GREENSBORO, N.C. -- With every birdie he makes on Sunday, Camilo Villegas is gaining momentum for the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup.
Villegas came into the week with the target on his back, ranked No. 125 in the FedExCup. He treaded water with a first-round 70 but is now 11 under with three holes remaining -- and he's gained 10 spots in the standings, in the process.
Interestingly, the man ranked No. 116 right now is Ernie Els, who was one spot below Villegas at the start of the week. The South African, who started the round five strokes off the lead, is 1 over for the day through 10 holes and currently tied for 23rd.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Paul Casey entered the Wyndham Championship ranked 147th in the FedExCup. In a weird way, though, that might be working in his favor.
The Englishman feels like he has nothing to lose. So instead of obsessing over how many points he needs to earn to climb into the top 125 and earn a spot in the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup, Casey has his eye squarely on the Sam Snead Trophy.
The approach appears to be working, too. Casey fired a 65 on Thursday that left him two strokes off the lead held by Jeff Quinney and Tommy Gainey -- and as a byproduct of that success, he's projected to climb 25 spots to No. 122 in the FedExCup.
"I've got nothing to lose this week," Casey said. "So I'm trying
to put myself in a position to win this golf event. I believe I got
to be top four to seal a place for next week and there are top-10
situations, depending on what other guys do.
"So, I'd love to be part of that. I don't need to get too far ahead, don't need to start thinking about that on a Thursday. For me it's focusing on today and I did a very good job of that, actually. I really went out there very relaxed and -- yeah, I didn't get too caught up in sort of worrying about FedEx stuff.
"Because I'm not on the bubble, quite a way outside, I don't need to worry about it quite as much. ... I'm going to go ahead and enjoy and put myself in a position to win it."
ON THE WAY UP
JEFF QUINNEY: No longer fully exempt on TOUR, Quinney is making just his 11th start this year. As a result, he came to Greensboro ranked 215th in the FedExCup and in real danger of missing the Playoffs for the second straight season. A year ago, it was a real heartbreaker, too -- Quinney finished at No. 126, two strokes shy of advancing. On Thursday, though, Quinney fired a 63 that left him tied for the lead with Tommy Gainey and he's currently projected at No. 79. a prodigious jump of 136 spots.
"The only chance I get in the Playoffs is probably winning this week and coming with the attitude of ... basically just push all your chips in and this is what I got," Quinney said., "It's my last chance and don't hold back, try to get out of my own way."
ERNIE ELS: The South African has played in every Playoffs event during the first four years of the FedExCup. In fact, he was ranked No. 1 entering The Barclays last year. Els has struggled with his putter this year, though, and he added Greensboro to his schedule -- making his first apppearance since 1997 -- because he found himself ranked No. 126, trailing Camilo Villegas by .437 of a point. He opened with a 65, though, and projects to move up 17 spots.
"I say to the guys my playoffs have started this week, because
if I don't play well this week I'm not advancing," Els said. "So
most of the other guys have four playoff events, I've got five. I
feel like I need to do well and enough to get to The Barclays and
It's hard not to think about it. There's quite a bit of pressure on us guys lower down the field. You need to perform well."
JUSTIN LEONARD: The Texan, who tied for third at last year's Wyndham Championship, opened with a solid round of 66 on Thursday. Leonard finished Thursday night projected as the bubble boy, which would make a move of 17 spots.
"I'm trying to build a little bit of momentum," Leonard said. "Obviously it's been a disappointing and frustrating year but my game has been better the last few weeks. I haven't been able to get really good scores out of it and so, you know, I would love to play well this week and make the Playoffs but really just I want to kind of build the things on I'm working on and see if some good things happen and I'm going to play a few events in the fall. Hopefully, I'd certainly like to be playing next week."
HEADED IN THE WRONG DIRECTION
CAMILO VILLEGAS: He came into the week as the bubble boy at No. 125 and shot an even-par 70. He battled back from bogeys at his first two holes, but couldn't get anything going. As a result, Villegas projects to fall six spots in the rankings and is also in danger of missing the cut.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON: The Irishman was the last player to commit to the Wyndham Championship, making his decision after the second round of the PGA Championship and delaying what would have been a family vacation to the Bahamas. He came to Greensboro for the first time ever ranked No. 130 in the FedExCup and didn't help his standing in Round 1. Harrington played well early on Thursday, making the turn 3 under but he ended up shooting a 71 that left him in a tie for 71st.
CAMERON BECKMAN: Beckman didn't do himself any favors on Thursday with a late string of three straight bogeys on his back nine en route to a 73. He's tied for 135th at the Wyndham Championship, as a result, and projects to drop from No. 124 to 129th in the FedExCUp standings. He'll likely need to go low on Friday to have a chance.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Camilo Villegas had just completed a TV interview and was headed for the locker room when a man asked him to pose for a picture with a little girl who looked to be about 10 years old.
