Pedal to the Metal at Chrysler

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2006 Chrysler ChampionshipAnd then there was one.
 
One full-field event remains on the 2006 PGA TOUR schedule, this weeks Chrysler Championship in Tampa Bay, Fla.
 
The par-71, 7,340-yard Copperhead course at Innisbrook will either prove to be a field of dreams for some or a nightmarish end to the season.
 
Ernie Els
Ernie Els is trying to avoid missing out on the TOUR Championship for the second straight season.
There are those who are vying for spots inside the top 125 on the money list, in order to secure full playing status for next year. There are others who are hoping to just get inside the top 150, in order to retain partial playing privileges for 07. And, there are those trying to crack the top 30, in order to play for some guaranteed cash in next weeks $6.5 million TOUR Championship.
 
Count Ernie Els among those in the last group.
 
Els is currently 30th in earnings. He is trying to avoid missing out on the season finale for the second straight year, and for just the third time over the last 13 seasons.
 
Els missed the latter part of the 05 campaign due to a knee injury. He finished that year 47th in earnings, and without a win. He doesnt yet have a victory this year either, but hes hoping to get one this week ' or at least give himself a chance to do so next week.
 
Els, whose last event in the U.S. was the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational nine weeks ago, has played this tournament only once, tying for 34th in 2003.
 
While Els might consider going winless on TOUR for the second straight year a huge disappointment, others in the field have a much bigger plight to fight.
 
For many in attendance, a victory this week would be a huge, but they would be more than willing to settle for a fist full of dollars.
 
Of course, as every TOUR player likes to say, Winning takes care of everything else. A win this week will net someone $954,000 as well as a two-year exemption.
 
Here are our five favorites for the Chrysler Championship ' and it starts with a South African not named Ernie Els.
 
Retief Goosen
Goosen has two more opportunities to avoid his first winless season on the PGA TOUR since 2000. The last time he went this deep in the season without a victory was in 2003. He came to the Chrysler Championship having earned four top-5 finishes in 17 starts, but no titles. He then went on to capture the event. Goosen hopes for a similar scenario this time around, as he has four top-5 finishes in 16 starts, but no titles.
 
Vijay Singh
Singh is once again among the favorites this week, but based primarily on his past performances in this particular event. Despite a missed cut at Innisbrook a year ago, Singh won in 2004 and was runner-up in 2003. He is trying to keep alive a streak of four straight multiple-win seasons. His lone title this year came in June at the Barclays Classic. He tied for fifth last week at the Funai Classic.
 
Chad Campbell
Many believe Campbell is a future star on the PGA TOUR. But to get there, he needs to win on a more consistent basis. If he should prevail this week, it would be the first multiple-win season of his career. Campbell won the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in January and would love to (pretty much) bookend his season with another Chrysler title. Campbell was runner-up to Carl Pettersson last year and tied for fourth in 2003.
 
Bo Van Pelt
In 2003, Singh was runner-up here and then won the following year. In 2004, Pettersson tied for eighth and then went on to win the next year. If there is a trend here, were going to go with Bo Van Pelt, who tied for third a year ago. Van Pelt is seeking that elusive first win on TOUR. He can take comfort in the fact that there have been three first-time winners over the last six weeks.
 
Paul Azinger
Its likely that Azinger wont contend for the title. But, as stated above, this week is more than just about winning. Two years ago at this event, Azinger was knocked out of the top 125 to lose his card. He played in 2005 on partial status, but finished that year 187th in earnings, forcing him to take a one-time, one-year exemption for being among the top 50 on the TOURs career money list. Now his only option, if he wants to play full-time next season, is to finish inside the top 125 for the first time since 2002. Azinger has been slipping over recent weeks. He missed the cut last week at Disney and is currently 122nd in money. Were betting on him this week to do just enough to earn his card for 2007.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Chrysler Championship