Thrilling first for Villegas

Colombia did not win a gold medal at the recent Beijing Olympics, but the South American country has a PGA Tour winner at last.

Colombia did not win a gold medal at the recent Beijing Olympics, but the South American country has a PGA Tour winner at last.

Camilo Villegas, a 26-year-old who played his way onto tour via the University of Florida, displayed composure beyond his 26 years to win the BMW Championship on Sunday night.

Villegas, in his third season on the tour, did not surrender his lead over the final nine holes as he carded a two-under-par 68 at Bellerive.

He finished at 15-under 265, two strokes ahead of American Dudley Hart (65), with Anthony Kim (67) and Jim Furyk (70) another shot back in a tie for third.

On a day when Vijay Singh clinched a $10m (€7m) bonus for winning the FedEx Cup play-off series – as long he completes the Tour Championship finale - Villegas was too good for his rivals.

“It’s been a crazy week with the weather, long days but you know what, I’ll do everything it takes to win a tournament,” said an emotional Villegas, who will now return home to Medellin to celebrate with his family.

“I’ll be there tomorrow and I can’t wait to see my friends and family. There’s a big team behind me, my family, friends, all my sponsors.

“They motivate me to keep working, keep going, give it all, because it’s a tough game and we’re playing against the best players in the world.

“Golf has grown a lot (in Colombia) since I got on the PGA Tour. I’ve got a lot of support from the fans. They keep asking me when I’m going to win and I guess they’ve got it now.”

Villegas claimed the key to his victory had been the way he responded to four-putting at the ninth hole during the third round.

“The four-putt wasn’t the turning point,” he said. “It was the birdie, birdie I came back with (at the next two holes). I had been putting so good all week and then I four-putt. It rattled me in a good way.

“I just kept my head up, came back with birdie, birdie and all of a sudden that four-putt was out of my head.”

Meanwhile, Singh, who won the first two play-off events, cannot be overtaken in the play-off standings as long as he completes 72 holes at the Tour Championship.

And even if he somehow is disqualified and receives no points, he will take the title unless Villegas wins the tournament.

Villegas started the final round with a one-stroke lead over Furyk, but fell behind after six holes, before hitting the front again at the par-four ninth, which Furyk bogeyed.

If one hole was pivotal, it was the par-four 10th, where Furyk made another bogey. Villegas was also in danger of dropping a shot after hitting a weak first putt from the fringe, but he drained a downhill seven-footer to save par and increase his lead to two strokes.

Further birdies at 13 and 14 gave Villegas a nice cushion over the fast-finishing Hart, who birdied the final two holes.

Meanwhile, Fredrik Jacobson finished best European, six strokes back in a tie for 10th.

Sergio Garcia was equal 20th at six-under, while a tired Padraig Harrington tied for 55th at three-over.

Earlier on Sunday, 23 players returned to complete the third round, including Villegas, who had five holes left.

He picked up a birdie to take a one-stroke lead over Furyk into the final round.

Furyk, who finished his third round on Saturday, had the luxury of sleeping in, but that turned out to be not enough of an advantage as his experience proved no match for the youthful enthusiasm and talent of Villegas.

Furyk will be part of the American team for next week’s Ryder Cup. Villegas, of course, will not, but for one day at least, he was the man.

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