"How is that ice cream?" Villegas asked as he bent over and gently rested his hands on her shoulders. He was smiling and relaxed, and the young Colombian didn't even mind when yet another reporter blocked his progress toward the clubhouse.
No matter how he plays this week at the Wyndham Championship, Villegas' name will be mentioned frequently on TV and in newspaper accounts. That's because he's got a target on his back as the bubble boy in the FedExCup standings at No. 125.
Only those ranked 125th or above when the final computations are done on Sunday night gain entry into next week's Barclays, which is the first of four events in the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup. Villegas has 320 points, a mere .437 of a point ahead of Ernie Els, who is also in the field, and only four points ahead of No. 130 Padraig Harrington, who is playing in Greensboro for the first time.
In fact all but six of the players ranked from No. 126 to 160 are competing this week. And even someone as far back as Skip Kendall, who ranks 257th with just one point, could conceivably make the Playoffs -- but only if he wins.
Villegas, though, is taking things in stride. His goals don't change just because his back is against the wall.
"Obviously I know where I am," he said. "… We all want to give ourselves a chance to play in the Playoffs but golf doesn't change. You’ve just got to get on the first tee and give yourself a chance to win a golf tournament.
“It's been a long year. It's been a slow year. But that's the nature of the game. We can't have great years all the time. As long as you have a good attitude and keep working hard, I know the talent's in me and everything will be fine."
Indeed. Villegas is a three-time winner on the PGA TOUR -- with the first two of those coming in the Playoffs in 2008, propelling him to a second-place finish overall. He's had a frustrating season in 2011, though, with just one top-10, a tie for third at the FedEx St. Jude Classic.
"This is no different than a business," Villegas said. "And when you are running a business you are try to make the right decisions. It's always to improve and I think at the beginning of the year I probably got a little too involved with my golf swing. I wanted to get my golf swing what I consider a lot better and understand my golf swing a lot better. Believe it or not I worked this offseason harder than I've ever worked in my life in any other offseason.
"Funny enough I wasn't hitting the shots I wanted to and I lost a little bit of feel and I lost a little confidence and it starts a little snowball effect. Then it took me about three months to realize, you know what, I've got to go back to basics and just kind of regroup. When your confidence is a little down, it takes time. I think I'm definitely heading in the right direction. I feel more comfortable. I've had a great attitude all year and that's all I can do."
A solid performance in Greensboro could give Villegas the momentum he needs.
"I looked at the point system last week and what do I have to do -- who knows?" Villegas said with a shrug. "There's so many different scenarios. The first thing I've got to do is give myself a chance to play on the weekend and … if I can continue to focus on my goal which is contend for the tournament I'll be fine."
By Chris Dunham, PGATOUR.COM
With two weeks remaining until the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup get under way, the pressure is on players to gain or maintain their positions inside the top 125.
If the season were to end today, 14 players in the PGA Championship field -- including Ernie Els, Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington -- would be on the outside watching the Playoffs begin at The Barclays. Three others -- Camilo Villegas, Heath Slocum and Arjun Atwal -- are ranked between 120th and 125th in the standings. Those three, especially Villegas at No. 125, are anything but safe in their quests to make the Playoffs. Villegas is just fractions of a point ahead of Els, the 2010 regular season points leader who could leap frog the Columbian this week at Atlanta Athletic Club.
Others on the outside looking in are 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen (145th), Paul Casey (147th) who finished sixth in last season’s Playoffs race, two-time major winner Angel Cabrera (150th) and 1991 PGA Champion John Daly (199th). Click here for more on the FedExCup bubble and to see how many points separate these players from the 125-man cut line.
LOOKING SAFE: Two players moved across the 125-man cut line last week, and both are now in good position to make it to the Playoffs. Scott Piercy, who won the Reno-Tahoe Open was the week’s biggest mover as he jumped inside the top 100 and Steve Flesch, who tied for third in Reno, made his way to 115 th -- 32 points ahead of Villegas and Els. Being pushed out were William McGirt and Dean Wilson, who check in this week at Nos. 127 and 128 respectively.
NO. 1 ON THE LINE: The battle around the 125th position will not be the only FedExCup point of interest this week at the PGA Championship. Nick Watney, the current FedExCup No. 1, has 11 players chasing him with the potential to move atop the standings with a victory.
Among them are Jason Day, who has two runner-up finishes in majors already this season and Bubba Watson, who lost the PGA Championship in a playoff last year. Phil Mickelson and David Toms, who dueled at Atlanta Athletic Club a decade ago, are also within striking distance. Mickelson, Watson and PLAYERS Champion K.J. Choi could move ahead of Watney with a runner-up finish while No. 3 Luke Donald and No. 2 Steve Stricker are each less than 100 points shy of Watney.
