A Conversation with Camilo Villegas, 2008 BMW Championship
ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI
JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER (Moderator) : Congratulations, Camilo Villegas, 2008 BMW champion, great win in a young career. Just talk a little bit about your emotions. It was a long week, but you persevered all the way through.
CAMILO VILLEGAS: It's been a long week. It's been a crazy week with the weather and the way we've been in and out, long days. But you know what, man, I'll do everything it takes to win a golf tournament. First tournament on the PGA, feels great, first of many hopefully. I'll keep working hard, and it feels good to be up here.
Q. The five holes you played this morning that got you into the lead and then you carried the momentum when you went off on 1 right away, how important was it for you to play well this morning going into the afternoon round?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Yeah, it was. But at the same time, there was a lot of golf to play. 18 holes is a lot of golf.
I made a great par on that first hole we played, that fifth hole, kind of got me going, and then rolled in a great putt on No. 8 for birdie.
But again, 18 holes is a lot of golf. Anything can happen. It's all about putting yourself in position for the final six, seven holes and then just staying where I was.
Q. What do you think this will mean back home? Do you have any idea?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Well, I'll be there tomorrow. I can tell you tomorrow better. I can't wait to be back home, see my family, my friends, everybody. Man, everybody that makes part of this time because it's not Camilo Villegas, there's a big team behind me, my family, my friends, all my sponsors here in the States, back in Colombia. They work hard. They work hard just like I do. They motivate me to keep working, they motivate me to keep it going and just to give it all because it's a tough game.
We're playing against the best players in the world. You can't take anything for granted. You've just got to keep working and working.
Q. What about the people that don't know you? Was it on TV there?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Oh, yeah, it's on TV. Golf has grown a lot since I got on the PGA TOUR. I've got a lot of support from the media, a lot of support from the fans. They keep asking me when am I going to win, and I guess they've got it now. I finally did it, not only for me but everybody back home. Hopefully the game keeps growing. Everybody, and especially the kids, get excited to play the game and just, I don't know, get all those great opportunities that I've had.
I mean, golf has given me so much good stuff, so many great opportunities, that hopefully I'm not the only one that sees it that way. Those kids work hard and just bust themselves to be another guy like me that plays golf for a living and plays on the PGA TOUR.
Q. You had the four-putt on 9 I think it was, and then you didn't have another three-putt I don't think the rest of the tournament. Would it be fair -- you were obviously angry on that green. Would it be fair to say that was a turning point in the tournament for you?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: I'm going to say the four-putt wasn't the turning point. It was the birdie-birdie I came back with. It rattled me in a good way, because I had been putting so good all week, and all of a sudden I four-putt. I thought about finishing that putt, and then I said, no, you know what, let's just mark it and wait. Sometimes when you give it a little time, little bad thoughts get in your head here and there, and that's what happened. I just didn't feel very comfortable when I stepped over that putt and ended up missing that one and the next one.
But I looked at my caddie, and I said, "Listen, man, let's don't let those two bad strokes get in our way" because we put so many great strokes all week, and last week I put some great strokes. I kept my head up, came back with birdie-birdie, and all of a sudden that four-putt was completely out of my head.
Q. You've had a few chances to win in your career out here. What do you think got you over the top this week, and do you feel like you were definitely more prepared to win now than you may have been a year or two ago?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: I'm definitely a better person, a better player today than I was when I first got on the PGA TOUR. I think I've matured a lot as a person and as a player and learned how to be patient, learned how to go about my routine and my practice and my life. I mean, when you're a college kid and you get to the PGA TOUR, you go, like, what am I doing here? You don't know anything about it. Everything is new. You've got a lot of surprises.
It's gotten to the point where I feel very comfortable out here. I get along with everybody that's around this great sport, and I've learned what's best for me, or at least I'm learning what's best for me. Hopefully I continue learning and that keeps me getting -- and that makes me even a better player and a better person.
But again, I feel comfortable. I think I've matured a lot. I've come a long way, and I think it was about time to win.
Q. Would you have handled that four-putt differently two years ago?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Oh, definitely, man. Especially the way I was putting several years ago. But I worked very hard on my putting and my attitude toward it, especially this year, because it's kind of similar to what Vijay has been telling the media, where if some guy writes that you're not a good putter and some other guy says that you're not a good putter and then you miss a putt, and then you go, oh, my God, and he four-putted again or three-putted again and they don't show the good putts he makes, and all of a sudden you're a bad putter.
