Despite shooting a 6-under-par 65 yesterday to vault up the leader board, Chad Campbell had his most memorable round of golf at Congressional Country Club before the start of the Booz Allen Classic. One of the game's rising young stars who many peers say is due to win a major championship, Campbell played in a Wednesday pro-am with Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), Rep. Michael G. Oxley (R-Ohio) and Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.).

"It was just an honor getting to play with those guys," said Campbell, who was at 8 under for the tournament before three-putting the 18th green and finishing his round two strokes off the course record.

Campbell did not get into specifics when asked to recount the conversation during his round with some of the country's most influential lawmakers, except to say "not too much politics." He much preferred to discuss the evolution of his putting, which has improved with each round and helped him get within range of the leaders.

Campbell took 27 putts over his third round, three fewer than in the second round and six fewer than in his opening round.

"I've been working hard on my putting, and it's nice to see it paying off, especially going into a major," Campbell said. "I thought I played good the last few weeks. I've been struggling putting. Like I said, it's nice to see the ball go in the hole and hit it where I am looking."

Poor putting doomed many of Campbell's rounds this season. He ranks 75th on the PGA Tour in putting average and 168th in putts per round at 29.9. Those numbers seemed irrelevant yesterday, as Campbell had nine one-putt greens, including two in a row to begin his round.

At No. 1, a 402-yard par 4, Campbell launched his drive 300 yards down the center of the fairway, then left his approach shot 12 feet from the cup. On No. 2, a 211-yard par 3, Campbell landed his tee ball to eight feet.

"I was able to make some putts today for a change," Campbell said. "The greens are going to be softer, a little less wind this morning. And there is not as much pressure when you go off at 9:30 or whenever I went off this morning."

As morning crept closer to afternoon, Campbell dropped deeper below par with a pair of birdies to close his front side. At No. 8, a 354-yard par 4, the putter stayed in his bag after he chipped in from 11 feet. Campbell had a tap-in at No. 9 thanks to an approach that came to rest a foot from the cup on the 602-yard par 5.

Campbell was well within reach of the course-record 63 as he came to the 18th green 7 under for the round. No. 18 is a 190-yard par 3, and Campbell landed his tee shot to 20 feet. His first attempt rolled six feet past, and his second missed by half a foot.

"I didn't even know," Campbell said when told he had a chance to equal the course record. "It's a great golf course. The greens are a little soft from the rain we had earlier this week, but I'm sure the greens and the fairways will firm up through the weekend. . . . The scores seem like they are out there today. I don't know. We'll just have to wait and see."