Weekly PGA Recap: Victory for Villegas

Weekly PGA Recap: Victory for Villegas

This article is part of our Weekly PGA Recap series.

Two weeks ago, Camilo Villegas was resigned to playing the upcoming second stage of Q-School. That's not even the final stage. That's how far the 41-year-old former top-10 player had fallen.

A week ago, after somehow tying for second in Mexico while contending for the first time in years, Villegas figured, okay, he could jump to the Q-School finals.

But then the last thing Villegas thought would happen -- or anyone else thought would happen, for that matter -- happened.

He won a PGA Tour event. For the first time in nine years.

Villegas overtook fellow 40-something former top-10 player Alex Noren to capture the Butterfield Bermuda Championship by two strokes on Sunday at Port Royal Golf Course.

It was Villegas' fifth career win, but first since the 2014 Wyndham. Once ranked seventh in the world, he had tumbled into the 700s which is where he resided just last month.

For an over-40 player who has been irrelevant for years to hold a 54-hole lead one week and then win the next, well, those things simply don't happen. Heck, he was in the booth announcing a tournament on Golf Channel earlier this year.

"Tough to put in words right now, but wow, what a ride, man," Villegas said. "You know what, I love this game. This game has given me so many great things, but in the process it kicks your butt. Life has given me so many great things and in the process it kicks my butt, too."

Villegas was referring to the tragedy he and his wife Maria endured three years ago when their 22-month-old daughter was diagnosed with brain tumors and passed away.

He said he had never stopped putting in the work on the range and in the gym, yet it's hard to overcome such hardship, especially as a world-class athlete. 

Yet here he is, amazingly, now 163rd in the world, with a two-year exemption on Tour -- no need for Q-School for a long while -- and an invitation to the Masters for the first time in nine years.

But first, it's off to this week's season-ending RSM Classic, which Villegas thought he'd need just to help get a little more status somewhere. Interestingly, his most recent top-5 before two weeks ago was at Sea Island, with a runner-up in 2016. He was even sixth there three years ago amid all his hardship.

Villegas will have some other things on his mind this week. Good things. He said his mom will be in town visiting her grandson -- yes, Villegas and Maria are parents again.

"There might not be as many workouts next week as I normally do," he said. "I think I've earned it. But still I'm a competitor, so once I tee it up on the first hole I want to play good.

"The game of golf is about taking advantage of certain streaks and this one is one that started last week, played great this week. Sometimes it's hard to focus after a win. It's happened to me in my previous four wins where you just, you're so emotionally full that it can be tricky.

"But I'm going to try my best, I'm going to try my best to enjoy it, stay focused and keep the good golf coming."

A lot of people will be rooting for Villegas, notably the Latin American contingent on Tour that has for years looked up to the Colombian as a mentor. On Sunday, they shared in his joy. 

MONDAY BACKSPIN

Alex Noren
Noren came up just short in bidding for his first PGA Tour win. He got overtaken by someone who hadn't won in almost a decade. And that has to sting. But when the dust settles in Noren's mind, he'll find solace in all the good he accomplished this week. He moved from 86th to 64th in the FedEx Cup point standings and from 62nd to 55th in the world rankings. He has just one more tournament in 2023 to get into the Tour's Next 10 (51st to 60th in points) and the top-50 in the OWGR by year's end. That's this week's RSM Classic, where Noren has much to play for.

Matti Schmid
The 25-year-old German and PGA Tour rookie picked a good time for his best Tour finish. The solo third locked up his Tour card for next year, as Schmid moved from 148th to 120th in the point standings. (It's probably possible to fall six spots at the RSM, but it would take an extraordinary series of events.) Schmid is one of the longest hitters on Tour and better than average on approach and the greens. Let's see whether Schmid can take the next step in his career next year.

Carl Yuan
Like Schmid, the 26-year-old from China and fellow rookie notched his best Tour finish, giving him a fighting chance to keep his card for next year. Yuan finished solo fourth to move from 134th in points to the magical and precarious No. 125 position. His previous best showing was a T6 and came recently at the Sanderson Farms. So Yuan may be turning a corner in his career – but he has to hang to 125 or better at the RSM.

Adam Scott
Scott tied for fifth. He's not playing next week so, at 79th in the point standings, he will not get into the Next 10. He'll have to find another way to get into next year's Signature events, including an early-season date at Riviera, where he's won twice.

Ryan Moore
Moore is playing this year on a one-time career-earnings exemption. His status for next year will be determined next week at the RSM. Moore put himself in good position, tying for fifth to climb from 140th in the point standings to 128th.

Stewart Cink
The 50-year-old Cink turned in his best showing of the season, a solo seventh. He's already exempt for next year, so his position in the point standings is moot.

Fred Biondi
The 22-year-old Brazilian who won the 2023 NCAA Division I individual championship at Florida just made his first PGA Tour cut. In his fourth start, Biondi tied for 13th. He'll give it a go again next week at the RSM.

Satoshi Kodaira
The veteran Japanese has played this season out of the 126-150 category. He has a little more work to do to be able play there again next year. Kodaira tied for 13th to move from 160th in the point standings to 151st. Of course, his target is a very good week at the RSM to get into the top-125. By Saturday, Kodaira made it to 50 straight holes without a bogey, breaking the tournament record of 49 set by Harry Higgs in 2019. Kodaira proceeded to bogey his next hole, naturally.

Austin Cook
Cookie tied for 13th move inside the top-150, from 155th to 147th.

Lucas Glover
Glover arguably was the top player in the field. He tied for 45th. Notably, he ranked 47th in the field in putting, and in the past two weeks he's shown some slippage from his miraculous putting success over the summer.

Wesley Bryan and George Bryan IV
It was a memorable week for the brothers, famous for their YouTube videos. Both made the cut. The 33-year-old Wesley and former Tour winner tied for 37th to beat older brother George, who tied for 69th. For George, 35, it was his PGA Tour debut. Wesley now heads to the RSM in hopes of avoiding Q-School. George already is headed to Q-School.

MISSED CUTS

Sam Bennett, Jimmy Walker and Oliver Betschart. Bennett, the 23-year-old Texas A&M alum and 2022 U.S. Amateur champ, tied for 16th at the Masters and then made the cut at the U.S. Open. But he's mostly struggled since then, including in Bermuda. … Walker would've finished in the top-125 had the season ended when it had in the past, at the Wyndham. But he's slumped badly since then and now sits at 139th in the point standings. … Betschart is a 15-year-old Bermudan who qualified for his PGA Tour debut. He's been playing Port Royal most of his life and had a hole-in-one there at age 7.

FEDEXCUP STANDINGS

The Top 125

Villegas, Schmid and Yuan moved inside the top 125 heading into the RSM season finale, knocking out Henrik Norlander (MC, now 126th), Maverick McNealy (DNP, 127th) and C.T. Pan (MC, 129th). Villegas sits in 75th place.

The Next 10

Luke List (T20) moved to 58th place, knocking out Stephan Jaeger, who fell to 62nd. Jaeger was not in the field.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Len Hochberg
Len Hochberg has covered golf for RotoWire since 2013. A veteran sports journalist, he was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for nine years. Len is a three-time winner of the FSWA DFS Writer of the Year Award (2020, '22 and '23) and a five-time nominee (2019-23). He is also a writer and editor for MLB Advanced Media.
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