Michael Campbell Interview - 2005 US Open
BY iseekgolf.com | US PGA Tour | 2005 US Open | Final Round | 20 Jun 2005
Q: It’s an honor and a pleasure to introduce the winner of the 105th United States Open, Michael Campbell. He posted a round of 1 under par 69, even par, 280, for the championship.
Michael, there’s a special trophy sitting next to us here, with some pretty special names on it, Bob Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Harry Vardon. How does it feel to know you’re going to be the next one added?
Michael Campbell: I’m still trying to fathom that one. Ben Hogan has been my hero ever since I started playing this game a long time ago, and I can see his name four times. And mine’s going to be down there somewhere. It’s just a Arnold Palmer, Nicklaus sorry, guys, I’m just diverging, here. Oh, man, it’s just unbelievable; that’s all I can say.
Q: Michael, with your victory today, you’ve become the first golfer from New Zealand to win the United States Open. Can you tell us what that might mean when you go back home.
Michael Campbell: That means I can make the front page with the All Blacks. For American people, who don’t really know, rugby, the All Blacks and Lions, were the combination of England, Ireland and Scotland, are playing a match on Sunday, so I’ll be watching very keenly next week.
I think for the first time I actually made the front page of the newspapers back home with the All Blacks. They’ve been champions and heroes of mine, and to knock them off their pedestal for this one week means a lot to me.
But I think today was more seriously, today I thought about Bob Charles winning the British Open back in ’63, was the last time a New Zealander won a major championship, the only time they won a major championship. And to be in the same circle, in the same sentence as Bob Charles, is an honor for me. I’m very, very pleased.
Q: Michael, when that final putt dropped, you turned inward, your hat over your head, your hands over your head. What were you thinking in those moments and why do you think you reacted like that?
Michael Campbell: Well, it’s been a journey, my career. I was thinking about people back home in New Zealand, and my wife, who is in England right now, Julie, and my two boys, Thomas and Jordan, because they couldn’t be here with me right now.
And obviously, Father’s Day, my dad watching me back home in New Zealand, and all the family, my Mum, my sister, my two nephews, all my relations back home, relatives back home watching me, all the people back home watching me, I could feel that. I could feel them how proud they were of me. And that started me off.
And then the other thing was that, you know, back in ’98 I was going to throw the game away and sell golf balls. I missed my European Tour card and also Australasian Tour card. I had no place to play back in ’98 and luckily enough I got a few invites and regained my card back again for both Tours. So emotionally it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster. And I worked very hard, very, very hard. We don’t just come here and play golf and leave again. We prepare differently, obviously, but we work very, very hard, mentally and physically, all the players playing this week.
And today was just having that putt to win the major championship, you dreamed about that as a kid. I remember watching Augusta on TV, because of the time difference in New Zealand, we used to get up at 5 or 6 in the morning and watch it, the last nine holes, back in those days, until 9:00. I used to miss school sometimes, if there was a playoff. But it’s just been an interesting journey the last ten years. Leading The Open championship back in ’95 and having a chance to win a major championship, it wasn’t my time to win. But today was.
Q: Two questions, one, you said that you nearly didn’t come to this tournament. How close was that to actually happening that you didn’t show up? The other question is about the ball hitting the spectator on 8, how much of a boost was that?
Michael Campbell: It did? I didn’t know that. Thanks. Really? It was a bad drive. But that’s how you win major championships is luckiness. You have to be lucky out there.
What was the other question, sorry?
Q: About you nearly not coming?
Michael Campbell: Oh, yeah, my situation was a month ago I had to qualify here, I had to qualify for the British Open, and I was going to play the French Open which is next week, and play like four events in a row, but I decided to I was talking to my management group and also to my caddie, and he said just go over, I think I finished tied 5th or 6th, I think four guys tied on the same score, just in, to get in Pinehurst, I was ready to go.
Q: Is there any significance to the design on the back of your shirt? Is that any kind of symbol or is it just a design?
Michael Campbell: Well, this is my own clothing, it’s called camboclothing.com. It’s an insignia in New Zealand, Kikikaha, in the back of my shirt, means inner strength, be strong.
Q: The other question is you popped off to the bathroom at least once on the backside, I think maybe twice. Small bladder or were you having some nerves?
