Neal: Champ, in pursuit of work-life balance, lands a victory

·4 min read

The 368-yard drive on the 11th hole on Sunday exemplified the talent that Cameron Champ brings to the PGA Tour.

The bogey-free final round reflected the mettle he has to hold off competitors and win trophies.

The dubious decision to hit driver off the 18th tee when he was two strokes in the lead suggests there's more growth required.

The money approach three shots later to within 3 feet of the cup showed how he can rescue himself from peril.

Champ spent Saturday and Sunday talking about the balance between life and golf, being too hard on himself, trusting the work he puts into his game and believing the results will follow.

The evolving Cameron Champ proved that at the TPC in Blaine as he won the 3M Open for just his thirdtour title. Champ, 26, has plenty of time to add more hardware. But one of the game's big hitters who has been touted as golf's next big thing hasn't backed it up yet.

Look at this season. Champ has missed 11 cuts and had fallen all the way down to 142nd in the FedEx Cup standings. He had just two top-10 finishes. That's not the upward track of a phenom.

After missing the cut at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit during the July 4th weekend, it was time for Champ to reassess some things. He has plenty going for him. He's married and wants to start a family. He's one of four Black players on the tour. Through his foundation, he helps provide sports and education to children. He donated $40,000 to Prairie View A&M, a historically Black university, tohelp fund golf scholarships to both the men's and women's programs there.

Yet, the whole life-work thing wasn't balanced.

"Everybody learns and everybody matures at different stages in their lives," Champ said. "Again, I've always said and it's just kind of how I am, I'm always a late learner or late bloomer and I'm trying to be the opposite of that. You know, now I'm married, now I have responsibilities, soon I want to start a family with my wife.

"Again, for me it's more so realizing what I want to do in the game of golf and then who I want to be at home. It's a balance you have to find, and if you don't, it can really haunt you and it can cause a lot of issues."

His head now clear, Champ arrived in Blaine and surged as the tournament progressed.

He began Sunday two shots back but fired three birdies on the front nine and was tied with Jhonattan Vegas at the turn. Champ took the lead for good with a birdie on 11.

Meanwhile, the bloodhounds lost the scent. Louis Oosthuizen found water on two and bogeyed 14. Vegas muttered to himself after missing big putts. Charl Schwartzel boxed himself in with bogeys on five and 13. Third round leader Cameron Tringale coughed up a 3-over par on Sunday.

Champ gave nothing away. Even a bout with dehydration on the 15th hole would not deny him. He chugged a Gatorade and fought through the dizziness with the help of caddie Chad Reynolds.

He walked to the 18th tee with his driver when an iron would have been a safer choice with a two-shot lead. Champ said later that he would grab the driver again in the same situation. Hey, if you're committed to a decision, that's half the battle.

After the tee shot sailed left and sent spectators scrambling, Champ reached the green in four, tapped in the putt and pumped both fists.

"Even on 14 we were talking about playing the rest of the season and how we are going about it and I told Chad, 'there's no way we're losing this,' " Champ said. "Whenever I get in those moments I'm super comfortable and super in the zone and feel it is mine to take."

We get to see where Champ goes from here. And a regularly contending Cameron Champ is good for the sport because he might be one of the more interesting players on the tour.

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