During the Florida Swing in early 2006, the majority of golf fans were introduced to Camilo Villegas. Villegas' flashy look and style took the golf world by storm. On top of that, his unique way of reading greens entertained the masses. The young Colombian had the look of a star, and he seemed to have the game to contend immediately.
After a great start to the 2006 PGA Tour season, Villegas struggled as the year progressed. Those struggles continued in the early parts of 2007, with the exception of an occasional strong finish here and there. He found his game the last month of the season and recorded three top-10 finishes in a row to end the season.
This year, it's been a mixed bag once again for Villegas. After quite a few mediocre finishes to start the season, he has a couple top-10 finishes in the past month (including a third-place finish this past weekend at Sugarloaf). With all the inconsistency, is Villegas still a relevant figure in the golf world? Also, does he have what it takes to get things right and become a multiple-time winner on the PGA Tour? Let's take a look.
Before talking about the present and future, it's important to look at the past. Camilo Villegas had a great college career at the University of Florida, but with very little college golf on television, it's harder to keep up with the amateur ranks. Like I mentioned above, most golf fans learned about Villegas in 2006, his third year as a professional.
In his first nine starts that season, the Colombian had three top-three finishes. He finished in a tie for second at Doral, an event won by Tiger Woods. Later that month, Villegas finished in a tie for third at The Players, one of the most prestigous events on the PGA Tour. It was obvious the young gun had come to compete, but did he come to win?
In early 2007, Villegas put himself in contention at The Honda Classic. He lost in a playoff and struggled for the majority of the season until the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Villegas, also known as Spiderman, finished in a tie for ninth at the Deutsche Bank Championship, a tie for seventh at the BMW Championship, and a tie for ninth at The Tour Championship. The strong finish to last season was impressive because the fields were great for each event.
With Villegas' great 2007 finish behind him, it seemed as though 2008 would be his year. After finishing in a tie for 13th to open the season, Spiderman was pretty mediocre over the next couple months. Actually, he played well on Thursday and Friday, but he didn't carry that over to the weekend. As most fans know, there are a lot of guys who get off to a good start in tournaments. Weekend play is what separates the contenders from the pretenders.
For the most part, Villegas has been a pretender when it comes to playing great all four rounds of a tournament. In his second event of the season, the FBR Open, he started with rounds of 66 and 67. On the weekend, however, he fired two consecutive rounds of 73 to finish in a tie for 34th. A third-round 73 took him out of contention at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March. Earlier this month at the Wachovia Championship, Villegas started with rounds of 69 and 70. He followed that with rounds of 77 and 75 on the weekend to finish in a tie for 55th. An even-par weekend would have put him right outside the top 10.
These are just a few of the instances over the past couple months where Camilo Villegas' weekend struggles cost him a lot of money. It's obvious after watching him this past weekend he is still a huge fan favorite every time he tees it up. And after watching him finish third, it's obvious he still has quite a bit of game as well. If he didn't shoot a 71 on moving day, he could have visited the winner's circle for the first time.
The Immediate Future
It's hard to predict how Camilo Villegas will do in the near future, but he has all the tools to be a top-10 golfer. He can bomb it off the tee, and he has a ton of creativity around the greens. On top of that, he has the look that would greatly benefit the PGA Tour. He is as popular as any golfer in the world outside Tiger, Lefty, and possibly a few others.
Like I mentioned earlier, Villegas has two very strong finishes in the past month. Hopefully, another hot streak is on the horizon, and maybe this one will be longer and more consistent. If Spiderman keeps putting himself in contention, good things are going to happen. His play on Saturday and Sunday will have to improve, however. If it doesn't, his fans will eventually get bored with all the choke-job finishes (and as a Charles Howell III fan, I can tell you it gets tougher every year).
In the end, I do feel Villegas will make it to the winner's circle at some point in 2008. Whether or not he gets the job done in a strong-field event, that's a different story altogether. At this point, however, any win would be great for his mental state. After he picks up his first one, look out. There could be an entire boatload to follow. Villegas is one of the best talents on the PGA Tour, but it doesn't seem as though he knows just how good he is. Here's hoping he figures it out sooner rather than later.
The Final Say
This is a very crucial time in Camilo Villegas' career. It's not necessarily make or break, but it's pretty close. If he continues to play inconsistent over the next year or so, fans will move on to the next young hopeful. If he gets it together and starts winning on a consistent basis, he could possibly go down as one of the most popular and charismatic to ever play the PGA Tour. Think Arnold Palmer, only Colombian and more flexible.
It's your turn to tell me what you think. Is Camilo Villegas still relevant in the golf world? Is it too early to be talking about Villegas' weekend struggles? Finally, what do you think the immediate future holds for Spiderman? If you have anything to add, please comment or discuss it in the forum. Thanks for reading this week's Thrash Talk!
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