Michael Campbell: I think it was nerves, to be honest, definitely nerves. I drank a lot of water out there, but it was definitely nerves. I think I went to the bathroom probably about five times today, so I was very nervous.
Q: Just to follow up on that, if this year they had not had qualifying in England, would you have even bothered to come here?
Michael Campbell: No. I wouldn’t be here with the trophy right now. It’s amazing. The USGA was kind enough to give us nine spots, three thousand miles away in England. And otherwise I wouldn’t have come over. You pay for your plane trip, your accommodations for one day, so the answer is no.
Q: The second part is, for those of who maybe don’t know that much. Can you tell us something about what it means for you to be a Maori, and what it means not so much as a New Zealander, but just as a Maori to win this?
Michael Campbell: Well, Australians and the Kiwis are fighting all the time. Private joke.
My background is basically many, many, many years ago, a guy came over from Scotland back in 1945, and landed in Auckland. And he was the mayor of Auckland and he had many wives back in those days, lucky man. And he married a Maori lady. And then so he goes back about four generations, I think, and that’s where it all started. That’s where the Cambo came from, it’s Scottish, it’s in my blood to play golf.
My coach is very important to me, we’re very spiritual people. We are very good at sport. Four and a half million people in New Zealand. There’s more sheep than people in New Zealand. It’s a fact. You don’t believe me, do you? There’s more sheep, I think, than people in New Zealand.
But I’m very proud to be who I am. I know it’s going to break down all the barriers back home. Because back home rugby is the main sport, being the All Blacks, as I said before. But I think winning a major championship for the Kiwis back home is going to be a great thing for the game of golf back home, especially for the Maori people. Because they’re very talented in other sports like rugby, rugby league. But golf hasn’t been one of their top priorities or top sports played in New Zealand.
Q: Stevie Williams called this the single greatest sporting moment in New Zealand history and said that to have a okay, I’m not going to try to pronounce it Maori win was, on this kind of a stage was incredible. Can you speak to that and can you also say what you all said back and forth when you came off the green?
Michael Campbell: Stevie has been a great influence in my career, the last ten years. He’s been very supportive of my golf, New Zealand golf, New Zealand junior golf. He’s obviously been associated with Tiger. He’s brought back a lot of experience, to the game of golf back in New Zealand. And the words we exchanged was he said, you’ve made a lot of people back home very, very proud when I walked off the green. And I got pretty emotional once again, and I lost it completely.
We have an understanding that a lot of Maori people back home are trodden on, they’re very much a race that sometimes get very lazy I’ll admit to that, too. You get to places where they get very complacent. But then you turn your whole career around very quickly. It’s like any sport we play, any humans that we play, play the sport, is that we, sometimes, get a little lazy, and I’ll be the first to admit to that.
Q: In 2003 you climbed to the top 20 in the world rankings, you came over and played over here, had a tough time and hadn’t played here much since, and I wondered if you could talk about how you kind of came back from that experience and how you made yourself so comfortable here this week?
Michael Campbell: Well, 2003 was a very different scenario. Basically I came over with my family, I uprooted them from their house in England and brought them here. We had no house, no fixed a body, no house to go to, 12 weeks on the road with myself, my wife and two little boys, who are very active, ages of 4 and 2 back in those days, and a nanny, as well. It was just completely chaos, and we were very unsettled. I said, look, my family are more important than this game. Let’s just pack it up in 2003, go back to England and play the European Tour. So I didn’t complete my 15 tournaments on the US PGA TOUR, and which meant that I couldn’t join the Tour, I think, for another three or four years. It’s a rule they introduced a long time ago and it protects the players. And I understand that.
But winning this week has definitely changed my attitude or direction a little bit. So I might just come over here, if I’m allowed to play on the PGA TOUR, as well, among my fellow peers like Darren Clarke, Ian Poulter, Harrington, I think it’s time for a move now. I really enjoy playing here. I really enjoy playing Europe, as well. I support the European Tour, and the Australasian Tour. And it’s groovy.
Q: A couple of quick questions. Last year at Shinnecock you made 7 birdies in the second round trying to make the cut. Was your game coming back at that point? Second question, this summer Cinderella Man is playing, have you seen that, do you feel like this is a Cinderella story?