CHAMPIONS PROJECTIONS: Three former major championship winners -- Woods, Harrington and Ben Curtis -- are Nos. 129 through 131, respectively in this week’s standings. Here is what the three needs to do to qualify for the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup:
Woods likely needs a 14th-place finish or better at the PGA Championship to qualify for the postseason since he has indicated he is unlikely to play the Wyndham Championship. Harrington needs a 12th-or-better showing at the PGA to secure his position. Ben Curtis isn’t playing in the PGA Championship and, based on projections, will need an 11th-place-or-better performance at the Wyndham Championship to guarantee his spot.
IN POSITION: Two players in the field this week at the RBC Canadian Open have an opportunity to move atop the FedExCup standings with a victory. Luke Donald (currently 6th) and Matt Kuchar (No. 8) are both within striking distance of FedExCup leader Nick Watney.
NEEDING A MOVE: Of the 31 players ranked between 110th and 140th in the FedExCup standings, 20 will be playing this week at Shaughnessy. Spots in the top 125 will be there for the taking with four players ranked between 121st and 125th not playing this week. Stephen Ames, playing in his homeland, 2010 regular season points leader Ernie Els and 126th-ranked Steven Bowditch are among those within 75 points of the top 125 with a chance to move up this week. More on the Playoffs bubble
CROSSING THE LINE: There was just one change to the top 125 last week. George McNeill, who tied for 2nd at the Viking Classic, moved from 132nd to 92nd. Falling back was Zack Miller, who dropped from 124th to 127th.
WHO’S UP, WHO’S DOWN? McNeill’s 40 position leap was the second biggest of the week but 10 spots shy of the 50-position move from Tom Pernice Jr., who went from 212th to 50th after a T2 at Annandale. Anthony Kim moved inside the top 100, to 85th, after a top 10 at the British Open. Camilo Villegas, down seven spots to 114th, is among the players who fell furthest last week. More movers
NEW ARRIVALS: Nine players earned their first FedExCup points of 2011 last week during the dual tournaments at Royal St. George’s and Annandale. Tom Watson posted a T22 finish at the British Open and debuts at 214th in the FedExCup standings while Peter Lonard tied for 9th at the Viking Classic to reach 221st.
A YEAR OF CHANGE: If the season were to end today, two of the 30 players in last year’s TOUR Championship (Paul Casey and Ernie Els) would miss out on the Playoffs altogether. Interestingly, Els and Casey will be playing in the same group during Rounds 1 and 2 this week. A total of 34 of the top 125 in the FedExCup standings were not in the Playoffs a year ago, highlighted by former leader and current No. 7 Mark Wilson, who has won twice in 2011.
MORE ON LAST WEEK’S WINNER: Chris Kirk became the fifth rookie to win on TOUR in 2011 with his victory at the Viking Classic. Kirk, who was the No. 2 graduate on the Nationwide Tour last year, is currently second in the Rookie Rankings behind Masters champion Charl Schwartzel. Kirk has four top 10s on the year including his win and a tie for second behind Phil Mickelson at the Shell Houston Open.
Camilo Villegas isn’t going to win the FedEx St. Jude Classic, but he did match the low round of the day with a 64 that has him tied for third as the final round winds down (only Retief Goosen could surpass him).
Perhaps more importantly, though, Villegas’ round will be a boost of confidence. In 14 starts this year, Villegas has missed the cut eight times and he’s yet to record a top-25 (his best finish was a tie for 30th last week at Muirfield Village).
The 7-birdie, one-bogey 64? It’s also Villegas’ best score of the year, surpassing the 66 he had in the opening round of The Heritage.
Different year, similar start for John Senden, who a year after opening with a 66 in Memphis before fading to tie for 37th is atop the leaderboard at 4 under through his first 12 holes. But his fast start probably goes deeper than TPC Southwind fitting his eye.
Senden, whose lone career victory came at the 2006 John Deere Classic, has been playing well the last month -- the Aussie tied for eighth at Colonial and last week tied for seventh at Muirfield Village.
In today’s opening round, Senden has kept that good play going, hitting six of nine fairways and 10 of 12 greens on his way to four birdies no bogey.
Of course Senden isn’t the only one playing well -- four others, including Camilo Villegas, who has yet to finish in the top 25 this season, are 3 under in the early going.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- The cut line is even par at the moment, though there’s obviously a ton of golf still left to be played here in the second round. Still, some notable players are currently on the wrong side of that number.
The most notable? Padraig Harrington, who shot a 1-over 73 on Thursday -- he’ll tee off at 1:07 p.m. ET today.
Camilo Villegas is also 1 over for the tournament, though he’s trending the other way today at 1 under though eight holes.
Ponte Vedra Beach resident Jim Furyk, however, might have to wait another year to try for his first win here. He’s 3 over through eight holes, which drops him to 2 over for the week.