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Enough close calls, Campbell wants a win

It was there for the taking. And if the Southern Farm Bureau Classic didn't have the cachet of, say, the Masters, the money was as green.

But so was Chad Campbell, a PGA rookie. What happened in that 2001 season-ending tournament in Wisconsin happens to rookies and veterans everywhere. What happened to Campbell, still relatively anonymous to all but peers and the most avid golf fans, was Cameron Beckman.

"I kind of gave that one away," Campbell said of the Southern. "I had a three-shot lead with five (holes) to go. I bogeyed 14; he birdied 14. A two-stroke swing there. He birdied the next hole and I made par. We're tied. Then at 17 he made birdie."

He gave it a moment's thought.

"I didn't give it to him, now that I think back on it. He finished birdie, birdie, birdie, birdie, par, par. And those putts he was making were great putts. I mean, the shortest one was 15 feet with about 2 feet of break."

Campbell, 29, finished one back of Beckman, a friend and fellow Texan.

Then there was the PGA Championship in August. He and Shaun Micheel shared the fourth-round lead. Micheel won by two strokes.

"Obviously right after the tournament I was disappointed," Campbell said. "But looking back on it, I mean it's definitely a positive. I didn't give away the tournament. I hit a lot of good shots. I wasn't able to catch him."

Victory on tour eluded him then _ and before and since.

Run down this year's top-10 money leaders. Vijay Singh, four tour wins; Tiger Woods, five; Davis Love, four.

Keep going. Two wins, three, three, two, two ...

... zero. Somehow, Campbell, two strokes behind leader Retief Goosen halfway through the Chrysler Championship, is ninth with $2,620,864 with no finish better than second at the PGA Championship and Chrysler (Tucson) Classic and a tie for second at the Honda Classic. With apologies to major-less Phil Mickelson, Campbell is the best player on this year's tour without a win.

Fellow tour players consider him one of the top candidates to make a major his first PGA win. Or as a June Sports Illustrated cover story suggested, Campbell is the best player you've never heard of. A millstone? An albatross? Not at all.

"I think it's a good thing," he said. "Whenever your peers kind of look at you in that aspect, I think it's definitely a compliment. So I looked at it as a positive."

Sometimes Campbell has to work hard at finding some positives. He failed to earn his PGA Tour card at Q-School in 1996 and 1997 and 1998, 1999 and 2000.

That last year, though, he won $188,279 as leading money winner, for the third year running, on the Hooters Tour, golf's version of Class A minor-league baseball.

He also was playing _ barely _ on the Nationwide (Triple A) Tour; five years, eight tournaments, one top-25 finish. Finally, in 2001, Campbell won three Nationwide events to earn his card.

Entering this season, his total winnings on all three tours was $1,499,976. He has won almost double that this year. And still he waits for that elusive first win.

He can hang his PGA hopes on this: David Duval was winless in 1995-96, his first two years on tour, but finished 11th and 10th in winnings. In 1997 he won three times, finished second in earnings, then first and second again, winning eight tournaments in 1998-99.

"Yeah, he took off," Campbell said of Duval. "Obviously I've had success winning (on the Hooters and Nationwide tours). But that first one is always tough."