Campbell holds off Tiger for US Open win
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2005 US Open | Wrap | 20 Jun 2005
New Zealand golf has received the greatest possible boost it could have been given with Michael Campbell’s brilliant win in today’s US Open Championship at Pinehurst. The questions that have often been asked regarding the relative lack of success of New Zealand professional golfers worldwide and indeed those asked of Campbell himself, have been answered in the best possible way.
Michael Campbell has been New Zealand’s most successful golfer since Bob Charles but there has always been that question mark as to why he hasn’t fulfilled the tremendous potential he showed when he was a member of the 1992 Eisenhower Trophy winning team and when he burst on to the professional scene soon after. He has won many tournaments but there has always been the feeling that Michael has suffered from a lack of genuine self-belief at the highest level. Today, as he stands with the US Open trophy in hand, he need no longer worry.
This is not the first time he has emerged from the wilderness to achieve great success, although of course this is at a totally different level. Not long after his outstanding rookie season on the European Tour when he finished runner up at the Volvo PGA and third at the British Open, he disappeared into a form slump that would see him not emerge until mid-1999 when the tide started to turn and turn it did in a big way.
He won regularly on the European and Australasian Tours through 2000, 2001 and 2002 but when he decided to commit to the US Tour full time in 2003 he struggled. He had gained access to the USPGA Tour via the non-member moneylist, much of that coming from his runner up placing at the Bay Hill Invitational but once there full-time he missed a lot of early cuts and headed back to Europe. To his credit he was smart enough to know when to bail out of the US as to continue may well have done irreparable damage. When he returned to Europe he immediately won the Irish Open and he was back in familiar territory.
The last two seasons have again seen that rollercoaster form that is to a large extent, Michael Campbell. After his runner up placing at the Scottish Open last year he lost his way somewhat and early in 2005 he was struggling with a series of missed cuts until he reached China where he was 12th at the TCL and 3rd at the Johnnie Walker Classic. These performances appeared to justify his decision to employ his long time coach Jonathan Yarwood full-time.
Back in Europe there were further good performances including his 4th placing at the British Masters and when the chance to pre-qualify for the US Open came at the Walton Heath course in Surrey just two weeks ago he was able to get one of the few spots available there and so he was Pinehurst bound. He had driven through the early evening to get back to Surrey from the Celtic Manor Wales Open to attempt qualifying, perhaps indicating his hunger and belief in his improving form.
His record at the US Open until now had been ordinary at best. In his very first attempt in 1996 he was 32nd in Steve Jones’ Open at Oakland Hills. It was a solid debut and then in 2000 he finished 12th at Pebble Beach. Since then, however, the cupboard has been bare. No cuts made in a further four attempts as his confidence in playing in the US generally took a knock.
Here this week however, on a golf course where, perhaps more than any other, percentage play would be the major prerequisite, his combination of fairways and greens hit in regulation took a lot of pressure off a putter that would rally to the cause in any case, especially over the weekend.
When he started out today Campbell was four from the seemingly unassailable lead of Goosen. Unassailable as the South African, with his cool calm demeanour, his US Open winning experience and obvious good form, appeared to have the event for the taking. It took only three holes for the picture to change dramatically.
The expected challenge from Tiger Woods looked likely to come to nothing when he bogeyed (and had to save them with up and downs) both the first and second holes and when Goosen himself took double at the second after missing the green right and then left and then three putted the third and fourth things took an amazing turn.
Campbell made just the start he wanted with a birdie at the first and then a solid par at the second. He had a chance at the third for birdie even after indecision in the fairway and then at the fourth missed a lengthy but makeable birdie there. At even par for the tournament through four holes however he was all of a sudden sharing the lead with Goosen.
At the 5th he made a really important par to keep the momentum going after missing the fairway and pitching out short of the green. His first bogey came at the 8th after a three putt there but at the 9th he probably made his save of the tournament given the circumstances and timing. His mid iron from the tee was pushed right and although he had an unimpeded line to the flag, it was a tough shot in terms of judging the distance. Using his fairway metal he ran the shot up to 3 feet and made the par.
