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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, March 8, 2010

Villegas cruises to Honda Classic title


Associated Press

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Camilo Villegas didn't have time to play a practice round yet he still shot 13-under 267 for his third PGA Tour victory.

ALEX BOERNER | Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers v

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PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. Camilo Villegas was checking his phone constantly on the driving range, barely bothering to hit any balls and instead seeking updates on how his brother was doing at a Nationwide Tour event in their native Colombia.

As Villegas showed all week, practice can be overrated.

Villegas shot a final-round 68 to win the Honda Classic by five shots yesterday over Anthony Kim, his third PGA Tour victory and a perfect way to cap a week that began with one celebration and ended with another.

Villegas finished at 13-under 267, the lowest 72-hole score since the Honda moved to PGA National in 2007, four shots better than Y.E. Yang's winning total a year ago. And Villegas made it look easy most of the way, too, capping his day with a 20-footer for birdie, then raising both hands skyward.

"I've just had good vibes in me all week," said Villegas, who climbed to No. 12 in the world rankings.

Those vibes were never better than yesterday.

He led by only two after Vijay Singh made a 45-foot birdie putt at the par-3 fifth, but three straight birdies starting with a 25-footer on No. 8 sent Villegas to 15 under and six shots clear of the field.

Good thing he had that cushion, because the putter stopped working after that.

Fortunately for Villegas, no one made much of a run.

"It's very special," Villegas said. "I'm just very privileged to do what I do. But trust me, it's tough. These guys are good. That is so true. Those guys are good."

He missed short par putts on 11 and 12, three-putted from 50 feet on the par-3 15th for another bogey, but never lost control of the lead and ended up pocketing the $1.008 million winner's share.

Steely eyed for most of the day, Villegas finally acknowledged the crowd as he walked up 18, waving and secure in the knowledge that he was getting his first victory since the Tour Championship in 2008.

"Fair play to him," Justin Rose said. "It was nice to even be in a position to kind of think that way, no doubt."

Kim shot 67 and Rose had by far the best round of the day, a 64 that was three shots better than anyone else. Paul Casey (67) and Singh (72) tied for fourth, seven shots back.

Villegas didn't even play a practice round at PGA National this week, after a travel schedule that he somehow found exhilarating.

After finishing tied for eighth at the Phoenix Open, Villegas headed back to his native Colombia on Monday for a slew of events sponsor dinner, youth clinic, pre-tournament party, all within about a 36-hour window to help open the Nationwide Tour's Pacific Rubiales Bogota Open, the first PGA Tour-sanctioned event in South America. (His brother, Manuel, finished in a tie for 15th yesterday).

Villegas showed up in South Florida on Wednesday, rolled out of his own bed to start the tournament on Thursday, and just kept rolling.

"Tournaments are four rounds and I played three pretty good ones," Villegas said. "I was lucky in one. It's never as easy as you think. I played great the front nine, then I made a couple hiccups and missed some putts, but I stayed patient."

ELSEWHERE

Australian Ladies Masters: Karrie Webb won her seventh Australian Ladies Masters title yesterday, closing with a course-record 11-under 61 for a six-stroke victory at the Royal Pines course in Gold Coast, Australia. Webb finished at 26-under 262 to pull away from defending champion Katherine Hull and South Korea's Lee Bo-mee, who shot 66s to tie for second.

Toshiba Classic: Fred Couples won his second straight Champions Tour title, shooting a 6-under 65 yesterday for a four-stroke victory over Ronnie Black (65) at Newport Beach, Calif. Couples, making his third start on the 50-and-over tour, had an 18-under 195 total.

Bogota Open: Steve Pate became the oldest champion in Nationwide Tour history yesterday when Aaron Watkins missed a 3-foot par putt on the second hole of a playoff after each finished at 11-under 273 at Bogota, Colombia. At 48 years, 9 months, 11 days, Pate, who closed with a 71 to Watkins' 68, broke the tour record of 48 years, 6 months, 17 days set by Dick Mast in the 1999 New Mexico Classic.

Malaysian Open: South Korean teen Noh Seung-yul birdied the final hole to beat countryman K.J. Choi by one stroke at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The 18-year-old Noh, who shot 68 for a 14-under 274 total, won his second Asian Tour and maiden European Tour title.