Winds of Change


Would somebody please tap me on the shoulder and assure me that this isnt Royal Birkdale or Carnoustie. Thanks.

The winds blew us all off our respective mark here at the Buy.Com Tour Championship on Friday. The players had trouble breaking 80 and we at The Golf Channel had trouble getting off the air. Actually we stayed on an extra half hour and still couldnt get the full field into the clubhouse. You can thank the wind for that. Gusts of 40 miles per hour arent far-fetched. I was out there following play and can attest to that.
But despite the wind, the face of the Tour hasnt changed much heading to the weekend at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail here in Prattville, Alabama. Number 1 on the money list, Chad Campbell is tied at the top with two rounds to go. Hes already got 3 wins this year and the coveted Battlefield Promotion behind him. But hes obviously not satisfied. The west Texas 27 year old has gone 71-72 and is one of only 3 players under par heading to Saturday. The others are #3 Rod Pampling and #5 Pat Bates. That said, it appears the best of the best are up to the test this week under the stress of a brutal test.
Actually, while walking the course with Campbell and his playing competitor Darron Stiles, I made the comment to Chad about the wind making it a fun day. His reply ' Sure is! And you know what, I believe him. Hes used to the wind in Texas and hes used to stepping up to the challenge. Youd think he wasnt motivated to play after winning 3 times and already locking up his exempt spot on the PGA Tour for 2002, but thats not the case at all. After his round he talked about it being a test of survival, but made it quite clear that he wants the top spot on the money list when the week ends.
Only 4 men were able to post rounds of par or better on Friday. In fact, rounds of 80 or higher were more common. Day 1 leader Don Reese fired 81, Jim Benepe shot 83 and even top 10 player Jonathyn Byrd couldnt break 80. They shouldnt feel bad. Neither did PGA Tour winner Mike Heinen or PGA Tour veteran Joe Daley and the list goes on and on and on.
I for one cant help but wonder if the course might be a bit too stern a test under the conditions. Over 7600 yards is one thing, but playing holes downwind and upwind at 40 miles an hour is a different task all together. The PGA Tour field staff could never have bargained for this! And believe me, theyre trying to make it as fair as possible.
As the weekend rolls on, look out for Pat Bates, the best putter on tour. He now realizes that a win here would not only be his third, but would also give him the Battlefield Promotion title and allow him to be fully-exempt next year without being re-shuffled for position because of money.
Look out for a grizzled veteran like Jay Delsing, whos playing well within himself and has been there and done that so many times this must be just another week. And look out for Rod Pampling too. The Australian must think 40-mile-per-hour winds are like a small breeze having grown up down under.
When its all said and done, Im still convinced my pick on Wednesday still holds the trophy. Chad Campbell didnt win three times because of luck. He didnt win 800,000 dollars on the Hooters Tour in four years because there wasnt anybody else who could play either. In my opinion, hes just the best player out here on the Tour. And with weather conditions that are forecast to deteriorate as the weekend progresses, I like a guy who can say this is fun.