Campbell, Toms play nicely together

Updated: January 17, 2006, 4:38 PM ET
By Jason Sobel | ESPN.com

HONOLULU -- Paging Tom Lehman. Will Mr. Lehman please pick up the red courtesy phone?

That would be Chad Campbell and David Toms dialing the U.S. Ryder Cup captain. Judging by their play in the third round of the Sony Open, Lehman just might want to pick up.

Chad Campbell
AP Photo/Jeff ChiuMaking the Ryder Cup team is his "No. 1 goal," Campbell said Saturday.

Playing together in the final group (along with Jim Furyk), Toms shot a tournament-record 9-under 61 and Campbell was one off that pace as they each finished a picture perfect Oahu afternoon tied for the lead at 14-under.

No one else is even on the same island.

Which got us to thinking: If Furyk and Tiger Woods are going to be paired together, and Chris DiMarco and Phil Mickelson are a tandem, well, all of a sudden Lehman (who shot a 4-under 66 of his own Saturday) might be running out of players he can team up.

Considering Toms and Campbell shot a combined 17-under on Saturday and would have been 13-under had it been a best-ball competition, the captain could do a lot worse than pairing this duo.

From the sound of it, neither of them would mind that at all.

"We're friends," said Toms, who made nine birdies and nine pars. "We talk a lot out there. ... That's what we'll be doing again [Sunday]."

"We've gotten to know each other pretty well over the last few years," said Campbell, who made one fewer birdie and one more par than Toms. "He's a great guy. I really enjoy playing with him."

So, there it is, Captain Lehman. Two solid U.S. players who like each other and seem to play well together. This Ryder Cup thing is easier than it looks, huh?

There's just one problem.

Although Toms is a Ryder regular and should have no problem making the squad again this year, Campbell earned his first trip to the international competition two years ago and has since followed up by failing to win an event or make the Presidents Cup roster.

That doesn't mean a return trip to the U.S. team isn't at the top of his priority list.

"That's probably [my] No. 1 goal," said Campbell, who won his singles match but lost both team matches (one with Furyk, one with Davis Love III) in '04. "That was so much fun last time, even though the outcome was not what we wanted.

"That's kind of the ultimate, the Ryder Cup. So that's kind of forefront in my mind right now."

Campbell's story is that of either a player on the rise or one of already unfulfilled potential. He jumped from 81st on the PGA Tour money list in 2002 to seventh in '03, when he won the prestigious Tour Championship and had three runner-up finishes.

Since then, he has remained a consistent performer, finishing 24th and 20th on the money list, respectively, in the past two seasons, but has yet to raise his game to the upper echelon -- or even the second tier -- of the world's top golfers.

But a new season might mean bigger goals and an increased fire in the mighty Texan's belly. It sure looked like it on Saturday, when he proved he could hang with top-10 players Toms and Furyk (who shot even-par 70).

Consider it his audition for the Ryder Cup team.

"Yeah, just leave that up to the captain," Campbell said. "I just want to be on the team."

Hope you're watching, Captain Lehman.

Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com

Jason Sobel | email

Golf Editor, ESPN.com
Jason Sobel, who joined ESPN in 1997, earned four Sports Emmy awards as a member of ESPN's Studio Production department. He became ESPN.com's golf editor in July 2004.

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