Saturday, August 16
Two of a kind at the top
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- It would figure that in this year of three first-time major champions, instead of Tiger in the lead, we've got Skeeter.
|Shaun Micheel can take comfort in the fact that he's paired with another player seeking his first major in Sunday's final round.|
That's the nickname Chad Campbell is known by in his hometown of Andrews, Tex. Campbell, with a 65, one shot off the Oak Hill Country Club East Course record set by another Texan, Ben Hogan, shares the third-round lead in the 85th PGA Championship with Shaun Micheel. On the anniversary of Elvis' death, Micheel, another favorite son of Memphis, looked ready to go, cat, go.
If you like tall, broad-shouldered sons of the South, then Oak Hill is the place to be. Micheel and Campbell finished 54 holes at 4-under 206, three strokes ahead of Masters champion Mike Weir. PGA Tour pros sometimes complain when they are accused of being indistinguishable from one another, but even Micheel acknowledged that he and Campbell resemble one another. Micheel said he was congratulated earlier this year for playing well after Campbell had a great week.
"It's funny," he said. "Everybody thinks I'm Chad Campbell. I think I'm a little bit lighter. That's what I claim in my bio."
There is a way to distinguish them. Campbell, 29, is as unassuming as a white T-shirt. He walked onto the range at 1:40 p.m. Saturday the way he walks everywhere, with his eyes focused on his shoetops. As he and his caddie walked by, one of the local club pros working at the range craned his neck and leaned backward to read the name on the bag.
This took place two months after Sports Illustrated Golf Plus made him a cover boy and labeled him "The Next Big Thing." Some guys attract attention. On others, the bright lights are sucked into a dark hole.
Campbell played a steadier third round than did Micheel. He made five birdies, three of them on putts inside three feet, before he bogeyed the 17th. He rebounded by holing a 35-foot birdie putt on the 18th to get his 65.
With great iron play, a hot putter and an assist from the gallery, Micheel turned in a 69, his third consecutive subpar round. However, with five birdies in a nine-hole stretch from No. 7 through No. 15, Micheel had raced to 7-under par. By closing with three consecutive bogeys, however, Micheel not only fell into a tie with Campbell but also revived the hopes of the top quarter of the field.
"Obviously, bogeying the last three holes isn't good," Micheel said. "That brought a lot of people back in the mix. I'm just happy to be tied for the lead. I still played smart."
When Micheel stood on the 16th tee at 7-under, only three golfers remained within seven strokes of the lead. By the time Micheel shifted from reverse to park, 19 golfers had moved within seven strokes, including former major champions Ernie Els (1-over), Vijay Singh (2-over) and Hal Sutton (3-over), as well as Jay Haas and Phil Mickelson (both 3-over).
Can Micheel and Campbell handle what is in store for them Sunday? Although it seems like a silly question to ask in a year with three first-time major winners, Micheel and Campbell are not Weir or Jim Furyk. Weir had won a World Golf Championships event and a season-ending Tour Championship. Furyk had won at Memorial. Micheel and Campbell can't hide in plain sight the way Ben Curtis did at the British Open, where he attracted little attention among other leaderboard names such as Woods, Singh, Davis Love III and Kenny Perry.
"I've played in 170-some PGA tour events," says 34-year-old Micheel. "This one is no different. I understand there are some perks that go along with winning a major championship. I'm just trying to win a golf tournament, whether it's a major or a PGA Tour event. I just want to win. I don't care where it is, what it is."
Let the record show that when a then-winless Weir played in the final group with Tiger Woods at the 1999 PGA, Weir shot an 80.
"Obviously, being in the last group of this tournament is a little bit different than any other tournament," Campbell said, "but I think I'm going to approach it the same way."
Campbell has been in the final group twice. At the 2001 Southern Farm Bureau Classic, he held a three-stroke lead through 54 holes and lost by a stroke. This year, at the Chrysler Classic of Tucson, Campbell trailed leader Frank Lickliter by four strokes, shot a 67 on Sunday and lost by two.
Micheel has had one 54-hole lead in his PGA career, a three-stroke advantage at the 2002 B.C. Open. He bogeyed the last two holes, shot a 74, and lost by two strokes to the one and only Spike McRoy.
At Oak Hill, Micheel once again went out to a three-stroke lead, wielding a hot putter and making par saves on the 11th and 13th holes. At the latter, a 598-yard, uphill par-5, Micheel airmailed his third shot so far over the green that it one-hopped into the torso of Adele Campbell of Utica, N.Y. After the ball hit her in the lap and rolled off, she picked it up from the ground and put it back down again.
Micheel took a drop, flopped the ball within 10 feet of the cup and made the putt. After Micheel moved to the 14th tee, Campbell received congratulations from her friends but expressed a little disappointment with Micheel. "He didn't even give me a friggin' ball," she said.
Those are the kind of breaks tournament winners get. Micheel and Campbell will be nervous Sunday, although both golfers said it would be easier to be paired with a fellow non-winner than it would have been to tee it up with Woods or Els. They have to expect that Weir will be in the group ahead of them, stringing together pars.
Sleeping on the lead in a major championship is tough. Waiting until 3:05 p.m. to tee off is tough, too. If Micheel or Campbell wins Sunday, he will have earned it.
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.