SOUTHAMPTON, Bermuda (AP) — Camilo Villegas ended a long and emotional drought when he came up with key birdies down the stretch Sunday for a 6-under 65 to win the Butterfield Bermuda Championship, his first victory since losing his 22-month-old daughter to cancer in 2020.
Villegas went shot for shot with Alex Noren for five hours until all he had left was a tap-in for par for his first PGA Tour title since 2014.
He stood erect, lightly pumping his fist, and then looked skyward before Latin players rushed onto the green to celebrate. Villegas grabbed one bottle of bubbly and took a swig.
More than going nine years without winning, Villegas and his wife coped with the death of Mia, who died of brain cancer in the summer of 2020. Villegas was lost on the course and finished last year at No. 654 in the world.
Now he has a two-year exemption and returns to the Masters and PGA Championship for the first time since 2015. His wife began a foundation in Mia’s name, and their son, Mateo, was born in December 2021.
“It’s tough to put into words right now. Wow, what a ride, man,” Villegas said. “I love this game. This game has given me so many great things, and in the process, it kicks your butt. Life has given me so many great things and in the process it kicks your butt, too.”
He look skyward again and said, “I’ve got my little one up there watching.”
Villegas finished at 24-under 260 to win by two shots over Noren, who never recovered from two mistakes around the turn and closed with a 68.
Villegas, a 41-year-old from Colombia, split time between the Korn Ferry Tour and whatever events he could get in on the PGA Tour, neither with much success. He kept grinding on his game and then watched it come together at the right time.
He was a runner-up last week in Mexico. He was a winner in Bermuda, his fifth tour title.
Noren, who started the final round with a one-shot lead, went 48 consecutive holes without a bogey until he made back-to-back bogeys at the turn. The Swede went from a one-shot lead to a one-shot deficit, and he never caught up.
Noren hit his wedge to 7 feet on the 15th, only for Villegas to hit the top of the pin and have the ball settle a foot away for matching birdies. Both missed good birdie chances on the par-3 16th along the ocean.
The turning point came at the par-5 17th, which played into the wind for the final round. Noren came up short and left below the green and played his pitch to low and strong, the ball running through the green onto the fringe. Villegas went into the bunker and quickly blasted out to about 18 inches for birdie. That became a two-shot lead when Noren missed his birdie putt.
He felt small consolation that Villegas simply outplayed him. Noren also could appreciate the joy Villegas felt from the hand life has dealt him.
“My wife is close to his wife and I know what he’s been through, and it’s terrible what happened to him and his family, so I’m so happy for him,” Noren said. “I’ve got kids of my own and I can’t imagine. So I’m very, very happy for him and the way he played and the way he’s handled his life after. It’s remarkable.”
Matti Schmid of Germany had to make two late birdies for a 67 to finish alone in third, which should go a long way in giving him a PGA Tour card for next year. Schmid moved to No. 120 in the FedEx Cup. The top 125 after the final event of the season next week get full cards.
Carl Yuan shot 66 to finish alone in fourth and moved up to No. 125.
For the FedEx Cup Fall, it was another emotional victory. A week ago, Erik van Rooyen was in tears after his victory in Mexico thinking about the best man in his wedding with only months to live because of cancer.
AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf