Villegas gets first victory at BMW Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 7, 2008, 4:00 pm
BMW ChampionshipST. LOUIS ' For three years, Camilo Villegas managed to make a name for himself without winning.
 
He was the young Colombian with model good looks and chic clothing, limber enough to strike a pretzel-shaped pose on the green to read putts, earning him the nickname Spider-Man. Trouble was, not many of those putts went in.
 
That changed Sunday at the BMW Championship.
 
Clinging to a one-shot lead on the back nine at Bellerive, Villegas saved par with a 12-foot putt, followed that with two birdie putts and finished off a 2-under 68 for a wire-to-wire victory and his first PGA TOUR title.
 
It was a pretty good little stretch there that just tested my nerves and showed myself that I was good enough to stay out there, Villegas said.
 
Villegas pulled away from Jim Furyk, held off Anthony Kim and wound up winning by two shots over Dudley Hart, who birdied his final two holes for a 65. It was Harts best finish in four years and it earned him two trips to Georgia ' the TOUR Championship in two weeks and the Masters next April.
 
With one playoff event remaining, the FedExCup essentially is over.
 
Vijay Singh, who won the first two events, tied for 44th and earned enough points that all he has to do is complete four rounds at the TOUR Championship in two weeks to collect the $10 million payoff.
 
But the surly Singh didnt seem terribly grateful.
 
In a move that took some shine off the tours new prize, Singh refused to speak to NBC Sports and walked briskly past a group of other media after finishing his round.
 
A marketing dream, Villegas gave golf fans a real reason to pay attention to him.
 
The 26-year-old from Medellin turned his fortunes Saturday after four-putting for double bogey that cost him the lead in the middle of the second round. He didnt have another three-putt the rest of the tournament.
 
It rattled me in a good way, because I had been putting so good all week, and all of a sudden I four-putt, Villegas said. But I looked at my caddie and said, Listen, man, lets dont let those two bad strokes get in our way.
 
And he didnt.
 
Villegas finished at finished at 15-under 265 and collected $1.26 million.
 
Its awesome to be here, said Villegas, who wore a solid white outfit accented by a yellow belt and painters cap. Hopefully, its the first of many.
 
Villegas had been building toward a moment like this in the last few months. He was near the lead going into the weekend at the British Open, rallied to finish fourth in the PGA Championship, then started the final round last week at the Deutsche Bank Championship one shot behind until faltering.
 
He had ample opportunity to let this one get away, too.
 
First came back-to-back bogeys on the front nine, losing the lead to Jim Furyk. But the real test came on the back nine, when Villegas found a bunker off the tee at the par-4 12th, laid up short of the green and hit wedge to 12 feet.
 
He sank the par putt to keep the lead, then seized control.
 
Furyk hit his tee shot into a bunker on the par-3 13th and made bogey, while Villegas took yet another aggressive line and holed a 10-foot birdie to build a three-shot lead. Then came a 35-foot birdie putt on the 14th that sent him on his way to victory at Bellerive.
 
Kim rallied late to get within two shots, but he sent his approach into the bleachers on the 18th and made bogey for a 67, leaving him a tie for third with Furyk, who shot 70.
 
Camilo played great, Kim said. He deserved it, made some key putts when it counted, and overall he just handled himself beautifully out there.
 
Villegas appeal began two years ago at Doral when he finished in a tie for second behind Tiger Woods before a Miami crowd loaded with Hispanic fans. Then came his Spider-Man style of reading putts, contorting his body into a horizontal position to keep his eyes as close to the ground.
 
Endorsement deals and photo shoots followed, not to mention a strong following of females in his gallery. All he lacked was a PGA TOUR trophy, which he earned over three days in a weather-plagued event.
 
Villegas went over $3 million in earnings for the year and likely will move into the top 20 in the world ranking.
 
And he still has a mathematical chance for the FedExCup.
 
He moved up to No. 2 in the standings, but even if he wins the TOUR Championship and Singh finishes last, Villegas still would finish 101 points behind. His only hope is to win at East Lake and for Singh to withdraw or get disqualified.
 
The volatile points system introduced his year brought some fresh faces to East Lake for what once was the tours All-Star game for the top 30 players on the money list. Among those who advanced to the final round of the playoffs were Kevin Sutherland, Ken Duke, Tim Clark, Bubba Watson and Hart, who moved up 53 spots to No. 14.
 
