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Camilo Villegas, aka Spiderman, reminds us of headier days

By John Strege

Spiderman never really was a superhero, but superstar was not entirely out of the question. Camilo Villegas possessed a perfect blend of talent and charisma that for a time made him an artistic and a commercial success.

Camilo.jpg
(Getty Images photo)

“Viva Villegas: Sponsors flock to young golfer,” a headline on a Sports Business Daily story said in early 2011, as U.S. and international companies threw money at the native Colombian in an effort to cash in on his global appeal.

Villegas once was seventh in the World Ranking, had won three times before his 29th birthday, was a fan favorite wherever he played in part from his renown for an ability to position himself parallel to the ground to read putts, earning him the moniker “Spiderman.” 

Those were heady days for Villegas. They also were numbered days.

Villegas’ victory in the Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C., on Sunday was his first in nearly 4 1/2 years. In 2012, he even was required to return to Q School to retain his tour card for ’13. His previous top 10 came in April of 2013. He was 254th in the World Ranking entering the Wyndham.

A devotee of long-distance bicycling, Villegas was pedaling as hard as he ever had, but the ride for the better part of those 4 1/2 years was an uphill one.

“Just the nature of the game,” Villegas said after an opening round of 63 that he matched in he final round to win by one. “Ups, downs, good years, average years, bad years. And if you ask any player in the field, everybody wants to play better. Do I want to play better? Yes. Do I feel like I have played to my potential the last two and a half years? No. But again, it's not everything about golf. You’ve got to be little bit easy on yourself and just enjoy life.”

Toward that end, he took a week off before the Wyndham and returned home to Colombia to spend time with his mother and father and to “recharge,” he said.

Meanwhile, he largely has abandoned the Spiderman stance he once routinely used to read putts. “Only on putts that [look] really, really straight, when I'm not sure which way it goes,” he said. “The game is funny. I did it for a long time, trying to get a perfect read, and it seemed sometimes when you try get too perfect it doesn't go as good. Right now I'm trying to be a little more free, relaxed and little more reactive, more athletic and natural.”

The elusive victory snuck up on Villegas on Sunday. He was the clubhouse leader at 17-under par, though three different players reached that number. But Heath Slocum bogeyed the final two holes, Freddie Jacobson the last hole and Nick Watney hit his tee shot out of bounds at 18.

Collectively, they allowed a largely forgotten star to remind us of better days, viva Villegas, redux.

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