To enjoy the full Mail & Guardian online experience: please upgrade your browser
19 Sep 2005 11:03
New Zealander Michael Campbell picked up a million-pound jackpot by beating Ireland’s Paul McGinley two and one in the World Match Play Championship on Sunday and immediately revealed that the money didn’t matter.
“I’m financially set for my family and for myself. We play for the honour of being part of history.
My big buzz really is to have some sort of influence on junior golf back home in New Zealand,” said the 36-year-old Kiwi.
“I’m prepared to accept the responsibilities of being a role model back home.
“My legacy one day is to see these top New Zealand golfers, young kids, come through and win lots of majors and I want to be part of that when I retire, helping financially, or coaching.
“All I can do now in my prime is win trophies like this and it’s going to enhance a lot of kids back home to encourage them to play the sport,” he added.
Campbell admits that his stunning success this year—United States Open champion, now World Match Play champion, leading the European Order of Merit—only came about because of a major rethink about his lifestyle last year.
The shy New Zealander refused to go into details, but it was clear that his private life had been in turmoil.
“Myself and my wife, we found things down there that weren’t good,” was all he would say.
But the result led to wholesale changes.
“I worked on a different aspect of life, not just golf. There are other things in this world that makes you feel better about yourself.
“I’ve changed my whole routine around, changed my psychologist, I changed my fitness trainer, I changed the way that myself and my coach work together now. I’ve employed him full-time.
“I changed management groups. All of these aspects are very important for me to succeed this year,” said Campbell. “I’ve got a great formula going right now.”
It was the hapless McGinley on Sunday who felt the might of Campbell’s new formula.
Campbell led one up after the morning session and then got off to a sparkling start to the afternoon session.
After only three holes, he was three up as the Dubliner struggled to find his range after the 90-minute lunch break.
Campbell was not setting the Burma Course alight, but he was not doing a lot wrong.
“It wasn’t great golf out there,” he admitted afterwards.
But suddenly McGinley, a battle-hardened match-play competitor who learnt the game in Ireland before his Ryder Cup heroics, won three of the last four holes on the outward nine to reach the turn all square.
Campbell was now struggling, missing greens and putting himself in impossible positions.
It was enthralling if not spectacular stuff for the thousands of spectators following the match in dry but overcast conditions.
Campbell, a self-confessed match-play novice, was lucky not to go one down on the 10th when he three-putted from 35 feet, but McGinley missed from seven feet, allowing the two men to share the hole with bogeys.
If things were not difficult enough, a streaker decided to sprint across the 11th green to reveal her charms just as Campbell was lining up a 10-feet putt to go back in front.
After she was escorted away, Campbell settled himself back down again, but saw his winning attempt slip agonisingly past.
As the holes began to run out, the tension was etched on both players’ faces, neither wanting to be the first one to crack.
In the end, it was McGinley who cracked on the 16th tee.
Campbell had opened the door for him when he drove into the left fairway bunker, but McGinley made an even bigger mess of his drive with a wild hook off the tee and deep into the trees.
He managed to hack it out but nevertheless was on the fringe of the green in three, while Campbell was almost in the same spot, but in two.
Suddenly, Campbell was two up and with two to play, and it was all over bar the shouting.
It was a bitter letdown for the Dubliner, who had swept into the final with an impressive display of match play.
He saw off Thomas Bjorn six and five in the first round and then disposed of Luke Donald nine and eight, and Angel Cabrera four and three, but his form then deserted him when he needed it most.
“I am bitterly disappointed. It hurts a lot. It hurts like you can’t believe. Michael played well but he got a couple of breaks he needed,” said the 38-year-old.
Even the fact that his second-place finish put him atop the European Ryder Cup standings could not lift the pain.
“Perhaps tomorrow. Of course I desperately want to be on that team next year, but now it hurts, it hurts like you can’t believe,” he said.
It was made even worse by the fact that it was his second big loss at Wentworth this season. In May, he came second to Cabrera in the PGA Championship, Europe’s flagship event.
“Michael is buzzing with confidence. He’s had a great year. The US Open was great for him. That’s the sort of kick I need. I need a big tournament win,” said McGinley, whose last tour win was four years ago.
It was also a bitter blow for the hundreds of Irish golf fans who took the 6.40am plane from Dublin on Sunday morning to add their support to McGinley, attempting to become the first Irishman to win the World Match Play in its 41-year existence.—Sapa-AFP
Create Account | Lost Your Password?