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January 6, 2009

Camilo Villegas


JOHN BUSH: We would like to welcome Camilo Villegas to the interview room here at the Mercedes-Benz Championship.
Obviously a fantastic year for you, second in the FedExCup, and punctuated by the win at THE TOUR Championship. If you can comment on your 2008 season and how you are getting refocused for 2009.
CAMILO VILLEGAS: I guess I have some work to do in 2009. Yeah, it was a great finish to the year. I accomplished a lot of my own personal goals, and every Thursday we start from zero.
'09, new year, and very excited to be here in Maui, in Kapalua. A very special group of guys play here. I'll be giving it my best.

Q. Even though you are right, every Thursday, everyone starts from zero, but do you feel differently this Thursday than you did Thursday at the U.S. Open or Deutsche Bank, before you had won?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: I'll say yes and no. No, because you still have got to work. You've still got to hit the shots. You've still got to control your emotions. Yes, because there's a little fear that's not there anymore, or a little something weird. There's a little -- there's no doubt. And when I say that, I mean, before you win a golf tournament, you know you're good enough, but you haven't done it, and you've put yourself in situation after situation, and you ask yourself, When is it going to happen? You get so close, you don't win, Am I going to be able to do it, even though you know you're good enough. But after you do it, it's just like, You know what, I did it before, why can't I do it again.
So, yes, you are going to have changes a little bit.

Q. How are you dealing with the higher expectation level of outside, other people now that you have accomplished what you have?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: I can't really control what other people write, I can't control what the media writes, and I can't control what the other competitors do. I can control what I can control, which is my attitude, how hard I practice, and how much time I put into my game.
So I'll focus on those areas very hard, things I can control and just try to be very -- how do you say it, and just try to stick to business and do my own thing.

Q. So because of the fact that you are sort of a national hero in Colombia, you have a little bit more of a higher level of expectation from a large number of people, is the reason for the question, and so basically you can just kind of zone that out or block that out?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: The way I see it is that, yes, a degree, I have some responsibility with my country and my people, but more on a social basis than on a golf basis. Because I think I have got to represent my country as good as I can. I believe I've got to treat people the way I want to be treated. I believe I've got to -- I'm like an image of my country.
In terms of golf, I'm not that worried about that. I'll just keep working hard and I'll keep trying to accomplish my goals. And if that happens, good.
But in terms of just being a good image for my country, I do agree I have a big responsibility.

Q. When you talked a minute ago about just controlling what you can do, is that a hard lesson to learn? Did you ever have a problem not realizing that you couldn't control other things?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Yeah, well, you learn. Year after year, you learn, and experience is huge in this game. When you're 18, 19, 20, you don't really believe that.
But now that I'm getting ready to turn 27, and I've been on TOUR for three years, each year I realize, you know what, experience is big. I get to learn the golf courses. I get to understand the life I live, the people I'm around, and how to control myself.
So at the same time, I learned that I can't control others. Therefore, I can only focus on my things and just stick to my plan.

Q. Tomorrow is your birthday, right?

Q. How are you celebrating?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: One, two, three, four, five, six, seven eight (counting individuals in the interview room), I'm getting nine presents (laughter).
I have a good group of people, friends from high school with their girlfriends, so ten of us. It will be a slow night, maybe have a beer or two, and then get ready for Thursday.

Q. Is this your first time on Maui, or have you been here?

Q. And how is it treating you?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Awesome. We got here Friday night and we have had a chance to just relax a little bit, and I woke up every morning nice and early and take care of business.

Q. You have ten people here this week?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Ten. Got two jobs. Playing golf and taking care of them.

Q. Which is harder?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: It is hard, the second one (laughter).

Q. Another thing that's unrelated to golf is how much football did you watch when you were in Florida? Are you looking forward to the game?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Football was something totally new for me when I came to the States. I'm not a Chris DiMarco that knows the name of every player and knows the stats up and down, but I would love watching the game.
I do watch the Gator games. Whenever I have a chance to be in town, I'll go there and watch the game. My tee time is not ideal for the game. Actually I'm playing with Anthony Kim, so I'm sure we'll be getting some updates on the golf course.
Again, going back to the football topic, I do enjoy, but I'm not like 100% over just everything, the stats, the players, this and that. But I'll be pulling hard.

Q. Do you have a bet with Anthony?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: You can ask him about it (smiling).

