By Brian Keogh
Padraig Harrington remained true to pledge not to overdo things in the run up to this week’s Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club.
With the sun was well above the yardarm at the sun-kissed Los Angeles track, Harrington was still nowhere to been seen as he conserved his energy for a classic test he describes as “a fantastic course” and “a tough test of golf.”
But the same could not be said for latino sex symbol and world number 57 Camilo Villegas, who has the task of taking on the reigning Open champion in the first round of next week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Tucson, Arizona.
The 26-year-old Colombian was one of the early arrivals at the stunning Pacific Palisades club where Hollywood A-listers such as Michael Douglas and Michael Keaton have homes overlooking the course.
Villegas hitched a lift to the course with Spanish buddy Sergio Garcia and headed out for a practice round with Harrington’s Carnoustie victim with the temperature already in the mid-20s celsius.
Garcia might not be the ideal person to give Villegas tips on how to beat Harrington in head-to head combat.
But the former University of Florida golf star confessed that he can’t wait for the chance to take on Ireland’s first major champion for 60 years among the cactii of The Gallery Golf Club next week.
“It's a nice draw and he's a great player,” Villegas said. “But you just have to go out there and show up with your A-game and see what happens.
“It's my first year playing the matchplay and I'm really excited about playing that event. To play a player of Padraig's calibre in the first round is a great way to start.”
Still without a PGA Tour victory, Villegas appeared quietly confident about making an impression on his debut in the desert after a stellar college golf career gave him a solid grounding in matchplay.
Twice a winner of the Colombian Amateur title and runner up to Hunter Mahan in the 1999 US Junior Amateur, he says he looking forward to the challenge.
“I played a lot of matchplay in college and did pretty well,” said Villegas, who won the Coca-Cola Tokai Classic on the Japan Tour last season. “And I won a lot of matchplay tournaments as an amateur at Colombia too. In matchplay anything can happen so let’s see what happens.”