Plain And Simply Good Vanilla Chad Campbell starred at a tasty Tour Championship

November 17, 2003

According to his old UNLV roommate, Chad Campbell always orders
his burgers without any fixings. "He's just a plain guy," says
Chris Riley, who means it as a compliment. Given these simple
tastes, it was no surprise that Campbell celebrated his
star-making third round at last week's Tour Championship by
dining at Chili's with his family. Though the restaurant wasn't
far from Champions Golf Club, where Campbell had just shot a
dazzling 10-under 61 to surge into the lead, he went
unrecognized, including by the waitress, whose opening line was,
"So, did you go to the golf tournament today?"

Campbell offered only a one-word reply: "Yep."

"Then I changed the subject as quickly as possible," says Chad's
mother, Patsy.

It will no longer be so easy for Campbell, a small-town kid from
Andrews, Texas, to enjoy his anonymity. When he followed that 61
with a front-nine 31 on Sunday, the Tour Championship was as good
as over. The game's biggest stars had come to Houston fighting
for a piece of history, but Campbell, 29, upstaged them all in
earning what figures to be the first of many victories.

"He's been threatening for a while," said Vijay Singh. "He's very
aggressive--when he gets it going like this week, there's no
stopping him. We will hear a lot more from Chad Campbell. This is
not the end of it."

Campbell has had success at every level of golf, and he had been
building toward this breakthrough all season. He came into the
Tour Championship with eight top 10s, including a trio of
second-place finishes. None were more important to his
development than the PGA Championship, at which he battled Shaun
Micheel all the way to the final green. Campbell didn't lose that
tournament so much as it was snatched from him. "I felt as if I
hit a lot of good shots coming down the stretch [at the PGA]," he
said last week. "On the back nine I wasn't nervous; I was just
excited about being in the situation and hitting the shots when I
needed to. That's a great feeling. That's pretty much why you
play the game."

Shortly after playing in the final group at the PGA, Campbell got
his first taste of fame when a restaurant manager sent over a
free dessert. "I don't know how he even knew," Campbell says. "It
was kind of weird."

That's about as expressive as Campbell gets. "He's always been
low-key," says Riley, who finished fourth last week in a great
week for the Runnin' Rebels. "I can hardly get a couple of words
out of him, and I've known him for nine years. Nothing really
gets him too high, nothing gets him too low. He has a great
attitude for the game."

Last week one writer was so desperate to find some closeted color
that he asked Campbell, "Do you own a Hawaiian shirt or
anything?" But the only flashy thing about Campbell is his game.

How do you shoot 61 on one of the toughest courses of the year?
It begins with the belief that such a thing is possible, and
Campbell has never been afraid to go low. A brilliant iron
player--he finished 2003 ranked fourth in greens hit in
regulation--Campbell may turn into another Singh: a player who
contends, or wins, every time he has a hot putter. According to
ShotLink data Campbell holed a staggering 195 feet, six inches'
worth of putt during the third round of the Tour Championship. He
also had a flashy chip-in for birdie to complement his
relentlessly precise iron play. Campbell has an all-around game
and a temperament built for big tournaments. "I prefer playing a
harder course, where par actually means something," he said.
Spoken like a man who had just gone 16 under.

With the $1.08 million winner's check, Campbell moved to seventh
on the final money list, with more than $3.9 million. Surely that
kind of bread deserves more than an unadorned burger at Chili's
as a celebration. Indeed, Campbell does plan to go back to his
other favorite restaurant. If he got a free dessert for finishing
second at the PGA, what did he think he would get for a win like
this? "I don't know," Campbell said, but he was intent on finding
out, one more little thing to look forward to in a future of
endless possibilities.

COLOR PHOTO: FRED VUICH (CAMPBELL) ELITE FEAT Campbell is the first player to make the Tour Championship his initial victory.
B/W PHOTO: H. ARMSTRONG ROBERTS/CORBIS (SOLDIERS) COLOR PHOTO: STEPHEN MUNDAY/GETTY IMAGES (JACKET) COLOR PHOTO COLOR PHOTO: CHARLES REX ARBOGAST (FOREMAN) COLOR PHOTO: PHELAN M. EBANHACK/AP (PALMER)

TRUST ME

Fred Ridley's Augusta National membership is going to haunt the
USGA. How can Ridley, the USGA's next president, make policy for
women in golf while supporting a club that excludes
them?

THE NEW MATH
Arnold Palmer says (again) that he will play his final Masters, in
2004

BIRTHPLACE OF LEGEND + LIFETIME INVITATION - THE LETTER x FREQUENT UNRETIREMENTS = [ARNOLD PALMER SAYS (AGAIN) THAT HE WILL PLAY HIS
FINAL MASTERS, IN 2004]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)