Hart saw that he was tied for third as he stood in the 18th green. He turned to his caddie and said if one person passed him, he was out of the top 30.
 
I basically told him, Birdie or bogey. I said, Lets try to give this thing a run, Hart said. It was one of those things where I was going to give it a run and hit the best putt I could. And fortunately, it went in.
 
The final spot went to Chad Campbell, who got no points this week after withdrawing Saturday to fly home to Dallas after learning his wife went into labor. Dix Phillip Campbell was born later that evening.
 
Golf now goes dark next week ' no PGA TOUR events ' before the Ryder Cup matches Sept. 19-21.
 
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    Like a tattoo: Ko shares early Mediheal lead

    By Randall MellApril 26, 2018, 10:45 pm

    Lydia Ko put herself in early position Thursday to try to extend her birthday celebration through Sunday at the LPGA Mediheal Championship.

    Ko, who turned 21 on Tuesday, is off to a strong start at Lake Merced Golf Club, where she has a lot of good memories to draw upon as she seeks to regain the winning form that made her the greatest teen phenom in the history of the women’s game.

    With a 4-under-par 68, Ko moved into a four-way tie for the lead among the morning wave in the first round. I.K. Kim, Jessica Korda and Caroline Hedwall also opened with 68s.

    All Ko has to do is look at her right wrist to feel good about returning to San Francisco. That’s where she tattooed the date April 27, 2014, in Roman numerals. That’s how she commemorated her Swinging Skirts victory at Lake Merced, her first title as an LPGA member. She won there again the following year.

    “This is a golf course where I've played well,” Ko said. “The fans have been amazing. They’ve been super supportive every single time I've come here, even since I played the U.S. Juniors here.”


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    Ko made it to the semifinals of the U.S. Girls’ Junior at Lake Merced in 2012.

    “It just brings back a lot of great memories,” she said.

    Ko got this week off to a good start with friends from South Korea and New Zealand flying to California to surprise her on her birthday. She was born in South Korea and grew up in New Zealand.

    “Turning 21 is a huge thing in the United States,” Ko cracked. “I’m legal now, and I can do some fun things.”

    Ko is looking to claim her 15th LPGA title and end a 21-month winless spell. Her ball striking was sharp Thursday, as she continues to work on improvements under her swing coach, Ted Oh. She hit 11 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in regulation.

    “My ball striking's been getting better these last few weeks, which has been really nice,” Ko said at week’s start. “But then I've been struggling with putting, which was the aspect of the game that was going really well. I feel like the pieces are there, and just, sometimes, the hardest thing is to kind of put all those pieces together. Just have to stay patient, I know there are a lot of good things happening.”

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    Watch: Rose drops trou despite gator danger

    By Golf Channel DigitalApril 26, 2018, 10:12 pm

    We all know how fashion-conscious pro golfers are, and sometimes that even trumps modesty.

    Take Justin Rose, whose tee shot on the par-3 third hole in Thursday's opening round of the Zurich Classic found the water. But the ball was close enough to shore for Rose to try to play it. Not wanting to get his light-colored pants dirty - what is up with all the white pants on Tour these days, anyway? - he took them off to play the shot.

    If there were any gators in the water hazard - and this being Louisiana, there almost certainly were - they showed no interest in the Englishman.

    It was only appropriate that Rose should strip down for a shot, as his partner, Henrik Stenson, famously did the same thing (to an even greater degree) at Doral in 2009.

    Finally, just to provide some closure, Rose failed to get up and down.

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    Like father like son: Bring Your Child to Work Day

    By Jay CoffinApril 26, 2018, 7:51 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. – Today is Take Our Sons and Daughters to Work Day at Golf Channel, where everything is fun and games until your child promptly says something that embarrasses you beyond belief. It’s only happened six times today. So far.

    My daughter, 12, is in middle school and feels like she’s too big for this sort of shindig. But my son Brady, 11, was all in. The deal was that he could spend the day with me, I’d take him to McDonald’s for lunch, but he had to write a golf story of some sort for GolfChannel.com.

    Here is his unedited work, in all its glory:

    By BRADY COFFIN

    My name is Brady Coffin and I play golf. I started at the age of 4 years old. My two favorite golfers are Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods. They are really good golfers and every time I watch them they always give me tips.

