Easy run for Chad Campbell

CLIFTON BROWNNew York Times News Service

Chad Campbell turned the Tour Championship into a runaway. The voting for the PGA Tour Player of the Year, however, will be closer than it has been in years.

Capturing his first Tour victory in a big way, Campbell won by three strokes in the season-ending event, dominating a field featuring the Tour's top 31 money-winners for the season. After setting the Champions Golf Club course record with a 10-under-par 61, Campbell built a 5-stroke lead heading to the back nine, and he finished at 16-under 268 after a final-round 68.

Charles Howell III (70) was in second at 271, and Retief Goosen (69) was another stroke back.

Vijay Singh won the money title for the first time, $7.57 million, ending Tiger Woods' four-year reign atop the money list.

But the biggest mystery remained the Player of the Year award, which will be voted on by the players, with the results announced on December 8. Either Woods or Singh will win it, and judging from the responses of players on that Sunday, the vote could go either way.

"It's up in the air," said Mike Weir, who won the Masters this year.

Both Singh and Woods said they deserved to be Player of the Year.

"It's probably the biggest accomplishment that I've had in my career," Singh said of winning the money title at age 40, with four victories in 27 events and 18 top-10 finishes. His tie for fifth on that Sunday was his eighth consecutive finish in the top six.

"Hopefully I can get voted Player of the Year," Singh said. "But if I don't, in my mind I've done what I wanted to do."

Woods finished 26th, but he had the most victories on Tour (five) and finished second on the money list at $6.67 million despite playing nine fewer events than Singh played. Woods has also made a record 114 consecutive cuts, and he won the Vardon Trophy for the lowest-scoring average on Tour.

Having been the Player of the Year the past four years, Woods said he would be surprised if he did not win it again.

"I would be a little bit surprised, yes, considering the way I played, with two World Golf Championships in there, with my stroke average being as low as it is," he said. "And on top of that, never missing a cut."

Chad Campbell hits his shot on the seventh tee during the final round of the PGA Tour Championship at the Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas. He won the title with ease. — Pic. AFP-

There was no doubt about Campbell's performance. Starting the day one stroke ahead of Howell, Campbell extended his lead with birdies at No. 2, No. 5 and No. 8, followed by an eagle at the par-5 ninth hole. That gave Campbell a 5-stroke lead over Howell, and Campbell sensed that he would finally break through, after three second-place finishes this year, including a second at the PGA Championship.

Campbell became the first player to win his first Tour event at the Tour Championship.