Call it anticlimactic. Call it a shocker. Just don’t call it undeserved, as Camilo Villegas triumphed at the Wyndham Championship, closing the 2013-14 PGA Tour regular season in style.
Villegas started his week at Sedgefield Country Club with a seven-under-par round of 63 on Thursday to take an early lead on the field. It was only the sixth time in 26 starts this season that he opened with a round in the 60′s, and although his pace slowed a bit in the middle rounds, he came out of the gates on fire on Sunday. His closing 63 was nearly identical to the first, and the bookend was enough for the championship.
No, it didn’t always look like it would be. 54-hole leader Nick Watney had matched Villegas’ mark of -17 on the 11th hole, but couldn’t finish the job, limping into a tie for fifth place by going three-over in his final six holes. Bill Haas, the 2011 FedEx Cup champion, made a charge but fell just a stroke shy with a 64 to come in at -16.
Then, of course, there were the heartbreaking finishes by Heath Slocum and Freddie Jacobsen, both of whom Villegas was prepared to battle in a playoff nearly an hour after he finished his own round. As they both closed with bogeys (Slocum’s costing him a Tour card for next year), Villegas’ long trip back to the elite level was complete.
The win for Villegas earned him a valuable 500 FedEx Cup points, and he’ll go to The Barclays, the first of four playoff events, ranked 37th. That’s nearly 70 places higher than he was coming into Greensboro. However, the number sure to be on his mind is 254. That was Villegas’ place in the Official World Golf Ranking after a nearly four-year dropoff that forced him to go to Q School in 2012 and battle to maintain status for this season.
The four-time PGA Tour winner doesn’t figure to be a major force in the playoffs, especially considering that few of the top-ranked guys were playing this week. Still, after a dramatic fall from grace, Villegas’ never-give-up work ethic has matched up with his talent once again, and he should not be taken for granted going forward.