Chad Campbell, first alternate, loses the waiting game in his bid to launch a comeback

September 12, 2019
AT&T Byron Nelson - Round One

Michael Reaves

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. – Every week on the PGA Tour there is a guy all-dressed up with no place to go. That would be the first alternate, the player waiting on the driving range, by the scoring station, in player dining or the locker room who is hoping that an opening in the field develops so he can compete in that week's event.

You just don't expect that guy to be someone like Chad Campbell, a past winner of the Tour Championship, a three-time Ryder Cup player and an almost perennial qualifier for the FedEx Cup playoffs.

But there sat Campbell outside the massive clubhouse at The Greenbrier Resort Thursday afternoon counting down the final minutes of his stay at the opening PGA Tour event of the year, A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier.

"Ten minutes to go," the laconic Texan said as he looked at his watch, knowing the last groups in the 156-player field were about to tee off.

He wore a bemused grin, hardly believing that the 156-player did not have one withdrawal to let him in the tournament. "You rarely see this happen in a field this large," he noted.

Yes, but it was the first tournament of the season. Players were eager to get going. Every rookie on tour entered the event. John Daly, bum knee and all, got to the first tee.

Campbell, 45, just suffered through a short and horrendous season in which a back injury that seized up last fall hampered him all year. He ended up 239th in the FedEx Cup standings after making four cuts in 13 starts. Known as a consistently solid ball-striker, his swing was off. Then his putter decided to go into deep freeze. His season ended with a missed cut at the Barracuda Championship in late July.

"Nothing I did was right," he said. "I was just awful. I was horrible."

With some time at home in Colleyville, Texas, Campbell has been able to eliminate a few flaws. He was eager to put the adjustments to the test at The Greenbrier, but instead, he mostly just saw the driving range and the practice putting green. "I know every break on that green out there," he quipped. "I'd be tough to beat on the putting green."

Campbell does expect to play in next week's Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson, Miss. After that, he isn't sure what might be available playing out of the Past Champions Category. He isn't complaining. He's been around enough to know the deal. It didn't make it any easier cooling his heels for four days as he awaited a chance to compete.

"I'm getting a little more on the right track. I just need to play now," he said. "Yeah, this sucks. You start playing a little better and then you have nowhere to play. But I know one week can change everything."

It just wasn't going to be this week.