Who Gets the Thumbs Up

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I am reminded of the good old days of superstation television when movie critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert would debate the relative merits of the nominees for the Oscars. They rarely agreed. But both grasped the difference between the actor who 'should' win the academy award in his or her category and the actor who 'would' win the academy award.
 
It's the same with the Player of the Year race on the PGA Tour. The season is over now. Chad Campbell won Sunday by three shots over Charles Howell in Houston. The two top Player of the Year candidates--Vijay Singh and Tiger Woods finished tied for fifth and tied for 24th, respectively, in the 31 man field at the prestigious Tour Championship.
 
And the double debate is cranking up all over again. PGA Tour members who have played in more than 15 events in 2003 will have most of November to decide upon whom to vote. The Tour says it will announce the winner early next month.
That player will almost certainly be Singh, who won the money title by close to a million dollars over Woods, or Woods, who won a Tour-leading five events along with the Vardon Trophy for low adjusted stroke average.
 
Without further ado here is my opinion: Singh should win the Player of the Year award. Woods will win it. The reason Singh should is he showed up, shrugged off a poor first round and fought his way into his share of fifth by the time the dust had cleared Sunday. Woods showed up, fought his putter most of the week and slogged his way to a Sunday 74, three over par.
 
The competition was seen to be 'this close' before the Tour Championship began. In my mind, Singh's superior performance over four days broke the tie. The reason Singh won't win the award, however, is that POY has become something of a popularity contest. Popularity is something Woods has more of among his brethren right now than does Singh. Don't get me wrong. Woods has earned his No. 1 spot in the official world rankings. He has played the game at a higher level, especially during the 2000 season, than any player who ever lived. But 2003 was not his year.
 
Meanwhile, we should give some props to 29-year-old Chad Campbell. This was his first PGA Tour victory. It won't be his last. And what a grand stage he picked upon which to break his maiden. And, oh by the way, the check they gave him was worth $1.08 million.
 
Campbell is an unassuming 29-year-old West Texan who already is being compared, in certain quarters, to Ben Hogan because of his flat swing and Lone Star roots. The Hogan part is still a bit of a stretch. But the unassuming part is all true.
 
'Chad doesn't know how to splurge,' said his publicist, Mike Biggs, Sunday afternoon. 'He doesn't have a hint of an ego.'
 
What Campbell does have is a new home, a Hummer H2 vehicle and plans to hunt and fish in the off-season. That's plenty as far as he is concerned. 'He knows in his heart what he can do on a golf course,' Biggs said. 'But he'd probably be a little embarrassed by those Hogan comparisons.'
 
Meanwhile Player of the Year, Chad Campbell will tell you, is something for somebody else to worry about.
 
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