- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 6, 2008

From combined dispatches

ST. LOUIS | Camilo Villegas and Steve Stricker were excited to be playing golf Friday for different reasons, and it showed during a soggy start to the BMW Championship.

Villegas, coming off a tie for third last week that allowed him to advance in the PGA Tour Playoffs, continued his good form with eight birdies on long, soft Bellerive Country Club for a 5-under 65 that gave him a one-shot lead.

The 26-year-old Colombian believes winning is a process, and it appears to be accelerating with each round.

“Sometimes you really want to be on the golf course and it’s going great, and sometimes it’s a grind,” Villegas said. “You’ve got to be ready for both. I’m excited right now. I feel really good about by golf.”

Stricker made a 35-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole for a 4-under 66, tied with Kenny Perry, Tim Herron, Stuart Appleby and Andres Romero.

Stricker’s stomach has been churning the last month during what felt like an audition for the Ryder Cup. Stricker, who was bumped out of automatic qualifying at the PGA Championship, began sweating over every poor shot, every missed putt, and he only exhaled Monday night when U.S. captain Paul Azinger told him he was being selected.

The burden lifted, he played some of his most relaxed golf of the year.

“It was a lot different than the last two weeks,” Stricker said. “I did feel a little more at ease. I didn’t feel as much pressure on every shot.”

McIlroy, Rumford tied

CRANS-SUR-SIERRE, Switzerland | Rory McIlroy shot an even-par 71 for a share of the lead with defending champion Brett Rumford after the second round of the European Masters, where American teen Tadd Fujikawa missed the cut.

Fujikawa had a poor start for the second straight day with bogeys at his first three holes en route to a 72 and a 3-over 145 total, three strokes above the cut.

McIlroy, a 19-year-old Northern Irishman, could not reproduce his opening 63, and Rumford caught him with a second straight 67 to finish the day at 8-under 134.

Sorenstam trails

HELSINGOER, Denmark | In her final tournament in Europe, Annika Sorenstam shot a 2-under 71 to drop five strokes behind leader Martina Eberl after the first round of the Nykredit Masters. The 37-year-old Sorenstam has said she’ll retire at the end of the season.

Eberl, from Germany, had a 66 for a one-stroke lead.

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