Golf: Campbell back from depths

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The Independent Online
For a man who almost won the Open Championship at St Andrews in 1995, Michael Campbell had a terrible 1996. How bad, the 27-year-old New Zealander only admitted to yesterday. "I was not enjoying the game," he said. "I was missing cuts on purpose. There was one where I had a 20-footer on the last hole and I three-putted on purpose because I didn't want to be there."

Some may have thought it, a few even done it, but it is rare for a golfer to admit to such a lack of professionalism. Campbell thought that the incident occurred in Spain, but on his two appearances in that country he qualified. "I couldn't tell you where it was. My mind was so fogged up," he said.

Campbell missed seven cuts in 17 tournaments in Europe last year, and, by finishing 120th on the money list, he failed by three places to regain his tour card. "I was chucking the towel in all the time and it was very, very stupid. If I missed out on my card by a couple of thousand pounds, and if I had made the cut when I purposely three-putted, I could have made my card for this year.

"I was very pessimistic about my ability last year but things have changed now. I feel this year is going to be very good."

Last week he opened the new season by finishing joint-seventh at the Johnnie Walker Classic. A 68 in the second round of the Heineken Classic here left him tied for fourth place, four shots behind the 133 total of the leader, Padraig Harrington.

Campbell is relying on sponsors' invitations to regain his card this year but, after the revelations, Campbell could have a tough road ahead, according to John Paramor, the European Tour's director of operations.

"It could affect the way sponsors regard him for invitations. It is the first time I've heard of something like this but sometimes you can get very low and it can affect you in some ways. I remember Seve Ballesteros saying, `the day I stop giving 100 per cent is the day I'll stop playing'."

It took a course-record 63 from Harrington, the 25-year-old from Dublin, to prevent a New Zealand takeover of the event. Harrington enjoyed the early-morning calm to roll in nine birdie putts and lead by two from Frank Nobilo and by three from Greg Turner, the first-round leader.

Ian Woosnam, the defending champion, shot a 72 for a 141, with Colin Montgomerie a shot further back after a 73. John Daly managed a 71 for a 143 total.