Q. What exactly changed from 2007 to 2008? Was there something specific that happened or changed?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Two wins. I would say two wins, all of a sudden the checks are a little bigger. But I know what you mean.
Not really. I mean, yes, I made more putts toward the end of the year, but it's just maybe the changes are this big, and you are feeling a little bit more confidence. It's a little bit of everything. You make more putts and you feel more confident and all of a sudden you put less pressure on your ball-striking and you start hitting the ball a little bit better, so you go, a little, a little, a little, and then you get a couple wins.

Q. Have you always gauged your putts in that position?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Yeah, 2005. Middle of the round, I go down and I'm in that position and 12-, 15-footer I make, and a couple holes later, I go down, a 12-, 15-footer I make, and I've been doing it ever since.

Q. You've talked about accumulating experience, but you're a player used to winning at different levels, so how difficult was it to wait for that first breakthrough?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: I never really lose any sleep over it, but maybe halfway through the year, in 2008, I work with Gio Valiente, and I look at him and I go: You know what, I'm tired of seeing all of these young guys win out there. And I said it in a good way.
I said, You know what, I'd better step it up. Those guys are winning and winning and winning, and I believe it's my turn. I gave myself a kick in the butt, and said, Let's do it. And then you make a putt here, a putt there, you get a little confidence. It was very special to win those two tournaments.

Q. You have a growing reputation for being a really hard worker off the golf course, and you bike a lot. What is your regimen like, your training regimen?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: You just can't sit on the couch. I don't know why, but it's just not me. I wake up early. Even when I'm at home, I'll be up by probably 6.
I love biking. Let's don't even start talking about that. More than working really hard and thinking that that's going to make me a better player, a better person, is just that I enjoy doing it. I enjoy hopping on the bike. I enjoy going to the gym. I enjoying going and practicing.
And at the same time, I enjoy having my social life and spending time with my friends and my family. I'm not really a big TV guy. I can't really sit still for too long. Really active, I guess.

Q. How much time would you spend in the gym every day, would you say?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Oh, it switches. At the same time, I'm not crazy, about, oh, I've got to do this, this, this, this. I go in the gym, and I have my own little plan, and it will switch week to week. I do it very regularly. The main thing is that I go to the gym very regularly. I go four, five times a week.

Q. Do you have any vices, any bad habits?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: I'm not talking about them. (Laughter).

Q. Chocolate, anything?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: I like desserts. I eat a lot. People think I don't eat. I try to eat healthy, but I eat a lot. Desserts comes around and I'll just try to eat half instead of the entire dessert. It's worked for me.

Q. How well do you know Andres Romero?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: I know him. I got to know him a lot better last year. He played the Tour de Las Americas. I was a pro back then. Probably last year was the year where I got to meet him more. He used to play there. And so last year I got a chance to play some practice rounds with him. I had lunch with him several times, and he's a good guy.

Q. How hard do you think it is, and we talked about it in Boston, about you picking up English in Florida and the struggles that you went through. How hard is it for somebody like Andres, who does not really have a good command of the language and the country he's playing in, to get by out here?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Oh, it definitely makes it more lonely. My only good advice was just you've got to commit yourself. You've got to commit yourself to learn, and to do it. Life becomes a lot easier, a lot more friendly, and a lot better when you can communicate. It's tough when you can only communicate with your caddie and somebody else. I know he's taken some English classes, and I know he's getting better. Hopefully he gets it right on track quick.

Q. If this year's FedExCup tweaks had been in place last fall, you would be $7 million richer. What was your reaction?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: I looked at them. I talked with Finchem about it before the changes, and I wasn't thinking they were going to do what they did.
But you know what, after looking at it, I think it's going to be something good. But we don't know yet. I mean, we've got to put it in practice and see what happens in 2009. But I'm excited.

Q. What does hard work mean to you? What do you mean by that? Because some people can spend ten hours on a range, but it's not really working.
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Hard work is not the time you put into it. It's how committed you are and how much you are getting out of it. That's probably the best way to say it.
If I go and work for one hour, how much positive am I getting out of it. If I go work for ten hours, how much positive am I getting out of it. So we are all different. And that's an area where I've learned a lot. I used to practice a lot more when I came on TOUR in 2006 than I do now.

Q. Amount of time?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Yeah, amount of time, but not necessarily harder. I was wasting a lot of time, and I was practicing the wrong things. And now I feel a lot more confident with what I do on the golf course and on the range and how I prepare. Again, it's going back to experience. You learn to understand yourself and what works for you.

