PALM DESERT - One thing has become crystal clear through three rounds of the PGA Tour's Bob Hope Chrysler Classic: The view at the top appeals to Chad Campbell.
Campbell, who opened the day with a four-shot lead, toured the Palmer Course at PGA West at 4-under-par 68 to maintain his lead by four through 54 holes Thursday.
He is on top at 19 under, ahead of Scott Verplank - who put himself in contention with a course-record 7-under 65 at Classic Club on a wind-free day - and Australian John Senden at 15 under. First-round leader Pat Perez, two-time champion Phil Mickelson and Billy Andrade are tied for fourth at 13 under.
A four-shot lead would be a comfortable margin at most tournaments, but Campbell would not let on because he plays at the wind-swept Classic Club today, where breaking par has been a challenge.
"I don't know if there is one, to be honest with you,'' he said."You can have some guys playing Bermuda Dunes (today). I think that's the easiest course, you can shoot some good scores out there. (Pat) Perez shot 60 out here at the Palmer Course. I don't think you can really say any lead is safe. You have to keep making birdies.''
Mastering the par-5 holes and solid work on the greens have put Campbell in the driver's seat. He picked up his first bogey of the tournament at No. 8 - and his first in 60 holes dating to last week's Sony Open - and is 12 under on the long-distance holes heading into today's round.
"It's crucial to take advantage of (the par 5s),'' he said."They have been really reachable, so you really need to make birdie on them, kind of keep the momentum going.''
Verplank played the Hope's newest course like a veteran. He spent two days of practice on the course, but it wasn't for enjoyment.
"I played nine holes Monday, and it was blowing so hard, I just quit,'' he said"I actually came back Tuesday morning and played the front nine just so I could see it.''
On Friday, the wind wasn't an issue for Verplank or anyone else at Classic Club. Conditions were ideal, and the member of this past year's winning Presidents Cup took advantage.
He opened on the back nine and made the turn at 1-under, then turned it on with five birdies in the final seven holes. He capped it with a 15-foot putt on the par-5, 595-yard No. 9.
"The weather is so nice today, I feel sorry for those guys who had to play here (Thursday) - but not that sorry,'' he said."Sounds good, anyway, that you feel sorry for them. Yeah, we got really lucky with the weather today as far as the rotation that I'm in, getting to play here with really no wind.''
Senden, who was tied with Perez at 11 under entering play, put together a sound round as well at Classic Club. A day after firing a 63 at PGA West, he opened at 4-under through eight holes and stayed out of trouble.
"Today's round was good because I did hold my own throughout the middle of the round,'' he said."And the tougher holes, and the stretch from 9 through 12, they are not easy holes.''
Senden is in his fifth season on Tour, and his best finish was a tie for sixth here last season. He hopes to gain ground on Campbell, and he has an excellent chance because he is playing at Bermuda Dunes today.
"I think I suit that course,'' he said."I like it. It's got good opportunity out there. The par 5s, you can shoot a low number out there, too.''
Tour veteran and 1992 and 1997 champion John Cook had the top round of the day. The former Coachella Valley resident fired a 63 that was highlighted by a birdie-birdie-eagle finish at Bermuda Dunes. He made the biggest move of the day, jumping 63 spots - from 91st to a tie for 28th - at 9-under 207.