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Campbell Ends Dry Spell With Hope Victory

Texan survives two visits to the water to win by three shots, his first tour title in nearly two years.

January 23, 2006|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

Chad Campbell's personality is as dry as a sidewalk in the summer in his hometown of Andrews, Texas, and he still managed to win the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic even though he didn't always keep his golf ball in the same general condition.

At the new Classic Club that's splayed out between Interstate 10 and a low-slung ridge of mountains in Palm Desert, there are streams, ponds and lakes that come into play on 13 holes. That's one watered-down desert. Add the wind gusts that the players had to plow through Sunday, plus the pressure of playing with the lead, and Campbell's three-shot triumph was at the very least a victory for perseverance.

Twice he pumped his shots into pools of water, and twice he took penalty shots. He still won, although it was sort of hard to tell how excited he was about the whole thing.

"I'm excited right now," he said slowly. "I just don't show it.

"I'm not comfortable pumping my fist and doing all that. It's not really my personality."

Wearing a striped shirt may be a definitive show of emotion for Campbell, but what the 31-year-old Texan does show is a deft combination of power off the tee, finesse on the greens, plus an extra helping of grit. He shot a one-under 71 in the swirling wind in the Hope's fifth and final round and stayed just ahead of Jesper Parnevik and Scott Verplank to win for the first time in nearly two years.

John Huston was fourth, four shots behind, with a 68, and Phil Mickelson finished his 2006 debut tied for fifth with a 71.

Campbell's rounds of 63-66-68-67-71 added up to a 25-under par 335 total, his third PGA Tour victory and his first since the 2004 Honda Classic. It was worth $900,000 to Campbell, who once sold coffee and pastry as part of a college class but earned no extra money doing it while he was a student at Nevada Las Vegas.

After his first two events of the year, Campbell has made $1,348,800 and can probably afford to breathe a little easier.

Chances are he could have used a looser collar at the 10th hole. After he birdied the eighth and eagled the 595-yard ninth when he curled a 32-foot putt into the hole, Campbell had a four-shot lead over Verplank and John Senden.

But Campbell's tee shot at the par-four 10th landed in the lake and he made a double bogey. Then at No. 13, with his lead only two shots over Verplank, Campbell's approach shot plunked into the water. After the penalty, his third shot landed in a bunker.

From where he stood in the sand, Campbell couldn't even see the green, but as it turned out, it was the location from which the tournament would be won. Campbell hit a six-iron out of the bunker and the ball landed six feet from the hole, where he knocked in a clutch putt to save bogey.

"Saved the whole day," Campbell said.

His lead was still one shot, and though Parnevik drew close with his 67, he could never get close enough. Campbell made a 20-foot birdie putt at the par-five 14th and came right back with a seven-foot birdie putt at the 15th, and the race was over once Verplank made a bogey at the 15th.

Verplank struggled all day and his one-over 73 reflected his troubles, which he found disappointing.

"I don't know if it was the wind or the nerves or what it was," said Verplank, looking for his first victory in five years. "If I had played any good today, I would have had a tremendous chance.

"I want to win so bad, sometimes you just get uptight. I think it's just I'm going to have to find a comfort zone. If I can do that, I will reach new heights. If I continue to struggle, I guess I'll be sitting here waiting for Chad to come in."

Chad has definitely come in. He has been a major player since he won the 2004 Tour Championship and played on the '04 Ryder Cup team, but his tournament victories haven't come easily. He had played 47 events since his last victory, a span of a year, 10 months and a day.

He opened the Hope with a 63 and trailed Pat Perez by three shots, but he either led or was tied for the lead the rest of the way in the 90-hole marathon. Counting the Sony, where he was tied for the lead after 54 holes and lost to David Toms a week earlier, Campbell has held or shared the lead after six of his nine rounds this year.

Campbell played the par-five holes in 18 under and came through, even though his one-under 71 was the highest final-round score by a Hope champion in 16 years, since Peter Jacobsen's 71 in 1990.

It was a difficult day to score at the Hope, with only 14 rounds in the 60s at the Classic Club, compared with 51 at all four courses Saturday. Only 29 of 77 players broke par Sunday.

Campbell said he was ecstatic with the way things worked out, even if he didn't appear that way.

"You know, a lot of times you don't have your best game. You've just got to grind it out," he said.

"It's a long week. It's a long, hard week. It's a long time to have the lead and think about it a little bit. Honestly, I'm glad it's over. It wasn't the prettiest day, but I grinded it out."

And that made him happy, even if he didn't look like it.

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