Michael Campbell: Kind of, I think, not as much of Jason Gore’s story. He was a great example there. I think he actually did me a favor. Can you imagine Retief Goosen winning back to back U.S. Opens, winning for the third time, Tiger is chasing and Vijay is chasing, and the story with Jason Gore. I was sandwiched there just doing my own thing, patiently waiting and waiting. I was very patient out there today on the golf course. And I had a great start, birdied the first hole. And I missed an opportunity on the 4th hole, but made some great saves. And I think I had like 16 birdies this week. That’s a lot of birdies around here. But I think I had 16 bogeys, as well.
But the last hole, I wanted to hole that last putt desperately, because I wanted to be under par. I said to myself, keep your focus. As you know, I missed it, but it’s nice anyway, nice to hold this puppy. Nice little puppy, here.
Q: What hole was it when you really felt like you controlled this tournament and the tournament was in your hands? Was there a point today?
Michael Campbell: Well, I heard the roars going up when Tiger birdied 13, and I heard it when he birdied 17. And I knew what was going on. I pulled my driver on 16, and I just wanted to make bogey and still have a three shot lead or two shot lead whatever it was. And but I hold a great putt from 25 feet away on 17. So I had a three shot lead going to the last hole. And I thought to myself, just keep your focus, once again, keep your focus. And just focus on something small in the distance and just went in the rough, I thought hack it out, chip it on and get out of there.
Q: Am I correct that the only other win you had as a professional in this country is ’94, the Tommy Armour event in St. Louis. What do you remember about that event? Am I correct, it was this same weekend, opposite the U.S. Open?
Michael Campbell: Correct. Right on the number there. I missed qualifying with my mate, Lucas, and we were traveling together around America, playing all the tournaments in America in ’94. And we came across the U.S. Open qualifying. We both, unfortunately, missed.
And then the same week as the U.S. Open was this Tommy Armour. It was the Tommy Armour Tour in St. Louis Fox Run. It was really expensive there. It cost me like $1,000 to enter. I couldn’t afford $1,000, I had to get a loan out. So luckily enough I entered and won. So I was very pleased with that result.
Q: Do you know what you won?
Michael Campbell: $40,000. I have no idea how much I won today, no idea. I don’t really care right now. All I care right now is about this little puppy right next to me.
Q: Congratulations. You’ve resurrected your career a couple of times, you mentioned 1998. What was the low point and how low was it at the beginning of this year when you were missing all those cuts?
Michael Campbell: Different cases, I think. ’98 was shooting 80s all the time, close to 90s, I just could not play the game. I could not focus on what I was doing. I could not swing the golf club. I remember throwing my golf club or golf bag across the room in a hotel room one time. I thought this is it, it’s all over. I was about to get an ax and chop them up in two pieces and throw them away. But my wife was very supportive. She believed in me and got me going again.
And start of the year this year I was very, very close to actually playing well. It’s very hard to understand, I was missing cuts by one or two shots, but I wasn’t playing that bad. I missed five in a row at one time. But I knew I was working on the right things, with my coach, and I knew that it would come into fruition, and it did happen today. And just the self belief, and just the patience over the last ten years, really, has really paid dividends.
Q: Can you just go through the brief history of your injuries and your playing career?
Michael Campbell: Turned pro in ’93. Won my first tournament in Australia when back in ’93, I think it was. And then I moved on to Europe in ’95.
Q: Injuries, not victories, injuries?
Michael Campbell: Injuries, sorry. Injuries, my wrist. My left wrist. Basically I played too much. I played like 8 tournaments in a row in seven different countries, back at the end of ’95, I think it was, October, November was the time. I played from Spain to Australia to Japan, back to Spain, I traveled the world, because I was a hot item. I just finished third at the British Open, a young kid from New Zealand doing so good, age 25, 26 years old. They wanted me to play around the world. So maybe it was greed, maybe I wanted to expose myself too much, I don’t know. And then all of a sudden I felt this tweak in my left wrist. And I thought this was no good. I was playing the New Zealand Open in December and it just snapped on me. I can’t remember exactly what it what it actually is but it’s the tendon came off my bone or came off around this area, here, and I couldn’t even hold for months I couldn’t even hold a pen or a spoon or a fork for two months it was so painful.