It happened to me a little bit. I decided, you know what, I'm on the PGA TOUR for a reason. I'm a great player. You've got to be a good putter to be out here, and I want to be one of the greatest putters out here. So just stop reading what everybody writes and what people think and what people say and just stick to what I believe, just -- again, it's easier said than done. It's easier to say, hey, I'm the best putter in the world like Vijay said, or I'm a great putter. And another thing is believing it. You've got to believe it.
There's a very fine line between both. I am a great putter; I believe it, and I will continue to be a great putter.
Q. You said a second ago, "I've come a long way." Can you run us through in Colombia how many players, how many golf courses, and more important, the main obstacles you had to get through to get to right here?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Yeah, I mean, Colombia, it's a great place. Man, I miss it and I'll be there tomorrow, I can't wait. Very fortunate, my family was always behind me supporting me and just supporting my golf.
We've got about 40 golf courses back home. It's all about soccer, even though I'm sure tonight they'll be celebrating my victory, which is awesome.
But I was very fortunate. I was fortunate I was a good player since I was a kid, about seven or eight years when I started, and had a chance to play some amateur tournaments back home and then to start representing my country when I was about 13. When you live in the States, it's hard for you to represent your country when you're 13 and 14. You've got to be the top guy. In Colombia obviously the depth of players is not as strong, so I was fortunate enough to have those opportunities and start traveling around the world and seeing new places and just growing up as a person.
Then I was very fortunate to land at the University of Florida, just what a great place, and have a great coaching staff, Buddy Alexander, who taught me a lot, four great years, unbelievable years, and a lot of great memories. Again, keep growing as a person, keep growing as a player.
Then playing on the Nationwide Tour, which was a great experience. And then it's my third year on TOUR. So it's been a process, like everything and like everybody. It's been slow but very steady and very positive. So I'm excited and I'll continue to work hard and keep improving and keep getting better.
Q. How many people play golf in Colombia?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: I have no clue, but hopefully more tomorrow than today (laughter).
Q. Yesterday I asked you what you had learned last week, and your answer was that you had learned how to win. I was wondering if there was anything in addition that you had learned last week that you really employed between yesterday and today -- or two days ago, I guess.
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Yeah, I think the answer to my question yesterday was probably -- I learned what it takes to win, and I learned that I'm good enough to win, even though it didn't happen. We had one guy that came and just killed us that day, but that's okay. I just kept the momentum riding from last week and kept hitting good shots and kept thinking positive and kept rolling good putts, and it all happened to fall in place.
I handled myself, handled my emotions great toward the end, and I got my first one.
Q. Is that the difference between this week and last week is handling your emotions?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Well, and also that a guy didn't go crazy on Sunday. I told you yesterday, I felt great last week. I think I handled myself awesome in the final round. I was very patient, I was very positive, but what can you do when somebody -- I mean, the golf course was playing pretty tough last week on Sunday, and then Vijay came out and shot 8-under out of nowhere. You can't do anything about that.
Q. A couple of questions. The TOUR doesn't come to St. Louis, so what, if anything, did you know about this city before you came here this week? And then the second thing is Sergio was in scoring when you finished, and I'm assuming there was a conversation. Can you share anything that he said to you?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: About St. Louis, not much. First time here. But I love this place, I can tell you that (smiling).
Yeah, it was awesome to have Sergio there when I finished. We've become great friends. I was there during the playoff earlier this year when he won, and we spent a little time after his win, which was awesome, and just to have some friends out there, not only Sergio but Eric Axley was there on the 18th green. It's fun.
I mean, you get your friends out here, your group of people that respect you, that -- we're so competitive. I mean, if I tee it up with Sergio tomorrow, let me tell you, we're doing everything we can to just beat the other guy or the same with Axley or the same with everybody. But we get off the golf course, and it's great to have friends that support you, that pull for you, and again, it was awesome to have those two guys there after the round.
Q. How much of a help was it today to have your two contenders, Jim and Anthony, right there with you? You really didn't have to worry about somebody else in the field coming out.
CAMILO VILLEGAS: You know what, it's golf. You've got to worry about everybody. But at the same time worry about nobody but yourself. I did look at the leaderboard all day. I did know exactly where I was and exactly what I had to do.
On the 11th tee box I looked at my caddie and I said, "Let's make three birdies coming in. We're two ahead. That's going to make the other guys make five birdies, and if they do, well, that's pretty good playing." I managed to do two of those, and fortunately it was good enough.