At the next, the par five 10th, after yet another beautiful tee shot, there was a chance he could reach the green with his second but he missed right and was faced with a long pitch across the green. He left that 25 feet from the hole but made the putt to move two ahead of Woods who had just birdied the 11th and Goosen who was battling demons behind.
Campbell made yet another great up and down from the bunker at the 11th after indecision from the fairway caused an indifferent approach with the lessor of two clubs. At the 12th his drive came to rest in the first cut of rough and although he didn’t appear to like his second it was not all bad coming up 25 feet short. When he had made that he moved further ahead.
At the 13th after yet another good tee shot when he cut off much of the corner, his approach from just 80 yards was through the green but again he was able to make a brilliant save. At the 14th after hitting his second to seven feet he had the chance to all but seal the victory if he had been able to make that. He did not and as that was happening Tiger Woods, in the group ahead, made a birdie at the 15th to close the gap to just two. When Campbell hit his tee shot at the 15th left into the left hand trap and a long way from the flag, there was a real feeling that this was the critical moment. Tiger had come up just short of the green at the 16th and looked likely at least to make par. Campbell hit a brilliant bunker shot from perhaps twenty five yards to 7 feet and when he made it and Tiger failed to get up and down the difference was again three.
At the 16th Campbell drove it in the rough left and then pitched out to safety. His pitch from there was well left and when he ran that by, he was still faced with a four footer for bogey. He made that and the difference was again two but at the same time Woods had hit his tee shot to twenty feet at the 17th and there was still a chance if Woods could hole his that he could close the gap to just one. To his and everyone’s surprise, not only did he not hole it but he three putted and so Campbell had the luxury of a three shot lead as he stood on the 17th tee. His shot there was a perfect 8 iron to 22 feet and when he holed that he had a four shot lead.
Tiger was not about to let his one last chance slip and he hit his approach at the last to ten feet and holed that to keep the New Zealander honest. With a three shot lead now Campbell found the rough left from the tee at the 18th and, not taking any chances with such a lead, he hit out short of the cross bunkers and then pitched from 77 yards to eight feet. He missed that but made the next coming back and the title was his.
The last two hours of the final round had a real New Zealand feel. Not only was Michael Campbell about to boost New Zealand golf but on the bag of Michael Campbell was long time caddy, Michael Waite, a New Zealander who has worked for several golfers but in recent years has suffered and enjoyed the ups and downs of the Michael Campbell story. Given the volatility of Campbell’s form in recent years this must have been a most enjoyable moment for Waite as well and just reward for sticking to the cause. Another New Zealander very much in the mix was Tiger Woods caddy, Steve Williams, a passionate and patriotic New Zealander and although he would no doubt have been hoping for a Woods win, he would have preferred nobody else to beat his boss than Campbell. He was there to greet and congratulate Campbell as he walked from the last green.
Of the others, Sergio Garcia, Mark Hensby and Tim Clark all shared third with Clark’s effort after his opening round 76 worth special mention. So too was the performance of Hensby who for the second major in succession has recorded a top five. He was very much in the thick of things through the early holes of the final round but three late bogeys on the front nine saw him slip back. He was still in with some sort of chance after his birdie at the 11th had him at three over and just four back but in the end he did very well to hang on for third in his first US Open.
The other Australians were perhaps disappointing given the good starts some made. Adam Scott fell away badly at the weekend and the jury is still out on his record in majors. Given his record at the British Open it is not likely to improve there but he is too good a golfer for him not to add a major to his CV at some future stage. He is still after all only 24 years of age.
Ogilvy and Allan did well despite Allan’s last round of 77 to share 29th place with Scott. Elkington is getting back to some of the form we know he is capable of, Peter Lonard perhaps could have done better on a course that suited his game style and Nick O’Hern and Richard Green fell away on Saturday before reasonable last rounds. O’Hern led the driving percentages and did well in greens in regulation but he was not able to convert the many chances he gave himself.
On one of the toughest yet fairest golf courses in the US Open rota, a 36-year-old Kiwi, who has struggled to date in this arena, found a way to turn around not only his own life but the game of golf in his native land. While Australians have struggled to convert their impressive performances in regular tour events worldwide into major victories in recent years, here was their trans-Tasman colleague giving golf in this part of the world just the boost it needed.
Well done Michael Campbell.