Then I met a few people who gave me alternative things. Obviously you had the option of having the surgery, but I wanted to stay clear of that surgery, so I tried other means of fixing my problem. And I found acupuncture very helpful. And Dale Richardson who actually helped me a lot to rehab my left wrist has helped me a lot, too. And that was it, really. The only major injury I’ve had so far was my left wrist.
Q: Given the popularity of rugby, do you think your country fellow countrymen can fully appreciate what you did today?
Michael Campbell: I think they do. I think they do. Because it’s been a long time between drinks. 22 years since Charles won the championship.
Q: 42 years?
Michael Campbell: Sorry, 42, yes. I’m tired, now, you see. I’m been talking for the last hour. 42 years ago, sorry, was the last time we won a major championship. And I think people back home really appreciate that.
The All Blacks have won the World Cup once, back in ’87. But to win this major championship for the country, obviously I do it for myself, but also the people back home. I won this for the people back home, all the sports fans.
Q: Just a fact to check, did your wife call from New Zealand, and also you mentioned a joke that Olin Browne had told you on the 15th. How nervous were you then, what was the joke, what was that
Michael Campbell: I can’t remember the joke, because it went over the top of my head, sorry. (Laughter.) Because I was so my mind started chattering a lot. There was a bit of a wait. I think one of the guys in front of us, Mark, I think, left it in the rough, there. So he came over and did the right thing to break the tension, and told me a joke, but it didn’t work. It was funny, but I was still focusing on what I was going to do at that point in time. But thanks, Olin, you’re a great gentleman to play with, and I really appreciate your support, especially the last nine holes.
My wife is in England right now. My family, my mum and dad and my sister, Michelle, they live and my nephews live in New Zealand, my wife and kids are right now in Brighton, in England.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about 17? Yesterday you chipped in, today you had the birdie putt. That little corner of the course there is very loud. I think Payne Stewart said it’s the loudest roar he ever heard in ’99 when he went through there. Maybe you that’s something you look back on?
Michael Campbell: The 17th hole will always be in my mind, forever. I played it in I think 9 shots, three birdies and a par. So it’s going to be if I ever design a golf course, 17 will be in it. It will be exactly the same distance, same dimensions of the green, same I just love the 17th (laughter).
Q: What plans do you have for showing off the trophy, and how do you expect your life to change now that you won the U.S. Open, for yourself and for your family?
Michael Campbell: Well, my schedule has changed now. I don’t have to qualify for the British Open now or for Augusta or for I think I’m not sure the exemptions I’ve got winning this trophy, here, but I’m sure it will be plenty and fruitful. But my life and my lives as a golfer with change, but as a person, never. I’m a family man. You ask anybody who is close to me, all I care about is my family. And certainly golf is always second in my life.
And going back home, I want to share this success back home, some day, I want to go back home and have a little show off, you could say, and tell people back home that this is obviously my trophy, but also theirs. And that’s more important to me, because my grandmother and I were very, very close, when she passed away, when I was 16. And she said to me, Michael, you will change people’s lives. She instilled confidence in me. And when she passed away when I was 16 years old my golf game just went through the roof, skyrocketed. It was unbelievable what happened. I won in New Zealand and Australia, and turn pro, and then everything changed a lot, very quickly, too quickly, I think. And so I know she’s with me right now, and I’m sure when I holed that putt and looked to the sky I just thought to myself, she’s there, smiling down on me.
Q: What’s her name?
Michael Campbell: Titihoya (ph.). I used to call her Tit, T i t. And she was a special person. My mom and dad are special, they molded me to where I am. And I appreciate their love and their guidance, what they’ve given me as a person. But I still can’t believe it, sorry.
Q: When you first came in here, you mentioned that Ben Hogan had been a big hero of yours. You’re 36-years-old, never saw him hit a shot, I’m sure, in your life, why such a fascination with him?
Michael Campbell: I love the way he moved. I love the way that Ben, Mr. Hogan, moved. I’ve read all his books. Growing up as a teenager, I’ve got all his books at home. I just admire his work ethic, the way he worked so hard. And when you put it on paper, it’s just so true, the way he typifies or explains how the golf swing works, in his opinion. And I was a great believer in that, ever since he came along. And I just he’s been a huge we all have role models or people we look up, and he was definitely one of those people. He’s one of my heroes.
Q: Michael, thank you for your time, and congratulations on your victory.
Source – US Open
Photo – Anthony Powter