Golf: Campbell finds right combination

By Daniel Richardson

Move to Spain and work again with former coach have turned things around for the former Open winner.

Michael Campbell. Photo / AP
Michael Campbell. Photo / AP

When the players finished their final round at last weekend's BMW Masters at the Lake Malaren Golf Club in Shanghai, they walked along a stretch of grass to take interview requests from journalists or sign autographs for fans.

Spain's Jose Maria Olazabal posed for numerous photos and even English pro Simon Dyson - who? - received an exuberant reception.

Eventually, a Kiwi bloke walked down the stairs having signed for a final round of 69, which eventually took him to a share of 30th and a cheque for 45,776.18 euros, to little fanfare.

Heck, this is the same bloke who once held off Tiger Woods down the stretch to win the 2005 US Open.

He barely fielded a request for an autograph, which was indicative of how far Michael Campbell has fallen in recent years.

You know the story. Rounds in the 80s, missed cuts and people questioning why he doesn't just give the game up.

There was some merit in the suggestion, too. Campbell made only three cuts from 20 starts and banked a mere 13,576 euros on the European Tour in 2010. In one particularly bad period he also missed 69 cuts in 90 official starts.

But things have turned around during the past few months and the 43-year-old even claimed third place and a 140,850 euro payday at the Portugal Masters three weeks ago. It was more money than he had earned on the European Tour in 2009, 2010 and 2011 combined and his highest finish since he tied for third in the British Masters in September 2008.

Campbell insists there has been no magic bullet for his mini career revival, but it's been a collection of things that have finally given him the right recipe.

His family have moved to southern Spain. He has also renewed his ties with coach Jonathan Yarwood.

Campbell was planning to move his family to Switzerland at the start of the year but there was an issue getting a resident's permit so Marbella won out.

"It's a great climate," Campbell says. "It's very similar to Australia. The weather there is fantastic and we live on a golf course so it's great for me to practice.

"I practice pretty much every second day now on a week off. Generally, I wouldn't do that previously. That's what has really helped me, I think, with my form over the last couple of months. It's a combination of seeing my coach again and playing more.

"We had a separation for three years and I thought the grass was greener but it's not so I came back to him in June this year and, ever since then, I've had a really good last three months."

Campbell, who has earned more than 11 million euros on the European Tour since 1994, said there had been times during the past couple of years when he thought about giving up but his desire to succeed came through.

"Inside of me, I just know that I'm not a quitter. I don't quit, simple as that. I've worked very hard and I knew it was still in there somewhere but needed to be peeled back, like an onion. There are lots of layers there and I've finally found something that's working. A combination of my coach and just everything."

Clearly he is more content away from the greens and, given that golf puts such a high strain on a player's mental toughness, you get the feeling his settled home life is a major factor in his form spike.

"It's been a very disjointed last seven years," Campbell admits.

"For three years I was travelling back and forth from Australia to the European Tour seven times a year and I'm no spring chicken. I can't do that any more.

"I suppose for five years it's been a tough road, personally with the family and all the moving around. It's tough for the kids. They've been to three different schools in three years so it was very unsettling for everyone."

Aside from Campbell's positive results in Shanghai and Portugal, he also made the cut at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and Omega European Masters recently and sits 80th on the Race to Dubai standings.

The top 60 players qualify for the season-ending tournament in Dubai later this month and Campbell will need to earn another decent-sized cheque in the next couple of weeks to make the cash-rich event, but his recent play has shown he's capable of doing this.

Campbell, however, has his sights set much higher.

"I want to get back in the top 15 in the world, play all the majors," he says. "It's amazing how one week can change your whole mind mentally.

"My goals are now getting higher and higher, which is great, but the most important thing is having fun out there. That's one thing, I've been working with a guy who's said to me, 'just enjoy it, it's only a game of golf'."

If he continues to enjoy himself on course and the results keep flowing he might have to stop and sign a few more autographs again.

Daniel Richardson travelled to Shanghai courtesy of Air New Zealand.

- APNZ

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