Camilo Villegas: Life is Good

It has been a very tough year for Camilo Villegas. So tough, the three-time winner on the PGA Tour (including the 2008 Tour Championship) has fallen all the way to 150th on the Money List. Were he to fall one more spot, this great player would be in the precarious position of having to go back to the 2nd stage of Q-School…in hopes of getting to the Finals…in hopes of finishing Top 25 to earn his card back. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

After earning $1.232 million in 2011, he has struggled — truly struggled — to earn a mere $461,000 so far this year. He played in 24 events and only made 14 cuts. He had to withdraw from Palm Springs with a back issue that was resolved in ten days, but still. 

I’m trying to think of something comparable with a player who’s been around a little longer. This would be like Sergio Garcia going off his game…which he did in fact do last year. Very comparable players: both Hispanic (Columbia and Spain), both around 5′ 10″ tall and both very flashy players.

And now, somehow, he managed to shoot a first-round 65 in the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. He’s T2 with Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey and they’re both 1 behind Charlie Wi, who has managed the eighth first-round lead of his career.

Villegas tried to kick start his game by doing the obvious, like change things up a little:

A few little changes and changed the shaft on my clubs, changed the ball, changed the cards. So equipment wise there were a few changes there. But the biggest change is definitely mental and attitude.

And what was that all about?

Sometimes we take certain things for granted, and that’s what happens. The game comes and kind of bites us and the last year and a half hasn’t been pretty, hasn’t been too much fun, I can tell you that, even though I kept putting the hours and the hours.

You know what, sometimes it doesn’t matter, you put those hours and you’re not having fun, you’re not going to get much out of it. So I’ve definitely changed a little bit the attitude, and yes, I’ve been playing a lot better and now only having more fun.

“Having more fun” is a well-worn bromide in professional golf, perhaps because it works:

You know what, sometimes you just wake up in the morning and you look at yourself in the mirror and you say, you know what, life is good and why am I miserable. And I think there were a couple times where I just made certain decisions that I kind of knew I was wrong, and I was like, you know, what’s going on. That’s just not me. I mean life is good.

Why? Again, why am I going to be miserable about certain little things, because that’s what happens when you’re playing bad. I mean the little things just get under your skin. And again, I’ve had a great attitude the last few months and I’ve been really close the last three tournaments, I had great chances. I didn’t really capitalize on them, but we get off to a good start and we’ll keep it going.

He had had putting problems and the media wondered if it was mechanical or mental?

Oh, let me tell you, this is a very mental game. Just when you think you figure something out, something comes back and bites you. So it’s interesting. It’s interesting the way I putted today because I have been working a lot on many things, a lot of them mental. Just kind of enjoying and having more fun out there. That was definitely what happened today.

I was really patient. I was just enjoying. I had a great paring. Gary Woodland is a good friend of mine. And like I said, even though I 3-putted the first hole, I made some good ones coming in.

I’ll say he made some good ones coming in. He ended up making 8 birdies on the day. Yeah, but how did he do it?

Oh, man. I don’t know. You know what, it’s funny how — we’re very fortunate to do what we do. But you start getting hard on yourself. Not that you’re miserable. You’re too hard on yourself. I mean you want the best, especially I’m a hard worker, I’m a very passionate guy. But I beat myself a little bit too much sometimes. And when you beat yourself a little bit too much, there’s little things that make you miserable.

And when was the last time? When did that get going, that conversation? I don’t know, but I just kept reminding myself how good life is, and it got to the point toward the end of the year where, trust me, people remind you, hey, you know what, you’re 150 on the Money List, and I’m kind of like, life is good. Just keep going. If you’re good at this game, if you are out, you will be back in. I mean who knows. Just take it one shot at a time.

Yet another of golf’s bromides, but it seems to be working so far.

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