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February 18, 2009

Camilo Villegas


GORDON SIMPSON: Welcome, Camilo, to The Vines, and to the Johnnie Walker Classic 2009. Maybe you could give us your initial impressions on what you've seen since you arrived here.
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Well, first of all, excited to be back in Australia. I think 2005 was my last time here, and I always really enjoy playing, and the people in Australia. I believe it's a great place, and really looking forward for a good week this week. I think Johnnie Walker puts on a great show. The golf course is in great shape, and it's going to be a good challenge for us.
GORDON SIMPSON: Seems to be a nice, relaxed social week with Johnnie Walker as sponsor, in addition to the competitive side?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Yeah, I got here Friday. It was nice. I had a chance to just kind of relax a little bit Saturday, Sunday, and then back to business on Monday, early here, check the golf course, and ready to work.
GORDON SIMPSON: And what do you make of the course?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: It's good. It was a little soft on Monday, Tuesday, but with this weather, I'm sure they are going to dry those greens and make it tough for us.

Q. Going back to 2005, what do you remember of your last visit down here?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Actually, let's go back to 2004. After second stage of Q-School, I came and played the Australian Open and the MasterCard. And then early in '05, I came and played at Heineken and I played two Nationwide events, one actually in New Zealand and one in Australia. At the end of the year, I came back and played the three events at the end of the year, the Australian Open, the PGA and the MasterCard Masters.

Q. What time do you get back to the States for the Match Play next week? It's a fairly tight schedule to get back there, isn't it?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Yeah, it is, but I'll be back, I believe we land 9.00 Monday morning, 9.30 Monday morning. We get to L.A. and hop on a plane, and we'll be in Tucson by the middle of the day.

Q. Do you feel that's sufficient time to prepare for a World Golf Championships event which starts on the Wednesday?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: It does start on Wednesday. That's why when I went to play the FBR, I showed up early and drove down to Tucson. I went and checked out the golf course, did all my notes and make sure I was ready when I got back from Australia.

Q. And the jet-lag, you'll get over that okay in a couple of days?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Yeah, you know what, I've been travelling more and more and getting a bit used to the jet-lag. If you're tired, just go have a good rest and then just be prepared mentally. I believe it's very mental, especially if it's only for a week.

Q. You won the two tournaments in the States late last year, THE TOUR Championship and the BMW, you've been trying to win in America for the past two or three years and finally broken through, and now your career, you're in the elite of world golf now; you've proved yourself.
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Yeah, but I believe my career has been great since I was a junior. It's a process and you've just got to take it one step at a time. Some guys get on TOUR and win right away and you never hear their name again. Sometimes they go and win right away and play great.
I believe I've done everything in a good pace. I try to improve every year. That's my main goal, and I believe in 2006 -- I played the TOUR in 2006, and 2007 I was a better player; 2008 I was a better player, and that's my goal for 2009.
It was very gratifying to see the two wins happening at the end of the year to position myself in a better spot in the World Rankings and to increase the challenges ahead of me, because that's what happens when you play good. You've got to challenge yourself more and you've got to improve and get even better and live up to it.

Q. Now that you've broken into that Top-10, do you believe, is it Top-2, Top-3 the goal this year, 2009?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Just like I said, I'm just trying to get a little bit better this year than I was before, and if I can accomplish that, if I can just have a great attitude. That's my main goal when I wake up every morning, just show up to the golf course and have a good attitude, because that's the only thing I'm in control.
I can't control what the other playing partners are doing, and I can't control weather and I can't control so many other factors. I can only control the way I feel and the way I handle things, and if I do it in the right way, I believe I'm going to keep improving.

Q. And as a relatively young player on the Tour, can I ask you your thoughts on The Race to Dubai, that concept?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: It's interesting. I think the PGA TOUR came up with the FedExCup and The European Tour came up with The Race to Dubai.
In a way, it's kind of one tour competing with the other and that's what makes us better. That's what makes players better is when you compete against other players. It's going to be great for the game. I'm excited to join The European Tour, to try to play my 12 events, 12, 13 events this year, and see what happens.

Q. You probably wouldn't have played on The European Tour, would you?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: People think I play The European Tour because of The Race to Dubai, and that cannot be -- it's not true. I've always wanted to be a world player. The problem is that when you're not Top-50 in the world, it's tough. It's tough to set a schedule. You don't have those seven tournament that is count both ways. It's tricky. You have to put your priorities in order.
But the great finish last year, getting myself in the Top-50, it changes a little bit, so I decided to make a move. It happened to be that The Race to Dubai started the same year, and I'm really excited about. I think it's something great, let's don't put it aside.
But I've got world sponsors and I want to play around the world and I want to represent them and I want to represent myself around the world, and I enjoy it.
GORDON SIMPSON: Have you set your schedule yet in terms of The Race to Dubai?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: I've been trying, but this year, it's a little tricky. First, you come out here and you don't know which tournaments you get into, and now you put yourself into a good position where you can kind of pick your tournaments. You think it's tough at the beginning, but trust me, there's a lot of great tournaments around the world, and it's not easy to set a schedule.

Q. The heat this week, how does it affect your mind-set and preparation?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: I guess I'll be drinking a bunch of water.
No, it doesn't bother me. Personally, I believe I'm fit and I believe I work hard in the gym and trying to just get myself in good shape. So if it gets really warm, you've just got to be very conscious to stay hydrated and try to maintain your focus.

