Michael Campbell, 32, is currently playing in the Open golf tournament at Royal Lytham. He is ranked No 15 in the world, was second only to Tiger Woods in the number of tournaments won last season, and has already successfully defended his Heineken Classic title in Perth this year. Born in New Zealand, he turned professional in 1993, is a member of the European Tour and competes in tournaments throughout Europe, as well as in Australasia, Asia and the United States.
How do you prepare before a round?
I tend to go to the gym before a round no matter what time I'm teeing off, and I will bike for 30 minutes to warm up. Then I will stretch all the major muscle groups for another 30 minutes, but I do pay a lot of attention to the lower back, hamstring and shoulders. After that I move to the driving range, where I will hit balls for 30 minutes, starting with the short irons and working my way through the bag to the driver. This is my standard routine and means that I can be up at 5am if I'm scheduled to tee off at 7am.
Do you have a set routine after a round?
That depends on how happy I am with my game. If I've played well and am satisfied, just a warm-down and stretch is enough for me. I have a full-time physio and chiropractor, and he controls my routine before and after a round; but if I've not hit the ball well, I will go to the range and have a golf workout. Occasionally I will work out in the gym, but that depends on time.
Golfers are particularly prone to injuries to their lower backs. What do you do to try and prevent this?
Golf is basically an unnatural game – you put lots of stress on certain areas, and with the twisting it is no shock that our backs can suffer. I do a lot of work on strengthening my core stability, the muscles in the lower back, hips, stomach and those supporting the spine. My physio makes me do a lot of golf-specific exercises to work these areas, and I do them every day. Golf has changed in recent years and has become more fitness-orientated, not only physically but mentally. Since working properly on fitness I have noticed a great improvement in my performances.
How physically exacting is competing in a tournament?
We can spend up to five hours on the course playing a single round, and that is a long time to be on your feet. Golf is hard mentally and demands huge levels of concentration. I find it very important to switch completely off from golf between shots. I talk to my playing partners or caddie about anything except the round, and then completely focus on each shot as I visualise and execute it. It is also important to keep energy levels up, so I eat bananas and energy bars and drink lots of water. It can be very hard playing in 35 degrees in Australia or the humidity of Asia. Basically I now believe that you need to be physically fit to be mentally fit, particularly if you want to perform and win when the pressure is on during the last day.
A few years ago you changed your lifestyle. How?
I started working on fitness, started using a psychologist, and employed a chef to prepare my meals. Golf and sport in general used to allow more easy-going attitudes towards going out, drinking and smoking. Now it is more professional, and if you want to be at the top level, you have to work on everything. For instance, I quit smoking, and see the psychologist and physio as equally important as the actual playing. It is more about discipline, and I needed to learn that. We are competing against Tiger and he works really hard on all aspects, so we have to as well.