Sunday, January 24, 2010


Michael Campbell, the 2005 US

Open champion's free fall continues
From United States Open champion in 2005 down to a player who missed the cut in 17 events on the European Tour last year ... and again in the Abu Dhabi Championship this past week.That's the free fall from a place in the sun to the golfing pits that has beset popular New Zealander Michael Campbell whose surname supports his theory that a century or two ago his forefathers came from Scotland.
Campbell, pictured with the US Open championship trophy in 2005, says he has seriously considered quitting professional golf but the only thing holding him back is that he would have nothing else to do.
Campbell's new season began horribly when he signed for an 11-over par 83 on day one of the Abu Dhabi European Tour event last Thursday, the worst score of any player over the four rounds.
Campbell scored 77 on the second day to miss the halfway cut in the first event of his 18th season in the pro ranks.
Disappointingly, his scoring display in the UAE capital continued an embarrassing downturn in form for the 2005 US Open champion who either missed the cut or was forced to withdraw in 17 of 21 events he contested on the European Tour last year.
Campbell's 249th overall standing on the 2009 money list was his lowest since joining the European Tour full time in 1995 while his earnings of €19,655 ($NZ38,545 ) was also the poorest of his career.
This year will mark an important point in his career as some of the exemptions for winning the US Open will expire, including April's US Masters and July's Open at St Andrews.
Campbell will drive down Magnolia Lane for what could be his last-ever Augusta appearance, knowing he has never played all four rounds in nine appearances.
But that was of little concern to 40-year old.
"I just don't know what is going on as it's like there are two Michael Campbells at a golf tournament these days," he said.
"On the practice range my game is fine and I am hitting balls perfectly but when I get onto a golf course I just tighten up. I just can't bring it from the practice range to the first tee.
"Maybe it's the expectations of trying too hard because I can feel myself tightening-up on the golf course.
"But what I do know is that it has been a horrible rut over the last two to three years. I've been through this before, so I have some idea what it's like but hopefully this will be the last time.
"I know that my peers are feeling for me and I've got a lot of support from other people but it's up to me, really.
"The lows of my career have always been very, very low but then my highs have always been very high so there has never been any happy medium for me unfortunately.
"I've even thought about quitting but what am I going to do with myself?"
"I've accomplished a lot in my life that I get in a comfort zone, take it easy, stop practising, don't go to the gym to work out and that sort of things.
"It's almost like I am doing it on purpose to get away from the limelight but now I miss it. Though not so much the limelight but just winning golf tournaments ."
Two people Campbell has spoken with have been fellow New Zealander Steve Williams, who caddies for Tiger Woods, and fellow US Open winner Ernie Els.
"I was chatting with Steve Williams towards the later part of last year at a tournament somewhere and he suggested I should try to be more aggressive when I am playing poorly," said Campbell.
"That's a strong aspect of Tiger's make-up when he is not playing that great. So sometimes when you get defensive, Steve said you can become more negative.
"When I spoke to Ernie all he said he (when in the doldrums) was trying to do was break 40 for nine holes and that's how low he got.
"So having very low expectations helped him come through that period of his career and to start winning again.
"So that was a nice little tip from Ernie but I'm trying to soak-up information as I can and filter out what I feel will work for me.
"But while they have been helpful it's up to me to choose my path. I know whatever it is can be fixed very easy so here's hoping."
Campbell said he would resume working with Belgian-born sports psychologist Josh Vanstiphout at this week's Qatar Masters in Doha.

+Australian Ian Baker-Finch, winner of the Open at Royal Birkdale in 1991, had a comparable complete loss of ability to play golf at the highest level ... and he never found it again, eventually retiring competitively.



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