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Campbell throws hat into ring as third-round 65 ties Micheel

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Considering their resumes and world rankings, Shaun Micheel and Chad Campbell should be reminded that they're playing in the 85th PGA Championship at venerable Oak Hill Country Club, not in some mini-tour event in the middle of nowhere.

Considering what Micheel and Campbell have done through three rounds of the year's last major championship, and what most of the world's top players haven't accomplished on one of golf's most difficult courses, you have to wonder how long their magic will last.

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Micheel, a 33-year-old journeyman ranked 169th in the world, proved yesterday that Friday's second-round performance wasn't a fluke. And Campbell, a 29-year-old who dominated golf's minor leagues before joining the PGA Tour last year, showed that his star-in-the-making tag isn't a stretch.

Despite making bogeys on the last three holes and watching what had been a four-stroke lead disappear, Micheel's 1-under-par 69 gave him a 54-hole total of 4-under 206 and a share of the lead with Campbell, who vaulted into contention with a tournament-best, 5-under 65, one shy of the course record.

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They lead by three strokes over reigning Masters champion Mike Weir of Canada and by four strokes over Tim Clark of South Africa. Four others -- three-time major champion Ernie Els of South Africa, Alex Cejka of the Czech Republic, Billy Andrade and Briny Baird -- are five strokes behind.

Should Micheel or Campbell hold on and win today, it would mark the first time since 1969 that all four of golf's Grand Slam events were won by a first-time major champion. It would also follow one of the sport's greatest upsets: Ben Curtis winning the British Open last month at Royal St. George's.

"I understand that there are some perks that go along with winning major championships," said Micheel, whose last victory was in the 1999 Greensboro Open, a Hooters Tour event.

"I'm just trying to win a golf tournament. That's what's paramount to me. I just want to win. I don't care where it is, what it is. I'd be honored to win the tournament."

Said Campbell, who won 13 times on the Hooters Tour and is ranked 58th in the world: "I've tried to keep it out of my mind, but it's kind of inevitable that it [a first-time major champion] will happen. Still got a lot of golf to play. Just want to come out and try to stay focused on what I'm doing and not try to get ahead of myself."

As far-more-accomplished players such as two-time major champion Vijay Singh (70 for a three-round total of 2-over 212) and Els (70) never made a significant run, and others such as Phil Mickelson (72 for a 3-over 213) fell out of contention, Micheel appeared to be on the verge of a blowout.

With a string of three straight birdies to close the front nine, Micheel jumped three strokes ahead of Campbell and four in front of Weir, who is now ranked sixth in the world. His lead was up to four when he birdied the par-4 12th hole, and remained there when he made a remarkable save on the par-5 13th. Micheel got to 7-under when he hit a 7-iron within 3 feet on the par-3 15th, and then made the putt.

Whether it was the situation of trying to protect a big lead or realizing that he was doing to Oak Hill and the rest of the field what only the legendary Jack Nicklaus did here during the 1980 PGA Championship -- winning by seven strokes and being the only player under par -- Micheel faltered down the stretch.

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With Campbell making three birdies and a bogey on the last four holes, Micheel's lead disappeared with three straight bogeys caused by errant drives. Though admittedly out of his element while playing in only his third major championship, Micheel said it was merely the golf course showing its nasty bite.

"Coming down, leading the tournament, there were not a lot of nerves there," Micheel said. "If you miss the fairway, it doesn't matter if you're Tiger Woods or Shaun Micheel or Billy Andrade or Chad Campbell, you are probably going to have a poor lie and you are probably going to have to pitch out and make bogey."

If there is a comfort zone for Micheel, it comes from the fact that he now shares the lead with a player he knows fairly well. In fact, Micheel feels he knows Campbell well for a reason aside from their days on the Hooters and Nationwide tours.

"It's funny. Everyone thinks I'm Chad Campbell," Micheel said. "It's unbelievable. Earlier in the year, someone came up to me and said, 'Great tournament.' It didn't really dawn on me, but it's amazing how everyone thinks Chad and I look alike. I think I'm a little bit lighter."

Campbell has had a lot more success on the PGA Tour than Micheel. As a rookie last year, Campbell finished 81st on the money list with $825,474, with two Top 10 finishes that included a third in the Greater Greensboro Open. This year, he has finished second twice and has made the cut in 17 of 19 events.

Before this year's U.S. Open, Campbell was on the cover of a special pre-tournament issue in Sports Illustrated, promoting the Texan as the PGA Tour's next breakout star. He backed it up with a solid tie for 15th in the British Open.

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"No pressure, really," said Campbell, when asked last night about the publicity he received. "I think everybody loved it. Even a lot of fans. There's no telling how many covers I've signed for people that have mailed them to me. I think it's been great and it was great for me to get my name out there."

Leader board

The leaders ...

Shaun Micheel 69-68-69-206

Chad Campbell 69-72-65-206

... and selected followers

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Mike Weir 68-71-70-209

Timothy Clark 72-70-68-210

Billy Andrade 67-72-72-211

Briny Baird 73-71-67-211

Alex Cejka 74-69-68-211

Ernie Els 71-70-70-211

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Vijay Singh 69-73-70-212

Fred Funk 69-73-70-212

Rod Pampling 66-74-73-213

Phil Mickelson 66-75-72-213

Jim Furyk 72-74-69-215

Tiger Woods 74-72-73-219

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Complete scores. [Page 11e]


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