Q. You played great last week, almost won, played great this week and won. Is it kind of odd that you're going into the last week of the FedExCup Series next weekend and you can't win the title as long as Vijay finishes?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: We don't want to talk about the FedExCup, do we? I don't know. I just think it needs improvement. Not because I cannot win. Yes, I played great last week, yes, I played great this week. I have no clue what place am I, second, third maybe. I don't know, those big jumps doesn't -- they just don't do it for me. When somebody has a very -- I'll call it bad year. You come in at 144, come in at 120, you come in at 90, I mean, hopefully I'm not coming in those positions. I don't think that's a good year.
To have a chance to win it is just very, very unfair for the guys that have busted themselves all year, worked hard, played great, and we've got a good example. The guy that has a great chance of being Player of the Year is not going to play the TOUR Championship. I'm sure the FedExCup and the points system will get better for next year.
Q. It was a short week, quick turnaround for you, and I know you played very well last week, as well. But was there something about this golf course that to your eye you felt good about it coming into the tournament?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: More than the golf course, it was my game. I just felt good with myself, felt good with my putting stroke and felt good with my swing. If that's the case, it doesn't matter which golf course you're playing. You've just got to pick good targets and hit it.
Q. If there was a turning point today, maybe the two-shot swing at 13, or what in your mind was the key down the stretch?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Man, that putt on 13 and 14 I've got to say. I mean, the putt on 13 I hit it so good -- let's take it one hole back. That putt I hit on No. 12 for par. I had a bad lie in the bunker and I hit what I thought was a good chip but it just landed a little short and checked. And I made a great putt for par.
Then I came back on the next hole, made a great putt for birdie on 13 and a great putt for birdie on 14. So that little stretch was awesome.
And then to hit the 3-iron I hit into No. 15 after hitting that tree on the right, even though I didn't make the putt, 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.
JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Can we go through your card real quick, just starting on 1?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Yeah. Birdies and bogeys. No. 1, I hit a good 3-wood and a beautiful 9-iron. I was a little in between clubs, but I hit a beautiful 9-iron, and I hit it to about two, maybe two and a half feet.
Then I was very disappointed with myself with the bogeys I made on 5 and 6, both with an 8-iron in my hand. Middle of the fairway on 5, I caught it a little thin and pushed it. It wasn't really that hard of an up-and-down, but I hit an average chip and I just pushed my putt.
And then on the next hole, No. 6, I was a little in between clubs and I went with the 8-iron, just tried to hit it a little bit hard; yes, I had to aim a little bit at the water and I overturned it into the left bunker and I hit a decent bunker shot and then very tentative with my putter on that stroke. Just came a little bit short.
But anyway, I came back and I actually hit a great shot on No. 7 and hit a great putt that missed but looked at it in a great way, and came back on No. 8 and made birdie.
Then on the back nine I was just very steady. I didn't put myself in much trouble other than that 12th hole, and again, the putt I made on No. 13 with a very, very tough pin placement, not much room to land the ball, and making that 10-, 12-footer was a good feeling.
And then that putt I made on 14, that's one of those you just don't expect, over a ridge, coming down, gaining a little speed, and then dropping in the middle of the hole. It was awesome to see that one go in. Gave it a little fist pump and let's go to the next hole.
Q. Just talk about 18 briefly. I'm sure Anthony needed to make birdie to put the pressure on you. Were you expecting him to make birdie? How surprised were you by his approach shot, and when were you finally able to breathe a sigh of relief on 18?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Well, 18, I was so pumped up. I knew my adrenaline was going so hard I could fly the bunker. It was about 290 to fly that bunker, and I just put a great swing on that one, flew the bunker. AK hit a great drive, and he gave himself a good chance. Honestly I have no clue what happened with the second shot. I mean, obviously he pulled it and didn't hit a very good shot, which gives you a little breather. But at the same time, it's golf; the guy could drop and chip it in, and all of a sudden you've got to two-putt to win.
I had 155 yards, I believe, and I just knew I couldn't hit it over the green, so I just got my pitching wedge and tried to put on a 150-yard swing, which came just about right, and two-putted for the win.
Q. How do you feel now? I mean, is the adrenaline still up compared to all the tournaments you didn't win? Now that you have one, how do you feel?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: You mean right now?
Q. Yeah. Are you still riding the wave of adrenaline?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Yeah, I mean, it's awesome to be here, and I'm sure when I get a chance to spend a little time with myself, it's going to really sink in and there's going to be a lot of memories of this week and of the past and how hard I've worked and how hard I've battled. I'm sure it's going to get a little emotional.
But right now I'm just happy to be here. I'm just excited I finally got my first win. I've been working my butt off just to be here, and it's here.
JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: On that note, congratulations.