With one bold swing, Camilo Villegas turned a solid round at the Honda Classic into his lowest start in more than a year.
Villegas drilled a 3-wood from 263 yards over the water to about 8 feet for an eagle on the par-5 18th hole at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., for a 6-under-par 64 that gave him a one-shot lead and another jolt of confidence as he tries to regain his status on the PGA Tour.
Branden Grace was bullish when it came to the ‘‘Bear’s Trap’’ by making birdie on all three holes of the notorious stretch late on the back nine. He made it four in a row with a birdie on the 18th hole and was at 65 with Rickie Fowler, Graham DeLaet, and Robert Streb.
Defending champion Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods each opened with 70.
Just four years after his back-to-back wins in FedEx Cup playoff events and climbing to as high as No. 7 in the world, the 31-year-old Villegas went into a slump so bad that over the last 18 months he lost his card last year and didn’t earn it back in Q-school. He has received ample sponsor exemptions to get through the year and can build a full schedule. But he was middle-of-the-pack in the Humana Challenge, and then missed the cut at Torrey Pines and Pebble Beach.
‘‘This game is great when you’re playing good,’’ Villegas said. ‘‘When you’re out here missing cuts and missing cuts, I don’t care what people say. Yes, we’re blessed to have this job, but it’s not that much fun.”
It was his lowest round since a 63 to start the Humana Challenge a year ago.
Dustin Johnson, coming off two missed cuts and a first-round loss in the Match Play, opened at 66 to join a group that included Lee Westwood, Sean O’Hair, Boo Weekley, and Ben Kohles.
LPGA — Azahara Munoz shot a 7-under 65 for a two-stroke lead after the first round of the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore, which features 17 of the top 20 LPGA players.
Munoz played in the first group and finished with seven birdies. Five players at Sentosa Golf Club shared second at 67: Stacy Lewis, Karin Sjodin, Lizette Salas, Pornanong Phatlum, and Sun Young Yoo.
Paula Creamer was in a four-way tie at 68 despite an injured right shoulder from a car accident. The five-car accident happened on the way to the airport after the Honda LPGA tournament in Thailand.
Also at 68 were top-ranked Yani Tseng of Taiwan, Danielle Kang, and Chella Choi.
European — At Centurion, South Africa, Darren Fichardt birdied the longest par 5 in European Tour history to lead the inaugural Tshwane Open by one stroke after the first round.
Fichardt shot a 7-under 65 and was one of three players in the top 24 to need only four shots on the 685-yard fourth.
Bjorn Akesson was at 66, with six players at 67. Darren Clarke opened with a 69, while Michael Campbell was at 72 and Jose Maria Olazabal at 76.