Villegas powers to Bermuda victory to end PGA Tour title drought

golf12 November 2023 20:00| © AFP

Camilo Villegas ended his nine-year US PGA Tour title drought on Sunday, firing six birdies in a six-under par 65 to beat Alex Noren by two strokes at the Bermuda Championship.

The 41-year-old Colombian, who last hoisted a trophy at the 2014 Wyndham Championship, virtually sealed an emotional fifth tour title at Port Royal in Southampton with his sixth birdie of the day, from a greenside bunker at the par-five 17th.

That gave him a two-shot lead over third-round leader Noren, and Villegas polished off the win with a two-putt par at 18.

"Wow, what a ride, man," Villegas said.

"I love this game. This game has given me so many great things. But in the process it kicks your butt," added the veteran who missed seven cuts in 11 starts on tour this season before earning a tie for second in Mexico last week.

The victory gives Villegas exempt status on the US tour until 2025 and entry to next year's Masters, PGA Championship and Players Championship.

He said he was buoyed by the support he'd felt from fans locally as well as friends and golf colleagues worldwide as his game came around in recent weeks – and by the memory of his daughter, Mia, who died from brain cancer in 2020 at 22 months old.

"I've got my little one up there watching it, smiling," Villegas said. "She's where she needs to be after a long fight. To everybody, I want to say thanks, it's been a fun week."

Villegas started the day one stroke behind Noren, and piled on the pressure with birdies at the third, fourth, fifth and seventh.

Noren birdied the second, sixth and seventh to remain tied atop the leaderboard, but back-to-back birdies at the ninth and 10th opened the door to Villegas.

The Swede, a 10-time winner on the DP World Tour, finished with a three-under par 68 for 262 and remained in search of his first US PGA Tour title.

Villegas had a one-shot lead after both players birdied 15. At the par-five 17th both missed the green, Noren settling for par as Villegas stuck his shot from the greenside bunker within three feet and made the birdie to pull two clear.

"You know what, it was a great battle today," Villegas said. "I stayed patient. I missed a couple coming in, but that birdie on 17 was huge.

"All in all, I just want to thank everybody that supported me over this journey and just want to let them know that I always give my best and that's why we're here."

While disappointed, Noren was delighted for his friend Villegas and philosophical about coming up short.

"It's mixed emotions, but overall (the) feeling is quite pleased with my game and looking forward to next week," he said. "Just not as good a game as Camilo today."

Germany's Matti Schmid finished third, firing five birdies with one bogey in a four-under par 67 for 263.

Schmid got up and down for birdie at the 17th to grab solo third ahead of China's Carl Yuan, who carded a 66 for 264 and solo fourth.

The event was the sixth of seven in the FedEx Cup Fall series whose points standings will finalize eligibility for the 2024 PGA Tour season.