Life’s looking up for Campbell

Chad Campbell can’t remember when he’s had a better September.

The 34-year-old former UNLV golfer became a father for the first time Sept. 6 when his wife, Amy, gave birth to their son, Dax Phillip. Then last week Campbell helped the United States win the Ryder Cup for the first time since 1999 with some strong individual play, including a head-to-head victory over Ireland’s Padraig Harrington on Sunday at Louisville, Ky.

"It’s been great," Campbell said Tuesday from Atlanta, where he’ll play in the Tour Championship this week. "It’s been a little hectic with the baby and all, but it has been a great month so far."

Campbell can make it really a month to remember if he can beat Vijay Singh and the rest of the 30-man field at East Lake Golf Club this weekend to capture his second Tour title. Campbell won the tournament in 2003.

"I’ve been playing well," said Campbell, who ranks 30th on the PGA Tour in season earnings with just over $2 million, mainly because of 11 top-25 finishes. "I think I’ve tried to stay consistent. That’s probably been the key for me."

As one of four Ryder Cup captain’s picks, Campbell justified Paul Azinger’s faith in him by compiling a 2-1 record. After being on the losing side in the 2004 and 2006 Ryder Cup, Campbell said it was nice to finally win.

"All the guys played great," he said. "I thought the key was getting off to a good start Friday morning. In the past, we’d get down in the early morning matches and we’d dig a hole for ourselves. This time we started fast, and I think it gave us some momentum."

Campbell was already 2-up on Harrington when word came that the U.S. had clinched the Cup.

"We were on the 14th tee and we got the word it was over," he said. "Your mindset totally changes at that point. You’ve been out there grinding. Now you can relax. It’s definitely strange."

Campbell gained a 2-and-1 victory over Harrington, winner of this year’s British Open and PGA Championship. He hopes his success last week at Valhalla Country Club will stick with him this week in Atlanta and next month when he plays in the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. That four-round event, at TPC Summerlin, runs from Oct. 16 to 19.

With Singh having built a huge points lead, he’ll be tough to overtake this week. Singh leads Camilo Villegas by 10,601 points, and even if Villegas wins the tournament, he’ll gain only 12,500 points. As long as Singh lasts all 72 holes, he’ll accumulate enough points to prevail and win the $10 million check that goes to the winner of the FedEx Cup playoff chase.

"He’s played great," Campbell said of Singh. "To be able to win two of three tournaments, that’s just phenomenal. There’s still a lot of money to be made — second, third, those places."

Campbell nearly didn’t make the cut for the Tour Championship. He was playing in the BMW Championship at St. Louis on Sept. 6 when Amy began going into labor. He flew home to suburban Dallas to be there for Dax’s birth that night. Campbell was on the Tour Championship bubble at No. 30 and wasn’t sure if his withdrawal would keep him out of this week’s event.

"I was definitely keeping an eye on it," he said of the points race. "I obviously wanted to qualify, but I knew it was going to be close since I pulled out of St. Louis.

"It was driving me crazy trying to follow it."

After the Tour Championship, Campbell will return to his native Texas to play the Valero Texas Open at San Antonio from Oct. 6 to 12. Then it’s on to Las Vegas.

"I’m looking forward to coming out to Vegas," said Campbell, who finished tied for 74th last year when the local event was the Frys.com Open. "I like the changes they made with the tournament, moving it to one course. And having Justin Timberlake there will create some excitement.

"I think having one course to focus on will make it easier for the players. And if the wind doesn’t blow, you could see some really low scores out there."

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913.

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