    My dad Jay Coffin is the best editor of Golf Channel and always gave me tips when I first put the golf club in my hand. I had my very first par in Hilton Head when I was 7 years old. I am on the Drive, Chip and Putt commercial and I was in a movie where I played a young Ben Hogan. My favorite golf course is Royal Blue in the Bahamas.

    I have won many golf tournaments and I am going to play in another tournament next month. I have made a couple of birdies. I am going to play in the PGA Junior League this summer.

    At the Golf Channel I get to meet new people and play many games. One of the amazing people I met was Mr. Damon Hack. He is on the Morning Drive show and was very nice to me. Damon has been playing golf for 25 years and his favorite golfer growing up was Tiger Woods.

    He loves working at Golf Channel.

    “It gives me the opportunity to talk and write about the sport that I love. It’s a sport that I can play with my boys. It’s a sport that I can watch on television. It’s a sport that teaches great life lessons. I couldn’t ask for a better job,” Damon said to me.

    (P.S. I will be better than Jordan Spieth.)

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    Not the 'prettiest' 65, but Duval, Furyk will take it

    By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 7:44 pm

    AVONDALE, La. – Wearing a polo instead of a dress shirt, working with a caddie and not a producer, David Duval exited the scoring tent, walked toward the group of reporters waiting for him after their 65 and grumbled to teammate Jim Furyk, “The damn media.”

    Duval was joking – we think – since he now is one of us on the dark side, a successful and respected TV analyst, after an injury-shortened career in which he battled Tiger Woods, rose to world No. 1, won a major and then experienced such a miserable slump that it drove him into an entirely new line of work.

    Now 46, Duval doesn’t play much anymore, only 11 events in the past four years. His last made cut was in July 2015. Earlier this year, he teed it up at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but only because he and his wife, Susie, enjoy the vibe there. Competitively, he knew he didn’t stand a chance. He had moved back to Colorado, worked two out of the three weeks, and then couldn’t practice the other week because the weather didn’t cooperate. Not surprisingly, he shot three consecutive rounds of 76 or worse.

    And that could have been the extent of his season (save for his annual appearance at The Open), but he was drawn to the idea of the team format at the Zurich, to the idea of playing with Jim Furyk, with whom he’s been friends for the past 32 years, dating to their days in junior golf. So Duval reached out, asking the U.S. Ryder Cup captain if he wanted to team up, for old times’ sake.

    “This was about being with a friend, reuniting, having our wives together for a few days,” said Duval, who estimated that he’s played more than 100 practice rounds with Furyk over the years. “Expectation-wise, I don’t know what they are for me. I don’t get to participate out here and compete.”


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    But Duval took this start seriously. He almost never travels with his clubs, but he brought them to the Masters, working with his old coach, Puggy Blackmon, between TV appearances and bouncing between Augusta Country Club and Augusta University’s practice facility.

    Without any on-camera work since then, he’s spent the past two weeks grinding, even bringing Blackmon to New Orleans for a range session, just like most of the other pros in the field.

    “It’s like a normal preparation,” he said. “Maybe not as much as it would be for a typical player, but a lot more than I’ve been able to do in the past.”

    Duval has no intentions of diving back into competitive golf full-time, but working as an analyst has given him a new perspective on the game he loves.

    “When you don’t play a lot and you don’t have that opportunity, you feel like you have to play perfectly,” he said. “Being on the other side of the desk, you see how many crappy golf shots really, truly get hit, and it’s like, look, you don’t have to be perfect. You just have to hit more good ones than bad ones and go from there.”

    That also sums up his and Furyk’s opening round here at the Zurich.

    Furyk joked before the event that they’re the rustiest team in the field, but playing best ball, they remained steady in a driving rainstorm, then ran off seven birdies to shoot 65 and sit in the top 10 when they finished their round.

    “It wasn’t necessarily the prettiest,” Duval said, “but it was solid. It wasn’t like we had 36 looks at birdie.”

    “We ham-and-egged it really good today,” Furyk added. “We got pretty much one of the best scores we could have out of the round.”

    The second round could be a different story, of course, with alternate shot. It’s a more nerve-wracking format – especially for two aging warriors without many competitive reps this year – and they figure to find some unusual parts of TPC Louisiana.

    But that’s a worry for Friday, because Duval was in the mood to savor his four birdies, his team score of 65 and his ideal start to a work week with his longtime friend.

    “I think it was good,” he said, breaking into a wry smile, “especially for me.”