Recently there's been a ton of buzz surrounding PGA Tour Rookie Camilo Villegas and I believe all of it is deserved. With two T2's in his first six tour events, Camilo has shown that he's got the game to compete with the big boys. I started watching Camilo play golf about two years ago, when he put himself in contention week in and week out, never to seal the deal. In the following few paragraphs I'm going to outline why I so firmly believe that Villegas will make a big mark on tour.
Stellar College Career
Camilo attended The University of Florida and was the only freshman to be named as an All-American in the 2001 season, he would go on to win the honor the rest of his college career. That same freshman year he set a course record with a 64 at the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club in Richmond, Virginia. The University of Florida consistently produces excellent PGA tour golfers, such as Dudley Hart and, more notably, Chris DiMarco.
When Camilo came to the University of Florida as a freshman he was a measly 5'9" and tipped the scales at barely 140 pounds. He hit the ball nowhere, but was straight enough to get the job done. Through his own dedication and perspiration Camilo was able to put on over twenty pounds of muscle during his four years at school. That bulking up has allowed the young Colombian to really stretch out his driving distances and is currently ranked 5th at 306.3 yards. Anyone who works out for golf knows how hard it is physically and mentally to keep at it and Camilo's ability to do so with unwavering patience speaks volumes about his character. I remember watching a Nationwide Tour event last year and as usual Camilo had put himself in contention. The commentators interviewed the people that were hosting Camilo in their house that week and they said that they were all very impressed with the way he lived his life. He doesn't smoke, doesn't drink, eats right, and works out with resolute dedication. Camilo is no stranger to hard work and his tenacity to succeed will serve him well throughout his career.
He's not Afraid to be Different
Clothier J. Lindeberg is perhaps best known for providing Jasper Parnevick with his often outspoken attire, but they also cloth numerous players on tour including Camilo. During The Ford Championship at Doral there was a lot of talk about Camilo's somewhat outlandish wardrobe and even Johnny Miller expressed his approval in Villegas' clothes saying, "He dresses just like I used to." The combination of his exotic dress and ripped physique makes him a prime target for the females in the gallery and cat-calls are no infrequent event. Sergio might now face a little competition. Jasper Parnevick had this to say about him: "He could be the next Casanova superstar on tour, the girls love him, he looks great in the J. Lindeberg clothing. He's fresh, has a lot of charisma, and he's fun."
Another aspect of Camilo that warrants frequent discussion by TV commentators is the fact that if he can't see the line of a putt properly, he won't hesitate to drop into a half-squat, half-pushup position to drop his eyes to nearly green level. He doesn't care what people think or say about this tendency - he is only concerned with getting the ball in the hole. And when he's putting well, he can play with anyone. On a side note, if you've never tried getting that low to read a putt, try it. It actually works.
He Loves The Attention
Camilo played his best golf last week in part because of his large gallery. The large Latin American population in and around the Miami area ensured that there were plenty of people willing to follow the Colombian around the golf course. Camilo thrives under the scrutiny of his spectators and lives to impress them. He admitted in a post round interview that he gets pretty pumped up by the crowds and that they raise his level of play. I may be biting off a bit much with this, but that sort of affinity towards attention can render itself very valuable in major championships, if you catch my drift. Despite the enjoyment he gets out of the crowds, he's a bit uncomfortable about his status as a hearthrob, saying that he'd "rather be good-looking than ugly."
His Head is Screwed on Right
He knows he hasn't done anything worthwhile yet and he's in no hurry to force anything to happen. Unlike many young players, Camilo realizes that he has all the time in the world and is very patient and willing to "pay his dues" if you will. He has gone on record saying that he's mostly concerned with having fun and playing well and that those are his only current goals. Wise thoughts from such a young player. Something I noted about his playing demeanor is that he never seems to get that negative on the course. Even after he three-putted the 54th hole last week for a double-bogey, he remained calm and seemed unruffled. That will serve him well. Phil Mickelson seems to think so too, saying this about the rookie: "He's an incredible player and very likely to win this year." He must be doing something right to garner this sort of attention from one of the world's best players.
My Gut Feeling
I get this feeling sometimes, it sounds ridiculous, but hear me out. I rarely single out such a relatively unproven athlete like this, let alone make predictions about enormous success on tour - but there's just something about this kid, its hard to quantify or qualify. The only way I can really explain it is that everything about him just sits right. His vigor, his charisma, his passion, his dedication, his demeanor, his patience, everything. Everything about him just seems to scream out to me, "This kid is gonna be big!"
These are just my thoughts and predictions, and as you're likely to have noticed - very few of the arguments I've just made have been backed up by anything substantial. I realize this too and am willing to put myself on the line like this because I just feel something special in Camilo. Now I'm going to have to sit back and see if he lives up to my lofty expectations, but I'm not worried and neither is he.