Q. (Is it a goal to get onto the Presidents Cup and play for Greg Norman)?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Of course. Presidents Cup is one of the goals for the year, and with a great finish last year, I put myself in a good position, and I've got to keep working hard this year. I would love to be part of that team. I would love to have Greg as a captain. I had a chance to play with Greg at the end of last year in his tournament, the Merrill Lynch Shark Shootout.
Obviously a great example for the game. I had a lot of fun that week and I learned a lot. I was trying to pick his head and learn from a guy that's been No. 1 in the world for a long period of time.
Trust me, I'll be working hard to be part of that team.

Q. I just wondered, what part of the game do you think you've strengthened the most over the last 12 months that you've seen the most improvement?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: I get that question at a lot. The game of golf, it's a funky little game where things go right one day and they go bad the next. You've just got to keep working. You've got to keep working in every area.
If I had to specify one, maybe my putting got a little better towards the end of last year. I changed my setup and I started to roll the ball a little bit better, and when you start to roll the ball better, it translates to your head and you gain a little confidence. All of a sudden, you're making one or two more putts a day, and then that's the difference.

Q. Just back on Greg Norman, he's done it all, but on Tour, what's he like? You said you picked his brain. Is he just giving everybody advice? Give us a bit of an insight?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: I had a chance to play his tournament, which is a team event, and he was actually my partner. So makes it a little bit easier to talk and get into him. But he was awesome. Like I said, we had some great chats. I tried to ask him a bunch of questions about just life, golf, etc., and he was very open and very sincere just giving me advice.

Q. How did you do that week?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Well, we finished second so I guess we both played pretty good.

Q. Do you stay in contact with him?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Well, not really. I'm sure this year maybe we'll have a little more contact since he's the captain of The Presidents Cup team, but before last year at the British, I didn't -- well, I knew a lot about him, but I never had too much contact with Greg.
Then having a chance to play a practice round with him at the British Open last year, having a chance to be his partner at his tournament, our relationship has got better. I consider Greg as a great example for the game and playing with him, I feel comfortable walking up to him and asking him any question and asking him for some advice for anything.

Q. And of course his return to Augusta in April, does that add to that tournament?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Of course. Greg has been an example for the game, has always been and always will be. It will be fun to see him play at Augusta.

Q. Tiger looks like he is in the Match Play next week; has he been missed by you guys?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Of course. Tiger is the biggest influence in the game of golf, No. 1 player for a long period of time, and unfortunately his knee injury has put him aside for a little bit.
Do we miss him? Yes. Is he going to come back strong? I'm sure he will, and we're looking forward.

Q. The heat, is that one of the major obstacles or are you focussing on particular players?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: It's funny, the biggest obstacle is always yourself. Like I said I can't control what the other guys do; I can't control the weather; I can only control myself and the way I think and the way I handle my emotions. I try to stick to that plan and hopefully we can have a good week.

Q. Just can you with you talking about your goals for this year and want to go improve on the brilliant end to last season, the majors, is there any one of the four venues you would think in 2009 suits your game in terms of achieving that incredible dream of winning a major?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Oh, yeah, majors are the ones that really create history and we always look forward for them. Last year, I had a good year in majors. I didn't play very good at Augusta but then I had a couple of Top-10s, U.S. Open, PGA, British Open was my first one. I had a great second round and a great experience, and unfortunately didn't play good on the weekend, but I'm looking forward for the majors this year.
I enjoy the British, to be honest. That was a lot of fun. It was very different. But does any golf course suit me better I don't know. I try to prepare myself the best I can for all of them.
GORDON SIMPSON: You'll have to ask Greg about Turnberry; he knows all about that one.

Q. You're a world player now and a draw wherever you play in the world, but what have you done for golf in your own country, Colombia? What sort of impact have you had on the game there?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: It's been great. The support from the media and the fans has been very, very good. We are trying to grow the game of golf into country where it's all about football.
But we are slowly just taking step by step, and also have a foundation that's nothing -- it doesn't have to do with golf, but in a country that needs some help some certain areas. Actually, every country has areas where they need help. So if we can give back and just help in one way or the other, that makes me feel good.

Q. What does your foundation do?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: It's called MOMO, and we just get kids from the streets. In Colombia, at the stoplights, you see a bunch of kids just kind of juggling balls or something to make a little money they take back home. Well, we decided to try to take those kids off the street and give them a place to go and give them some education and give them some food resources and then have like circus instructors so they can create their own circus and perform in front of crowds.

Q. What is it called?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: It's Circo de Artistes MOMO. Just call it MOMO.

Q. With golf in Colombia, the impact your success has had, what got you into golf rather than football?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: Yeah, well, obviously I played a little football growing up. I always liked sports but fortunately my dad joined a golf course when he was about 35 and I got introduced to the game when I was about seven. It's been good to me.
GORDON SIMPSON: How many courses are there?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: We have about 48 golf courses.

Q. How many people are in Colombia?
CAMILO VILLEGAS: 40 million. Okay, no more trick questions. (Laughter).
GORDON SIMPSON: Thanks very much and good luck this week, Camilo.

End of FastScripts

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