Golf: Campbell finds unique inspiration for Merion

Michael Campbell. Photo /Getty Images
Michael Campbell. Photo /Getty Images

Michael Campbell has found an unlikely source of knowledge about the Merion Golf Club ahead of next week's 113th US Open Championship in Pennsylvania.

The 2005 champion, who has never played at the infamous layout, was recently invited to a Kiss concert by lead guitarist, and his good mate, Tommy Thayer. The hard rock veteran gave him the full rundown of the course and how he needed to play to make the cut at the US Open for the first time since 2007.

"[Tommy] is an absolute golf tragic and he was telling me that that the last time that Merion hosted the US Open was when David Graham won in the 1980s so it was a long time ago," said Campbell from his home in Marbella, Spain.

"He told me that it was a really tricky golf course and that you need to hit the ball straight and have a good short game. He was giving me some good tips. The strength of my game is my iron play and he said that is what you need to play Merion well. It is similar to Pinehurst in that regard."

Campbell is excited to be back at the US Open. It's a tournament that he has a special history with since his career defining win at Pinehurst No 2 in 2005.

The 44-year-old will have the chance to reminisce at the start of the week as for the first time the USGA will stage a Champions Dinner on the Tuesday ahead of the tournament where all the past champions from the event who are still alive will be celebrated.

Campbell said the standout memory from his win that captured all of New Zealand was holding off the charge of the World No 1 when he was in "full flow".

It seems like a long time ago and it has been. In the past eight years Campbell has experienced the lows of the game and seen his world ranking drop outside the top 900 in world. He is back to 284 and on the up again.

Last year, he showed renewed belief when he finished third at the Portugal Masters only two shots back from Irish winner Shane Lowry.

He followed that with a tie for eighth at the Hong Kong Open.

He started this year well with two top 20 finishes at the Qatar Masters and Abu Dhabi Championship but faded with five missed cuts in a row.

"It has been quite a mixed year for me. The end of 2012 was really good and I was back playing well in Europe and in contention to win golf tournaments which was a nice feeling. I started well in 2013 and carried on that momentum. I hit a bit of a lull for a few months and now I am starting to play well again. It has been a typical Michael Campbell year really. Up and down like a yo-yo just like the rest of my career. I have had my low periods but I have had plenty of highs as well."

Sitting in the late evening sun in the warmth of Southern Spain, Campbell is comfortable with life.

He has endured some hard times that would have seen many other professionals hang up the clubs for good but Campbell has never given up.

He has shown that when he is in contention for big tournaments he still has the ability to compete with the world's best.

"That mindset never leaves you. The desire to compete and to win doesn't go away and I wasn't surprised that when I was back in contention I felt very calm and comfortable. I had been there before and I knew how to deal with it so that is a good sign for the next time I am in that position."

He was buoyed by the news that he is not alone in flying the Kiwi flag this year after Hamilton professional Steve Alker qualified for his first US Open.

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 22 Dec 2014 16:40:23 Processing Time: 512ms