Q. Who is your swing coach?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Kevin Smeltz. I'm not very mechanical, I'll see Kevin two or three times a year, and every time I show up, I go, Kev, I just want you to tell me one tiny thing that will make me a tiny bit better.
I go and practice for four or six months, and then I go back and ask him the same question.

Q. What do you think you need to work on this year?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: You know what, it's a crazy game. Whenever you think you've got it figured out, it's going to come and bite you. It's going to come and get you. So you've just got to stay on top of it. You can always improve a little bit on every area.
So just keep working hard.

Q. Do you look at stats much?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Not really, but I did like the putting stat this year.

Q. Which was that?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: I don't know, but I went from about 100-something or 80-something to 15, 16, 17, somewhere around there. I could tell toward the end of the year, I definitely was putting a lot better.

Q. You didn't need to look at a stat to know.
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Not at that. That was a significant difference in terms of positive.

Q. Were you seeing lines better or were you just looking at putts differently?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: I think a lot a little lower (laughter). No, it's weird, man, sometimes with that putting, the harder you try, the harder it is. And when you free it up, you free your head, and you just trust it. All of a sudden your stroke gets nice, free, fluid, and you don't second-guess yourself. I mean, you've got a 3-, 4-, 5-footer, and it's going in, and in your head, it's going in, it's going in the hole.
But when you start missing in your head (snapping fingers), you start missing it when you hit it.

Q. I remember watching you at Birkdale, and you hit so many shots that never seemed to get ten feet above the ground. If it blows out here, do you change your game drastically here?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: There's a lot more elevation here. I don't know if I hit the ball that low, like at Birkdale. Birkdale was crazy, by the way, with the wind.
But it can get rough here. So you have to be very creative. I enjoy that, so I'm looking forward.

Q. What do you like most about the creative element of the game like that?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: External factors are crazy. When it gets going, you can play one shot in five different ways. And so all of a sudden, you have -- your decisions get a little harder, so Which way am I going to go? And that's when you have to be even more committed. You just choose one, commit, get a good target, and put a good swing on it.

Q. Do you think Tiger is at all motivated by the attention you and Anthony have been getting in terms of your youth?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: You want my honest answer?

Q. Certainly.
CAMILO VILLEGAS: I don't think he cares. (Laughter) He's got his own goals. He knows exactly what he needs to do. He's going to come back healthy. He's going to keep winning golf tournaments. And at the same time, I've got my own goals and I just want to win golf tournaments.

Q. Do you think you can get to No. 1 in the world?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: I'll do everything I need to do to improve myself, and if it ever happens, I'll be very, very happy. We've got Tiger up there, who has been No. 1 for a long time. If he's healthy, I think he will come out here and continue to play great and win golf tournaments and probably be No. 1, because of what we have seen.
He's been almost double in terms of points in the World Ranking. So it's not going to be easy, but anything is possible in life. You never know what can happen with a guy, and you never know what can happen to you. Maybe it just clicks and you start winning golf tournaments and you get so soft and things change.
But I don't think that way. That's not what I see, Oh, I'm going to be No. 1, or, Oh, I'm going to be No. 1. It's a process. 2006, I was one player, and, 2007, I was a little bit better, and, 2008, I was a little bit better. And I just want to be a little bit better for 2009. If I can continue that trend, I'm No. 7 in the world right now, and hopefully just keeping going that way.

Q. Are you a little better in 2007 or a lot better?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: That's a trick question there. I'm just trying to be a little bit better --

Q. I know what you're saying, but it seems like you took a --
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Every time you win -- winning is great. That's why we are here, is to win. That's the only thing that makes history, winning. Everybody forgets about those guys that finished second. Now the next step is winning majors. That's where the real history is made.
So I'm looking forward to trying to prepare myself for major championships and hopefully get some of them in the future.

Q. Right now, today, how do you feel going into this tournament tomorrow?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: I feel good. I feel confident. I'm excited, and even though it was not a very long break, I got a lot of my friends here this week, which is awesome, and hopefully I can put a nice little show for them.

Q. A lot of guys come here, or don't come here, because I think of Phil and Tiger, because they don't like the grain. You played grainy greens down in Florida, but this is different. Is that a problem for you?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: It is grainy. I mean, the greens are grainy, but the golf course is in great shape. It's a very unique golf course, very different than what we have played year round due to the elevation changes and for how long you can hit some drives. Yes, it's grainy.
But I'm excited to be here. I don't really miss Tiger here or miss Phil or miss Sergio. (Laughter) I'm just happy to be here.
JOHN BUSH: Thank you very much and play well this week.

End of FastScripts

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