LA JOLLA, Calif. – A greenside know-it-all kept the throng of teenage girls entertained with his periodically released tidbits of information about the object of their affection.
"He cycles up to 100 miles in one training session," said the middle-aged man with the bright red cheeks and the superior manner. "And he got busted at the University of Florida for fishing golf balls out of a lake and trying to sell them."
In the end, it really didn't matter. Mr. Big Mouth could have informed his audience that Camilo Villegas eats nothing but garlic and is cruel to animals (for the record he doesn't and isn't) and they still wouldn't have liked him any less. At a time when golf ticks off the days to the return of Tiger Woods and frets about that day when the King finally steps from his throne, stars with sex appeal are as welcome as they are rare.
Villegas, thankfully, has the game to go with it, as evidenced by a solid second round at the Buick Invitational which allowed him to retain the lead heading into the weekend.
The groupies though, didn't care too much for bunkers and birdies, being far more interested in a closer glimpse of Villegas's figure-hugging shirt and athletic frame.
And while their mere presence wouldn't have pleased the purists, this snapshot of a new audience should give some cheer to those who fear a post-Tiger Armageddon for golf.
Tiger has mass appeal because he's well, Tiger, and because everyone can appreciate sheer once-in-a-lifetime magnificence.
Villegas is worth watching because he has that commodity that is crucial in all sports but especially so for golf. Put simply, he is cool. The Xbox generation doesn't have men who dress like Dad and talk in clichés as their role models. Villegas, with his clothing, charisma and mild dose of arrogance, is just what golf needs.
The Spider-Man routine that puts his chin a day's growth from scraping the green while eyeing putts is a novelty, yet one with a purpose. The shirts are flashy, the lifestyle somewhat flamboyant, but Villegas is undoubtedly a gamer, a true competitor.
He is no Woods and never will be but if it is going to take characters and competitors to spark interest without the world No. 1, then it is important for the sport that he enjoys more titles to add to the two big ones he picked up in last year's playoffs.
The competitive fire burns within the man from Medellin, an industrial city that was once the base of infamous Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar and his murderous cartel.
When Villegas's mother telephoned him at the midway point of the 2007 U.S Open to offer congratulations on becoming the first Colombian to make the cut in a major, the response was curt. Villegas wants no one to be in any doubt that his goal is not to compete but to win, whether they are family or foe.
An inherent need to push himself on to greater accomplishments has spawned a physique oozing muscularity and power, with a ferocious desire to stretch his physical boundaries.
Despite standing just 5-foot-9, his driving distance was a respectable 50th on tour in 2008 and can be uncorked enough to make his rivals take serious notice.
"I'm not overly excited about playing long ball with Camilo on the South Course over the next two days," said Paul Goydos, sitting in a tie for fourth at 6 under.
And who would have guessed it, but Mr. Big Mouth was right about the cycling. Villegas admitted after his round that he does indeed hold a passion for bike riding, having been introduced to it by a friend in Colombia a year ago. He has ridden and struck up a friendship with his fellow countryman and Tour de France rider Santiago Botero, and regularly joins a group of high-level triathletes for grueling excursions into the mountains.
"Does it help me with golf?" said Villegas. "I'm not really sure. Is it dangerous? Yes. Do I love it? Yes. Am I going to stop? Probably not."
"Because I love it. It's cool." Cool indeed.