Golf: Villegas leads by three, struggling Spieth cards 79 at Northern Trust Open

Colombian golfer Camilo Villegas.
Colombian golfer Camilo Villegas. PHOTO: AFP

PACIFIC PALISADES (REUTERS) - Colombia's Camilo Villegas rebounded from missed cuts in his last four PGA Tour starts to seize a three-shot lead at the Northern Trust Open on Thursday, while world No. 1 Jordan Spieth made a terrible start.

Villegas soared to the top of the leaderboard with an eight-under 63 at Riviera Country Club as Spieth spluttered to a 79 that included eight bogeys and a double on his final hole.

"I've shot in the 80s a couple times on Tour," Spieth told reporters. "In the course of a career, I imagine it's going to happen. Just unfortunate when it actually does."

"It's amazing. I feel really confident about where my game is, and I had a great range session. There was nothing pinpointed that was wrong," added Spieth, who tied for fourth last year. "I just played really poorly from good positions off the tee and didn't strike the iron shots bad either. I just overdrew it when you can't be left and I overcut it when you can't be right. Just bad timing."

While Spieth sank like a stone to near the bottom of the leaderboard, Villegas seized control with a storming back nine highlighted by four consecutive birdies before he ran up his only bogey of the day on his final hole.

The Colombian's nine-birdie round left him three strokes clear of 2014 champion Bubba Watson, Chez Reavie and Luke List.

World No. 3 Rory McIlroy, making his first PGA Tour start of the year, was a further stroke back with six other players after opening with a 67.