Golf roundup: Camilo Villegas ends drought with emotional win

AP file photo by Moises Castillo / Camilo Villegas won the PGA Tour's Butterfield Bermuda Championship on Sunday, his first victory in more than nine years.

SOUTHAMPTON, Bermuda — Camilo Villegas ended a long and emotional drought when he came up with key birdies down the stretch Sunday for a 6-under-par 65 to win the Butterfield Bermuda Championship, his first victory since losing his 22-month-old daughter to cancer three years ago.

The 41-year-old Colombian went shot for shot with Sweden's Alex Noren for five hours at Port Royal Golf Course until all Villegas had left was a tap-in par for his first PGA Tour triumph since 2014.

He stood erect, lightly pumping his fist, then looked skyward before fellow Latino players rushed onto the green to celebrate with him. Villegas grabbed one bottle of bubbly and took a swig.

The moment of release was about more than going nine years without winning.

Villegas and his wife coped with the death of Mia, who died of brain cancer in the summer of 2020. The veteran player was suddenly lost on the course and finished last year at No. 654 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Now he has a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour and returns to the Masters and the PGA Championship next year for the first time since 2015. His wife began a foundation in Mia's name, and their son, Mateo, was born in December 2021.

"It's tough to put into words right now. Wow, what a ride, man," Villegas said. "I love this game. This game has given me so many great things, and in the process, it kicks your butt. Life has given me so many great things, and in the process it kicks your butt, too."

He look skyward again and said, "I've got my little one up there watching."

Villegas finished at 24-under 260 for 72 holes to win by two shots over Noren, who never recovered from two mistakes around the turn and closed with a 68.

Villegas split time between the Korn Ferry Tour and whatever events he could get in on the PGA Tour, neither with much success. He kept grinding on his game and then watched it come together at the right time.

He was a runner-up last week in Mexico. He was a winner in Bermuda, his fifth tour title.

Noren, who started the final round with a one-shot lead, went 48 consecutive holes without dropping a shot until he made back-to-back bogeys at the turn. The Swede went from a one-shot lead to a one-shot deficit, and he never caught up.

He felt small consolation that Villegas simply outplayed him. Noren also could appreciate the joy Villegas felt from the hand life has dealt him.

"My wife is close to his wife, and I know what he's been through, and it's terrible what happened to him and his family, so I'm so happy for him," Noren said. "I've got kids of my own, and I can't imagine. So I'm very, very happy for him and the way he played and the way he's handled his life after. It's remarkable."

Germany's Matti Schmid had to make two late birdies for a 67 to finish alone in third, which should go a long way in giving him a PGA Tour card for next year. Schmid moved to No. 120 in the FedEx Cup. The top 125 after the final event of the season next weekend get full cards. Carl Yuan shot a 66 to finish fourth and moved up to No. 125.

Baylor School graduate Luke List shot his second straight 66 and tied for 20th at 15 under.

  photo  AP file photo by Charles Rex Arbogast / Max Homa, who has six wins in his PGA Tour career, earned his first international victory Sunday when he finished first in the DP World Tour's Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa.

Homa meets Challenge

SUN CITY, South Africa — Max Homa can finally say he's an international winner.

The 32-year-old American shot a 6-under 66 to take the DP World Tour's Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa, his first victory abroad. Homa finished the tourney at 19-under 269 — four shots ahead of runner-up Nicolai Hojgaard of Denmark — to add to his six PGA Tour career titles.

Homa secured the win with a final round that included six birdies, an eagle and two bogeys. He pulled away at the top after consecutive birdies on the 15th and 16th holes, where he drained a 38-footer on the par-3 layout.

"It's kind of what you dream of, you want to be in the fight, and it was just fun to kind of close it out at the end," he said. "It was one of those weeks the ball wanted to go in when it needed to go in."

Hojgaard had four birdies in a bogey-free 68. Fellow Danish player Thorbjorn Olesen was third after a 69 that included two bogeys and a double bogey in his last seven holes.

Homa played all four rounds in the 60s, including a 66 in the opening round at Gary Player Country Club. France's Matthieu Pavon, who won the Open de España in October for his first victory on the European circuit, entered the final round one shot behind Homa but collapsed with a 78.

Sometimes called "Africa's Major," the Nedbank Golf Challenge was the penultimate event of the season on the Europe-based circuit ahead of the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

Rory McIlroy clinched the Race to Dubai title Sunday without even playing. The 34-year-old from Northern Ireland is assured of being ahead of the season points race regardless of what happens next weekend.

McIlroy — who also won the title in 2022, 2015, 2014 and 2012 — leads Masters champion Jon Rahm by 2,083 points, and only 2,000 are available to the winner in Dubai. McIlroy and Rahm will both play the event just the same.

Alker holds on to win

PHOENIX — Steven Alker had to get up and down for par on the last three holes for a 1-under 70 that allowed him to hang on and win the Charles Schwab Cup Championship tournament and a payoff of just more than $1 million.

Alker won the Schwab Cup race a year ago. This time he did the next-best thing.

Steve Stricker clinched the PGA Tour Champions' season points title before the postseason began. By winning at Phoenix Country Club, Alker finished second in the Schwab Cup for a $500,000 bonus. The 52-year-old from New Zealand won $528,000 for the tournament, his seventh title on the 50-and-older circuit

Alker started the final round with a four-shot lead but had to hold off Ernie Els and Stephen Ames as each closed with a 65. They shared second place at 17-under 267, one stroke behind.

"I made it exciting here on 18," Alker said after closing with a par, "but that wasn't the plan."

Stricker, whose six victories this year included three majors, had to withdraw at the start of the week because his father was hospitalized in Wisconsin. He still secured the $1 million bonus with a year so dominant he didn't play a single Schwab Cup playoff event.

Alker won in late April but didn't win again until the last tournament of the year.

Vu surges in LPGA race

BELLEAIR, Fla. — Lilia Vu seized momentum early with three birdies and closed with a 4-under 66 to win The Annika tournament for her fourth victory of the year, which allowed the American to regain the No. 1 ranking and close in on the LPGA player of the year honor.

Vu started the final round at Pelican Golf Club three shots behind Emily Kristine Pedersen, opened with three birdies in six holes and then pulled away with crisp approach shots that set up back-to-back birdies to pull away.

She finished at 19-under 261, three shots ahead of Alison Lee and Azahar Munoz as each closed with a 67.

Vu came into the tournament a mere three points behind another four-time winner, France's Celine Boutier, in the race for the points-based LPGA player of the year. Boutier missed the cut, though, and Vu is now 27 points ahead going into the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship this week.

Boutier's only chance is to win the finale and have Vu finish eighth or worse.

It was a devastating end for Pedersen, the Dane who went from trying to capture her first LPGA Tour title to having her season finish abruptly with a double bogey on the 18th for a 74 that knocked her out of the top 60 who will play this week.