the US tour and thereby moving into the top 30 on the money list to book a first trip to the Masters.

"Top 30 is definitely a goal," Wi said. "I'm not just showing up to play. You've got to have goals. I at least want to give myself a chance."

Gainey nabbed his first career victory three weeks ago at Sea Island, where he closed with a superb 60.

However, he was so far down the money list that even a win this week wouldn't get him into the Masters.

The American would still like to build on the momentum of his first title and close the season on a high note.

Villegas, whose US career has stalled since he won consecutive FedEx Cup layoff events and reached seventh in the world back in 2008, finds himself among those fighting to retain his tour card.

He didn't qualify for any of the majors this season and has dropped to 214 in the world rankings. He came into the week at 150 on the US money list. If he falls below 150, he will have to go through the second stage of qualifying school.

Villegas said an attitude adjustment has helped his game, as he has determined to enjoy his job and stop allowing frustration with his game to fester.

"The game comes and kind of bites us, and the last year and a half hasn't been pretty, I can tell you that," he said.

"Even though I kept putting in the hours, sometimes it doesn't matter. You put those hours in and if you're not having fun, you're not going to get much out of it. So I've definitely changed a little bit the attitude. And, yes, I've been playing a lot better."

Brian Harman, Scott Stallings and Scotland's Russell Knox were tied on 66, with another half-dozen players on 67.

Sweden's Henrik Stenson and Charles Howell were among five players whose 68 was the best score at Magnolia, the tougher course that will be used by all players for the last two rounds.

Leading first-round results on Thursday in the $4.7 million PGA Tour event on the Palm and Magnolia courses at Walt Disney World Resort (USA unless noted. Par-72):

64 - Charlie Wi (KOR)

65 - Tommy Gainey, Camilo Villegas (COL)

66 - Brian Harman, Scott Stallings, Russell Knox (SCO)

67 - Ken Duke, Matt Every, Kevin Chappell, Colt Knost, Matt Bettencourt, Brendan Steele

68 - Marco Dawson, Dicky Pride, Robert Garrigus, Henrik Stenson (SWE), Charlie Beljan, Chez Reavie, Harris English, Kevin Streelman, Charles Howell, Mark Anderson

69 - Daniel Chopra (SWE), Nick O'Hern (AUS), Stewart Cink, Joey Snyder, Edward Loar, Ryuji Imada (JPN), Roland Thatcher, Brendon de Jonge (ZIM), Shane Bertsch, Patrick Sheehan, Mathew Goggin (AUS), Ben Curtis, Brian Gay, Roberto Castro, Kyle Reifers