Campbell braves the cold to turn heat on rivals

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The Independent Online

As the rain lashed down, the wind howled and players battened down here for four days of X-rated fun at the Carton House of horrors, Michael Campbell labelled his rivals "whingeing Poms". Well, somebody had to turn up the heat at the Irish Open yesterday.

And as the reigning US Open champion, the New Zealander was the perfect man. It may have been positively Arctic outside in the pro-am but to Campbell - a hard-bitten Maori who believes masochism is a valuable job skill - it was a challenge to rise to.

"You know, with all this wind and rain half of the field have given up before we've even teed off," he said. "In the locker-room it's all about how cold and wet it is. My attitude is, 'Let's just get on with the job'. But I think it's great when I hear players whinge. That means those guys are gone already; they've lost two shots before they've started."

But, in his younger, less experienced years did Campbell never "whinge"? "No," he replied. "But then, I'm not a Pom."

The fireworks were thus let off, although the conditions just outside Dublin were too overcast for anyone to notice. There was Ian Woosnam confessing, "if I make the cut it will be a miracle" and Darren Clarke saying "no, it's not a very appealing prospect".

But in Colin Montgomerie, Campbell did find an ally of sorts. The Scot was not too concerned about what the conditions could do to his game but more what they could do to the demanding course that he designed. "A 74 could be a good score around here," he said, grimacing at the prospect of disgruntled players forming a disorderly queue outside his door. "We've been unlucky with the weather yet again."

Indeed, the Irish Open would not be the Irish Open without waterproofs and to that end Montgomerie was off to talk to officials about moving the tees forward to limit the carnage.

Perhaps, Montgomerie was not being too altruistic. The Order of Merit champion has missed six of his last eight cuts, the worst streak in his professional career, and his Ryder Cup place does not seem the certainty it was. "I'm not worried," said Montgomerie. "In fact I'm very confident." He and Campbell both. Two out of 156 ain't bad.

* Jose Maria Olazabal has won the European Tour's shot of the month for April for his five-wood approach to the 15th green in the final round of the US Masters.