After bursting onto the scene in 2008 by taking second place in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, courtesy of two wins in four events, Camilo Villegas’ was on track to be the next young gun to challenge Tiger and Phil. Ladies loved him for his good looks and charm, guys admired him for his length off the tee and the way he read putts from ground level, giving him the nickname “hombre araña,” or “Spiderman”.
He was marketable and had the pedigree to make golf fans everywhere believe his time at the top would be sustainable.
Instead, Villegas only mustered one win (the 2010 Honda Classic) in the next five seasons. After relatively successful stints from 2009-2011 (45th, 16th and 77th-place finishes on the PGA Tour money list), Villegas suffered a drop off in 2012. He failed to make the coveted top 125 and was forced to go to Q-School to keep his card. Once as high as seventh in the Official World Golf Rankings, he plummeted outside of the top 300.
He scraped by Q-School to earn PGA Tour status in 2013, but his love for the game was fleeting and self-doubt crept in. The two-time SEC Player of the Year and three-time Tour winner was wavering, but he knew it was not time to give up quite yet.
“You got to stay strong and keep working,” Villegas said in an article on PGATour.com. “I’ve always done that. I’ve always been a hard worker and always kind of believed in myself, sometimes more than others and, again, just happy to be right here right next to this trophy.”
The wear and tear of practice, constant travel, and struggling to make cuts got to Villegas and chipped away at his confidence, but his inner desire to play kept him going.
“But, you know what, it’s funny because your mind tells you things and then the next day you do it all over again,” Villegas said. “What I mean by that is yes, there’s times you go like, ‘Man, I hate this game. How much longer do I want to play the game? How much longer do I want to travel?’
“That’s just you being silly because once again, you take two days off, you show up to the range, good attitude, keep practicing, keep grinding, show up to the tournament, hope you have a good week, work for a hard week, look at the trophy, want one of those in your house and, again, there’s low spots but is that really you talking to you? I don’t know.”
That work finally paid off this past weekend at the Wyndham Championship, after a scorching final round of seven-under-par 63 helped him overcome a four-shot deficit. In recent seasons, Villegas has been able to post solid rounds on Thursday and Friday, but would stumble on the weekends.
Man it feels good!!! pic.twitter.com/xGMD2zIIBR
— Camilo Villegas (@CamiloVillegasR) August 18, 2014
This time, perhaps without the pressure of playing with the lead, Villegas was able to fight his demons and finish strong on the weekend to not only post his first top-10 finish in over 14 months, but notch his fourth win. It was not a star-studded field he took down – only one top-25 player (No. 18 Hideki Matsuyama) competed – but with the FedEx Cup Playoffs set to begin next week in New Jersey, Villegas’ win could help him gain momentum during a time of the year where he once shined.
Though Rory McIlroy has emerged as the heir apparent to Tiger Woods’ domain, the golf world could still use more superstars. Golf, an industry that is losing money and players at an alarming rate, needs several marketable players, not just one or two, to spark interest in the game. Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth are a couple names that come to mind to lead the next generation, but Villegas’ win proves the once-wunderkin of the PGA Tour is ready for the spotlight once again.