NORTON, Mass. (AP) — Camilo Villegas has been on the PGA Tour for three years and has tried to stay patient. But it has been difficult lately for the 26-year-old Colombian to watch other young players hoisting a trophy.
There was J.B. Holmes, who at 25 became a two-time winner in Phoenix. Sean O’Hair won his second PGA Tour event in Tampa and he’s only 25. Anthony Kim is even younger, 22 when he won at the Wachovia Championship, 23 when he captured his second title at the AT&T National.
“There’s a little bittersweet taste when you work so hard and you haven’t won, when you see young guys winning,” Villegas said. “And you go, ‘Man, it’s about my time.”‘
Maybe his time is coming on Labor Day at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
On the toughest day of the week at TPC Boston, Villegas fired off eight birdies in a bogey-free round of 63 that put him atop the leaderboard until Mike Weir of Canada made birdie on the final hole of the third round Sunday.
That gave Weir a 4-under 67 and a one-shot lead going into the final round, where he will be paired with Villegas.
“I was very, very patient until maybe the middle of this year,” Villegas said. “I worked with somebody and I looked at him, and I said, ‘Listen, I see all these young guys winning, and it’s kind of getting into me, but it’s getting into me in a good way.’ It’s time to step it up and give a little kick on my butt and join them. So I’ve been working on that.”
But if Monday presents an opportunity for Villegas, that’s true for so many more.
Weir overcame some shaky shots — he hit only half his fairways and half the greens — to finish with a 5-foot birdie on the 18th hole to reach 17-under 196.
He will be in the final group with Villegas, the 10th time in his career that Weir has gone into the final round with at least a share of the 54-hole lead. That has produced but one victory, at Riviera in 2004.
But it’s not just Villegas trying to track down the Canadian.
Vijay Singh, who won the opening playoff event last week at The Barclays, had a 69 and was at 199 with Sergio Garcia, whom Singh beat in the playoff. The Spaniard had a 68.
Another shot back was Ben Crane, who also had a 63 while playing earlier in the day; Ernie Els, who nearly holed out with a 5-iron on the 18th hole and made eagle for a 69; and Jim Furyk, who birdied three of his last four holes for a 69.
“There’s great players on the leaderboard,” Weir said. “Some guys that are hungry to win for the first time, guys that haven’t won many times, and I’m trying to do the same thing. I just want to keep playing my type of golf. Hopefully, I can hit it a little better and find a few more fairways.”
Singh can do to these playoffs what Tiger Woods did a year ago — take the drama out of them. A victory at the Deutsche Bank Championship, where he won in 2004 and finished second in 2006, could give him a lead topping 10,000 points going into the third playoff event for the FedEx Cup.
Mathematically, he could wrap up the FedEx Cup before the Tour Championship if everything falls his way.
Garcia already has won The Players Championship, but he is better remembered at the moment for losing a late lead at the PGA Championship and watching Padraig Harrington win another major, then losing the playoff to Singh after celebrating prematurely on the 72nd hole when he made birdie.
Furyk hasn’t won this year, one of only two U.S. players in the Ryder Cup without a title.
This type of action is typical at the Deutsche Bank Championship, but rarely among so many players. It was a duel between Woods and Singh in 2004 and 2006, and Phil Mickelson took down Woods last year.
“Those were like heavyweight fights,” said Seth Waugh, the CEO of the Deutsche Bank Americas and tournament host. “This is more like the Kentucky Derby.”
Mickelson is a scratch, however.
He shot a 72 and fell victim to the first 54-hole cut in the PGA Tour Playoffs, leaving questions about whether he will play next week in St. Louis in the third round of these playoffs.
Conditions were much more difficult, but Villegas and Crane sure didn’t take notice.
“I thought a 66 or a 65 would be a great round,” Garcia said. “I didn’t see a 63.”
Villegas relied on a tip from Singh — the power of positive thinking. Neither is regarded as a wizard with the putter, but Singh won last week at The Barclays after saying he would stop paying attention to negative comments about his short game and believe he was among the best.
“Starting this year, I decided to tell myself something similar to what Vijay told himself last week, that I’m a great putter and that I’m a lot better than people think and people write,” Villegas said. “So today was a good reflection. And if you look at my putting stats for the year, I’m one of the great putters on tour.”
Which tour he was talking about remains a question, however, as Villegas is not among the top 80. But the Colombian was brilliant in the third round, taking only 22 putts.
And it gave him another chance to join the crowd of young winners.