Colorful and Confident Villegas Ready to Win

By Alison PierceSeptember 10, 2005, 4:00 pm
You might recognize him. Youll definitely recognize his pants. His favorite pair, a subtle shade of traffic cone orange.
 
Camilo Villegas, born and raised in Medellin, Columbia, is one of the more colorful characters on the Nationwide Tour. Hes not afraid to get noticed. Hes not afraid to be himself. And hes not afraid to win.
 
Camilo Villegas
Camilo Villegas has six top-10 finishes thus far this season.
I grew up winning, says Villegas. Then I went to University [of Florida] and won eight tournaments. That tells me Im doing something right. Now as a pro, I won two Hooters events. I just havent had a chance yet on this tour.
 
Just one year out of college, Villegas swooped down on the Nationwide Tour as a Monday qualifier and since has lingered solidly in the center of the money list.
Hot out of the gates, he tied for second in his first Nationwide event at the BellSouth Panama Championship, but since has had his share of disappointments.
 
He held a share of the 54-hole lead at the Henrico County Open in Virginia but ultimately fell four shots short to Chad Collins. He bounced back to co-lead at the Rheem Classic in Arkansas, but again lost by 6 strokes to Chris Couchs final-round 60.
 
Thats tough to beat, shrugs Villegas.
 
But ever positive, he fiercely dedicates hours each day after his round to practice shots: We believe in ourselves, just be patient, keep trying, and keep working.
 
Camilo grew up playing golf with his dad in Columbia, where there are only 50 courses in the whole country. But thats more than Paraguay; it only has three courses, he says.
 
Golf is so small in Columbia, we dont have hardly any Columbian golfers, says Villegas. I feel so fortunate. It is such an amazing feeling to represent my country.
 
Medellin, for many people, is the capital of cocaine trafficking, Pablo Escobar and kidnappings.
 
There are social problems but nothing like people hear about on the news, says Villegas. People think that once I get off the plane, there is going to be a kidnapper waiting for me. People say, 'do you guys have cars there?' Its kind of funny what you hear.
 
Villegas just wishes he could get his fellow players down for a visit; they would fall in love with it, he insists.
 
At the root of Camilos strategy, and perhaps because of his cultural background, is an immovable belief that he will succeed. Its simply a matter of time and patience for this young hot-pants-wearing hot shot, who considers himself on the fast track to the PGA Tour.
 
Golf Channel analyst and PGA Tour winner Curt Byrum has kept an eye on Villegas all year. Byrum sees a self-taught feel player with amazing ball-striking ability, unique from the cookie-cutter players in the rest of the field.
 
I think he looks at himself, and believes deep down that hes good enough to play on the PGA Tour,' Byrum says.
 
Villegas got a taste of the big tour when he played in the U.S. Open last year, and he whole-heartedly agrees with Byrum. It may sound cocky but if youre not out here to win, why are you playing? says Villegas.
 
For University of Florida head coach Buddy Alexander, Villegas wasnt immediately a stand out. When he started the Florida golf program he was small, short off the tee and nothing special.
 
What I learned about Camilo was that he was the most dedicated, the most disciplined player that I have had in 25 years of coaching, says Alexander. He identified his weaknesses, he made himself stronger and bigger. He is one of the most competitive people Ive met in my life, whether it be in the class room or on the golf course or on a motor scooter.
 
According to Alexander, Camilos success will depend on how well he putts and above all, how he controls his emotions. Many see Villegas as a strong mental player who doesnt seem to be bothered by the little things, like the oft-missed 4-foot putts.
 
I think there are definitely things that get to him. His failures, or what he perceives as his failures, bother the hell out of him, says Alexander. That ultimately will be the factor in his success. Hes a perfectionist, make no mistake about it. That could be the one thing that drives him crazy.
 
Byrum noticed it as well: The thing thats holding him back is his poor putting when it really matters. He could have won twice this year if he had putted on Sunday.
 
Villegas retorts that he has worked hard on his putting and is not missing those short putts anymore.
 
And the media just needs to get over it. I look at my stats and I do need to improve my putting but the number of putts doesnt concern me. I just want to keep rolling putts and keep being patient,' he says.
 
Regardless of his battle with the game, Villegas is incredibly entertaining to watch. Whether its the Columbian crouch, where he practically lays on the ground to line up a putt, or his animated reactions to shots, good or bad.
 
Everybody loves Camilo, says Alexander. Theres a lot of little boy in Camilo. Hes mischievous, enjoys himself at appropriate times, he has a terrific sense of humor, likes to laugh and laughs all the time.
 
And what about the pants?
 
It makes packing fun! claims Villegas.
 
I dont think I ever show up to the golf course without a comment. If I wear black and black then Im too conservative; if I wear bright orange and yellow Im too loud, he laughs. Today I was wearing white and khaki, my caddie says I dont know how to find you with white and khaki. It makes things fun.
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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon. 

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Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.



FALLING

Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

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Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”


Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)


Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”