Frontrunners trade blows down the stretch at Oak Hill


ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- For five holes late Sunday afternoon at Oak Hill, Shaun Micheel and Chad Campbell were Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, trading body shots and haymakers with the PGA Championship on the line.

Micheel delivered the final blow -- a stunning 175-yard 7-iron to within two inches at the 18th hole.

It put the exclamation point on a duel that turned what had been a rather lackluster final round, replete with a slew of unheralded players at the top of the leaderboard, into one of the more entertaining final hours of major championship golf.

Micheel birdied the first hole Sunday and never trailed, despite back-to-back bogeys at the seventh and eighth holes that left him 3-under par. He made five straight pars after that and came to the 14th hole 3-under par.

Campbell made three bogeys in his first seven holes to fall to 1-under. He made pars from No. 8 to No. 12, but birdied the 13th to get to within a shot of the lead heading to the 14th tee.

Then the real drama began. Micheel made three birdies and two bogeys in his final five holes. Campbell made a costly bogey and a stunning birdie, and finished with three straight pars.

Both had chances to win, and lose. Both hit remarkable pressure shots, and let their nerves get the best of them.

For the galleries and those watching on TV, it made for some remarkable theater.

"It was a little bit crazy," said Campbell.

Indeed. Here's how it happened:

14th hole, Par 4, 323 yards
Micheel, the leader since Friday's 36-hole cut, was still out front. The honor, however, belonged to Campbell, thanks to his birdie at 13.

PGA officials moved the tee up slightly, daring players to drive the green for an easy birdie. Miss the green, however, and the penal rough might mean bogey.

Campbell hit driver into a bunker to the right of the green. Micheel, who laid up on Friday and still made double-bogey, didn't flinch, hitting driver and reaching the fringe of the putting surface.

"I knew there was no way I could hit the ball over the green, but if I hit a 5-iron and it went into the rough, I'd bring (over the green) into play," Micheel said. "I'd have much rather driven it up there into the bunker, chunked it out and two-putted than play that shot from the fairway."

Campbell, eschewing a sand wedge for a pitching wedge in the bunker, hit a dreadful shot, leaving himself in the tall grass around the green.

"Just hit it fat. Just decelerated," Campbell said. "Maybe it wasn't the right club choice. I don't know."

He chopped out for his third, however, and hit the pin, leaving the ball four feet below the cup. If the ball hadn't hit the flagstick, Campbell would have likely had a 20-foot downhill putt for par.

Micheel, knowing he could put some distance between himself and Campbell, left his eagle putt eight feet short. Undaunted, he rolled the putt in for birdie.

Campbell missed putt his for a bogey.

Scores: Micheel -4, Campbell -1

15th hole, Par 3, 181 yards
Micheel hit first and reached the green, though he was about 80 feet away. Campbell hit a sizzling 6-iron to 20 feet.

Micheel, facing a sweeping putt, didn't play enough break and left himself eight feet for par. Campbell, with the shadows looming in his line, holed a twisting 30-foot putt for birdie.

"Just made a great putt," Campbell said.

Micheel, momentarily rattled, missed his par putt and took bogey.

"When he made that putt there, I knew that I was going to be in for a tough last three holes," Micheel said. "... When he got that putt to fall in, I knew I'd have to suck it up."

Campbell made up for the two-shot swing at 13 with one of his own at 14.

Scores: Micheel -3, Campbell -2

16th hole, Par 4, 439 yards
Both player missed the fairway off the tee and ended up in the rough.

Campbell, blessed with a better lie, reached the front of the green with his second shot. Micheel got a break -- the grass was growing toward the green, allowing him to take a shot to the putting surface. He hit a remarkable shot to 25 feet.

A year ago, Rich Beem rolled in a 40-footer on 16 that proved to be the winning margin in his duel with Tiger Woods. Micheel repeated the feat, draining his birdie to give him a two-shot lead.

"Just a pretty aggressive putt, actually," Micheel said. "I had it read right. I watched Chad's and it broke a little to the right but from 30, 35 feet, picking the right line is very difficult."

Campbell two-putted for par.

Scores: Micheel -4, Campbell -2

17th hole, Par 4, 495 yards
Micheel drove into the right rough and couldn't reach the green with his second shot. Campbell was in the middle of the fairway with his drive.

Micheel chipped out into the fairway, hit a 134-yard wedge to 35 feet and missed the putt, leaving himself with a bogey.

Campbell hit his second shot on the green and had a realistic chance for birdie, but missed, settling for par.

"Had a decent look at birdie, but I wasn't able to capitalize on it," Campbell said.

Despite taking bogey, Micheel said: "I felt great about that two-putt."

Scores: Micheel -3, Campbell -2

18th hole, Par 4, 482 yards
Campbell, hitting first, kept his ball in the fairway on right side. Micheel, who had bogeyed the hole Saturday to drop him into a tie for the lead, hit a drive that hugged the rough on the left, but settled into the first cut.

"I got a pretty nice bounce," Micheel admitted.

Both had about 175 yards to the green from opposite sides of the fairway.

Micheel, hitting first, unleashed a 7-iron that hopped once and nearly went in and settled two inches from the hole. Because the green is 45 feet above the fairway, Micheel and Campbell didn't know how close it was, other than the erupting crowd around the green.

"Be right," he said as the ball sailed toward the green. "Be right."

It was right on.

"I knew it was pretty close," he said. "When I saw it was only two inches, I figured I could make that."

"I knew I had to hit a good shot," Campbell said. "That was obvious before he hit his, and I didn't know how close his was ... I was thinking maybe four or five feet. At least (he'd) have to make a putt."

Campbell left his second shot 20 feet left of the pin, and two-putted for par. Micheel tapped in for birdie.

"That would be the best shot I've seen under pressure," Campbell said.

"I don't normally close well," Micheel said. "I don't know what it is. Maybe it's just nerves, maybe I'm tired or maybe I'm trying to get the round over with, but I sure like the way I finished today.

FINAL SCORES: Micheel -4, Campbell -2

David Kraft is a senior editor with ESPN.com and can be reached at david.s.kraft@espn3.com.