Campbell turns finale into personal showcase

The Tour Championship was supposed to be a showdown for Player of the Year. Chad Campbell turned it into a showcase of a future star.

Campbell earned his first PGA Tour victory in impressive fashion, becoming the first to make the Tour Championship his first title. After shooting a tournament- and course-record 10-under 61 Saturday, he fired an unwavering 68 Sunday to wrap up the trophy -- and set an event record for score in relation to par (16-under).

"I think you get a little bit more respect once you get your first win, especially coming at a tournament like this,'' Campbell said after his three-shot victory.

It was only a matter of time before Campbell -- who finished a close runner-up to Shaun Micheel at the PGA Championship -- won on tour, and it's appropriate that he picked up victory No. 1 at golf's version of the All-Star Game, an event only open to the top 30 on the money list. Earlier this year, he was voted by his peers as the next big thing in a Sports Illustrated poll.

The 29-year-old soft-spoken Texan is no stranger to the winner's circle. He played on the Hooters Tour from 1997-2000, reaching near-legend status by racking up 13 victories. In 2000, he won eight of the first 16 tournaments of the season en route to his third straight player of the year title. In 2001, he graduated to the Nationwide Tour, where he earned a Battlefield Promotion to the big league with three victories. And after finishing 81st on the money list in 2002, he was seventh this season.

"He's dominated every level he's played,'' said Chris Riley, who was Campbell's roommate when the two played together at UNLV. "He's a top-tiered player.''

Campbell isn't the emotional type, on or off the course. Instead, he lulls the competition to sleep with his fairways-and-greens no-nonsense approach. For the week, he was tied for fifth in driving accuracy and led the field in greens in regulation. But he didn't just hit the greens -- some of the biggest on tour -- he put it up close. Campbell averaged 1.72 putts per green in regulation, second-best in the field. And that's despite making just 12 of 20 putts from 4-8 feet.

"That's great golf,'' said Charles Howell III, who finished runner-up to Campbell and was paired with him in the final group. "In a good way, he's a very boring golfer -- fairways,
greens, hit his putt up there, it either goes in or it's right next to the hole. Which is great.''

Expect more great golf from Campbell next season. Next stop, major championship?

Three observations
1. Vijay Singh didn't win the Tour Championship, but nevertheless accomplished his stated goal: to win the money title.

Singh earned his first money title -- and prevented Tiger Woods from winning his fifth straight -- with the best stretch of his career. He finished in the top 10 in his last eight events of the season, winning two of them and finishing runner-up in two others. He totaled $7,573,907 for the season, more than $900,000 ahead of Woods.

"It's probably the biggest accomplishment I've had in my career, especially at my age," the 40-year-old Singh said after finishing tied for fifth at the Tour Championship. "It wasn't my goal when I started off (the year), but as the year got on and I started playing better and better, that was my goal."

His next goal is even more daunting ...

"The next step is to see if I can get to the top spot (in the World Ranking)," Singh
said. "That's my goal for the next three or four years. It's not going to happen in the next year, I don't think."

Taking the money title from Woods (who took it in stride: "It's happened in the past and I'm sure it will happen again.") is one thing, but knocking him from that No. 1 spot in the rankings is a task of Herculean proportion.

2. The Player of the Year award was there for the taking at the season-ending Tour Championship, but none of the four candidates could capitalize.

Woods, who has to be considered the leading contender, posted the worst Tour Championship finish of his career, ending up 26th in the field of 31. His 1-over total marked the first time he's finished over par in a non-major event since 1999.

While Woods was grinding, any of the other three leading POY candidates -- Vijay Singh, Davis Love III and Mike Weir -- could have made a convincing case for the award with a victory, but none had it in him (credit Campbell for that). Singh and Love (8-under) tied for fifth, and Weir (1-under) tied for 19th.

As a result, the ballots will be mailed to the players Monday with no clear-cut winner, though it would be surprising to see it go to anyone but Woods.

3. Add another accomplishment to Annika Sorenstam's landmark season.

Sorenstam picked up her sixth victory of the year in record fashion, breaking the LPGA Tour's 54-hole scoring record in relation to par with her 24-under total. Her nine-stroke victory also gave her a threepeat at the Mizuno Classic, making her the first player to have three straight wins in two different tournaments (she also won the Michelob Light Classic from 1997-99).

Additionally, she wrapped up the LPGA Tour's Player of the Year award, which is determined by a points system.

David Lefort is ESPN.com's golf editor, and he can be reached at david.m.lefort@espn3.com. Information from The Associated Press and SportsTicker was used in this report.