US Golf winner Campbell: I'm no flash in the pan
August 09, 2006
The New Zealand star kept his cool under immense pressure to hold off a charging Tiger Woods on the final day of one of the most prestigious tournaments in men’s professional golf to win his first major last year.
Woods was undone by bogeys on the 16th and 17th holes and Campbell was victorious by two shots carding an even par of 280 to became the first golfer since 1996 to win the event via sectional qualifying.
The 37-year-old displayed his consistency in September when he won the richest prize in golf, the £1,000,000 HSBC World MatchPlay Champion-ship at Wentworth after beating Irishman Paul McGinley 2 and 1 in the final which moved him to the top of the European Order of Merit.
But Campbell has had a string of disappointing performances since his win at Pinehurst and this week slid down the world ranking standings to 24 after finishing a lowly joint 33rd at the Scandinavian Masters in Sweden last weekend.
Campbell, who was special guest at Bearwood Lakes Golf Club in Sindlesham, celebrating its 10th anniversary on Monday, said: “At the Masters I was having problems and I’ve been too technical with my golf swing. I need to get back to just playing golf – visualise the shot – and hit the ball.
“Once you’ve won a major there is a lot of expectation on you to win more and I’ve found it difficult to keep myself motivated when I’m playing and it’s not a major.
“But I’m trying slowly to break that thought process.
“It’s the US PGA Championship in two weeks and I’m looking forward to finding a formula and changing a few things. It’s human nature to search for different ways of doing things otherwise it gets boring.
“The PGA is the last major of the year and my results have been disappointing this year and not up to the high standards I set myself so I’m looking to do well and then it’s on to the Matchplay.
“To win back-to-back titles would be great. I like the course and winning the trophy would justify my win last year.
“I’m ready to play, defend my title and prove a point to everybody else.” Campbell was born in Taranki and is predominantly Maori and like many New Zealand boys he dreamed of playing for the All Blacks rugby team but his passion soon turned to golf.
He began playing golf at the age of seven and was undoubtedly influenced by his father Tom who was a single figure handicapper.
The Kiwi turned professional in 1993 and two years later, in his first full season on the European Tour, held a two shot lead after the third round of the Open Championship but he fell away to finish in a tie for third place.
Campbell injured his wrist at his home tournament, the New Zealand Open, and it led to a dip in his form and confidence.
He struggled to retain his form and lost his playing rights on the European Tour and he did not fully recover until 1998.
But Campbell eventually established himself as a solid tour performer, finishing fourth in the European Tour Order of Merit in 2000 and in the top ten Order of Merit in 2002.
And Campbell confirmed his status as a major player when he won the US Open in 2005.
It was an event he had originally intended to miss before filing a late application to play – a decision he admits dramatically changed his life.
Campbell, who became only the fourth golfer to win the US Open and the World Matchplay titles in the same year, is now looking to use his experience as a way of helping to develop junior golfers.
He said: “It is essential you have the right infrastructure around you and the right coaching to put yourself in a successful position.
“It’s a long process but for the kids to turn professional they have to be patient, work hard and do lots of practice.
“As a kid, I used to practice round after round after school and practiced all the time.
“Fitness is very important too because you want to play as long as you can.
“I have been given the chance to become more involved with the sport since fulfiling my dream of winning a major. Now I have the chance to give something back and I’m starting my own junior programmes in New Zealand.”
Campbell also revealed that a hand written letter from the legendary Jack Nicklaus, congratulating him on his US open victory, had advised him to become an ambassador for the sport.
“I remember Jack Nicklaus sending me a letter to say well done for winning the US Open,” said Campbell.
“In it he wrote that it was now my responsibility to promote this sport globally and in my homeland.
“Now back home there is more interest and enthusiasm.
“Obviously it is all still all about rugby but we’re slowly tipping the scales.”
Meanwhile Campbell says he was impressed by the changes that have been made to Bearwood’s course and later held a short golf clinic to members on the 18th hole on how to improve their short game.
The course has been ranked in the top 100 courses in the UK and Ireland and was voted Golf Monthly’s course of the month in July.
It is considered to be one that big hitters relish with its generous fairways and it makes for appealing targets at almost 7,000 yards from the back tees among the magnificent trees.
“I haven’t been here for a long time but it’s a young golf course that is maturing and improving all the time,” added Campbell.
Campbell and wife Julie and sons Thomas and Jordan have homes in his native New Zealand, at Sydney in Australia and in Brighton and was yesterday (Tuesday) set to go on holiday to Barbados before the US PGA on August 17.