Campbell had been widely considered a great player waiting to break into the winner's circle. He fixed that on Sunday and became the first player to make the Tour Championship his first victory on tour.
'That's what I was working for this whole year,' said Campbell, who pocketed $1,080,000 for the win. 'I played pretty steady but didn't make a lot putts. I'm just happy to get my first win.'
Howell birdied the last to polish off a 1-under 70 and take second place for the second consecutive year. He finished at 13-under-par 271, one stroke better than 2001 U.S. Open champion and last week's winner in Tampa, Retief Goosen. Goosen shot a final-round 69, while Chris Riley, a teammate of Campbell's at UNLV, shot a 70 to finish in fourth at minus-11.
With the last event in the books, Vijay Singh captured the 2003 PGA Tour money title. He posted a 3-under 68 and tied for fifth place with Davis Love III, who shot a 2-under 69 on Sunday.
Tiger Woods, the 1999 winner, needed to win the Tour Championship and have Singh finish worse than a tie for third. That did not happen as Woods failed to make a move on Sunday. He shot a 3-over 74 and finished in 26th place at 1-over-par 285.
'I think the theme for the week had to be No. 16 there,' said Woods. 'My putt lipped, not only did it lip out, but it hit a bee on the edge of the hole that kicked it out. So that kind of sums up the whole week for my putting this week.'
Woods will now have to wait to see if he is once again the Player of the Year. The players receive ballots on Monday and the race is basically down to Singh (four wins and first on the money list) and Woods (five wins and the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average.)
'I think it was overall a great year,' said Woods. 'It's certainly different than last year, because last year we had a numerous amount of first-time winners. This time we had a lot of guys winning multiple events.'
Woods did establish a new PGA Tour record this week. Despite it being a limited field and the tournament had no cut, it still counts as a cut made for Woods. That was his 114th consecutive cut made, breaking Byron Nelson's record from the early 1940s.
While the Player of the Year race was one of the big storylines coming into the week, Campbell caught everyone's attention with a course-record 61 on Saturday. He took a one-shot lead into Sunday's final round and quickly extended it.
Campbell drained a seven-footer for birdie at the second hole and Howell made bogey to fall three down. Campbell birdied the fifth as well to go ahead of Howell by four but Howell answered with back-to-back birdies at six and seven.
Campbell responded to Howell's charge with a 15-foot birdie putt at the par-3 eighth. Howell dropped a stroke to par at the same hole but Campbell put the tournament away at the par-5 ninth. He rolled in a 15-footer for eagle to take an enormous lead to the back nine.
On the second nine, Campbell made some mistakes but he had the margin to do it. He bogeyed the 11th and dropped another shot at 14 when he missed the fairway off the tee. He birdied the 13th but bogeyed 14 and 17.
The back-nine bogeys would not impact Campbell. Neither Howell nor Goosen was threatening Campbell so it was clear sailing for him and now it's an invitation to the winners-only Mercedes Championships to kick off the 2004 season.
'It was awesome to come out and play good on the front nine,' said Campbell. 'I didn't play quite as well as I wanted to on the back. I didn't need to. I was able to cruise around the back nine and try not to do anything stupid and that's what I did.'
For Howell, Sunday marked the second consecutive runner-up finish at the Tour Championship. He knocked his approach on the 18th to two feet to set up birdie and push him clear of Goosen.
'I never really challenged him today,' admitted Howell, who carded a 1-under 70 on Sunday. 'Basically the back nine was just go at everything and see what happens. He played a great golf round.
'I'm very much looking forward to the Presidents Cup. I didn't win this year, which is a bit disappointing, but, hey, I'm still here. I don't feel snake bitten in the least bit. I just didn't play good enough today.'
Jonathan Kaye (70) took seventh at 7-under-par 277, followed by U.S. Open winner Jim Furyk, who posted a 2-under 69 in the final round, to come in at 6-under-par 278.
Scott Verplank (68), Kenny Perry (69), Steve Flesch (73) and Fred Funk (73) shared ninth place at minus-5.