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Wednesday, August 9, 2006
Villegas is pick to win at International

By John Hawkins
Golf World

Tiger Woods will not pick up his 51st PGA Tour victory at this week's International. Vijay Singh and Jim Furyk also aren't playing Castle Pines, where the tour's best locker room is a must since thunderstorms tend to halt play more often than not. Otherwise, the field is decent, headlined by Phil Mickelson and Retief Goosen, who won here last year.

As the only tour event that employs the Stableford scoring system, the International has maintained its unique identity, though Castle Pines owner Jack Vickers has wanted more for his tournament -- he lobbied unsuccessfully for WGC status during the recent schedule restructuring. But for all Vickers has done to make the International special, Castle Pines is a lousy spectator course, its galleries puny, its reputation as a haven for bombers somewhat overstated.

Everybody hits it 350 yards in the mountain air. You have to make birdies to thrive in this format, something Camilo Villegas has done nicely in his rookie season. He's 17th on tour in birdies per round (3.85) and 12th in birdie-conversion percentage (32.1).

Villegas probably needs a win to claim Rookie of the Year honors, and this is an excellent opportunity. The scoring format caters to his aggressive style (eagles are worth five points), producing more leaderboard volatility than usual and, at least theoretically, alleviating some of the pressure on the kid if he's in contention down the stretch.

John Hawkins is a senior writer for Golf World magazine