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Chad Campbell looking to repeat 2003 success

Chad Campbell showed up at the Tour Championship last year with potential, but no trophies.

One year later, he has two victories and finds himself trying to live up to his potential.

"I'd like to think of myself as being a little bit more consistent," Campbell said.

Campbell has been anything but that as his 2004 season comes to an end.

He is the defending champion at the Tour Championship, which gets started Thursday at East Lake. A year ago, an unheralded Campbell shot a tournament-record 61 in the third round to take the lead, then held off Charles Howell III for his first PGA Tour victory.

The 30-year-old Texan was just as strong earlier this year at the Bay Hill Invitational, rallying from a four-shot deficit in the final round by closing with a 66 to win for the second time in 10 starts. He moved into the top 10 in the world ranking and was regarded as a rising star.

The rest of the year has been a struggle.

Campbell was asked to grade his year, and he broke it down into two seasons.

"I give the first half an A-minus, B-plus," he said. "And the last part, a D-plus maybe. I don't know what that 'plus' would be."

It has been a frustrating second half of the season.

At times, Campbell has looked as strong as ever. There was one stretch of holes at the Wachovia Championship on the back nine, when the course required a strong draw around the trees on No. 11, and a gentle fade on the next hole. Campbell pulled off both to near-perfection.

But the scores haven't been what he expected. Campbell hasn't had a top-10 finish since he was runner-up at Colonial.

"I really didn't feel like I played that bad for the last part of the year," Campbell said. "I just haven't gotten to the hole fast enough. I guess that's the best way to put it. I had a couple of bad holes here and there, missing putts, missing fairways at crucial times, just little things like that.

"I wish I knew exactly what caused it or how to fix it. I don't feel like it's been that bad, but the results is what I graded myself on."

Vijay Singh also could break his year into two halves.

The first half would be an A. The 41-year-old Fijian won at Pebble Beach, Houston and New Orleans. The second half has simply been out of this world.

Singh showed up at East Lake with a chance to win his 10th tournament of the year, which would be the most since Sam Snead won 11 times in 1950.

That makes Singh the favorite even without the intangibles:

* No one in the 31-man field has a better record at East Lake. Singh lost in a playoff in 1998, played in the final group in 2000 before finishing third, and won by two shots in 2002.

* Singh is coming off a five-shot victory last week at Innisbrook.

* He has won six times in his last eight starts on the PGA Tour.

"The whole year has been good," Singh said. "You don't really wake up one day and think you're going to be able to play like I did this year. It's a buildup to it. You win one, and then you win another one. You get more confident, like snowballing. You can't wait for the next hole. That's how it's been."

Perhaps the best way to measure his dominance is by looking at the top 31 players on the money list who qualified for the Tour Championship.

Singh has won nine times on the PGA Tour. The other 30 players have combined to win 25.

"It's been sensational. There's no other way to describe it," Masters champion Phil Mickelson said. "It's very hard to differentiate yourself from those one or two shots that will get you a victory, as opposed to second place.

"It's been amazing. It's been very similar to the way Tiger won almost everything in 2000."

That would be Tiger Woods, a forgotten man at this Tour Championship. While Singh is trying to win his 10th tournament, Woods is aiming for No. 2.

His only victory this year came at the Accenture Match Play Championship at La Costa, and even Woods concedes he probably would not have won that week if the format had been stroke play.

He has had seven other finishes in the top five, but Woods used to convert those chances into trophies. That explains why he has slipped to No. 3 in the world behind Singh and Ernie Els, and No. 4 on the money list.

Woods has been working with a new swing coach, Hank Haney, and insists his game is close, one reason he decided to end his honeymoon in the Caribbean and play in the Tour Championship.

"I thought I had a chance to come back and do some pretty good things," Woods said.

No telling what kind of grade he would put on his report card, even with a victory at East Lake.

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