Confident Campbell dances to his own particular tune

Click to follow
The Independent Online

After scoring a 68 in the third round, which promoted him from three under par to seven under, Campbell issued an extraordinary statement. "If I am five shots behind Tiger going into the final round I have a chance."

Campbell's ultra confidence has come from several sources. The most important, of course, was his breakthrough victory in the US Open in Pinehurst, North Carolina, last month which meant that he gained a gold card to the major winners' club.

Only six players - Bobby Jones (1926 and 1930), Gene Sarazen (1932), Ben Hogan (1953), Lee Trevino (1971), Tom Watson (1982) and Tiger Woods (2000) - have won the US Open Championship and The Open in the same year. Woods' double, following his US Open win at Pebble Beach, coincided with the last time The Open was played here. Campbell believes he can become the seventh.

"My victory at Pinehurst sends a message to all of the European Tour players," Campbell said. "That you can win major championships when you're not playing in America. I'm happy the way things are right now and the way my whole career is panning out. Why change things? My roots are here, I've been here for 12 years and I enjoy playing in Europe.

"Hopefully it's going to help guys like Clarke, Westwood, Poulter, Harrington and Montgomerie. All of these great players have won multiple titles around the world and they should realise that if I can do it, so can they. These guys have seen me play, they've seen me miss cuts, lose my card and win tournaments, and I've seen them do the same. We are all close. There's a fine line between winning tournaments and winning majors."

Campbell, who has a house in Brighton in Sussex as well as Wellington, is also comfortable at the home of golf. Ten years ago he shot 71, 71, 65 and 76 when he finished five under par. In the St Andrews Open of that year Campbell led going into the final round but ultimately missed out, finishing joint third as John Daly went on to defeat Costantino Rocca in a play-off.

"St Andrews owes me one,'' Campbell added. "Ten years ago, I didn't quite get over the hurdle. She was nice to me today. I had a few lucky bounces and missed a few bunkers. I think I've done my time, maybe tomorrow could be the day when I go out and do the business. So far it looks like Pinehurst revisited. 'Goose' is up there with Tiger and a bunch of other guys. I knew I was playing well enough if I stayed patient, which you've got to be around this golf course."

Nobody is unfamiliar with the Tiger, and for non-aficionados the "Goose" is the South African Retief Goosen, who stands at nine under following a 66 yesterday. Campbell and Goosen exchanged places at Pinehurst. Goosen went into the final round with a comfortable lead, shot 81 and Campbell picked up the ball and ran with it, even handing off Woods in the process.

Campbell's charge in the third round began with three successive birdies from the seventh which enabled him to go to the turn in 34, and he came home in the same number. There were several blips - a bogey five at the third, where he found the bunker, and a three-putt at the short 11th - but the damage was soon repaired with a 20-foot putt for a three at the 12th, followed by two further birdies at the 14th and a two-putt birdie three at the last.

"I feel very, very confident," Campbell said. "I know that I gained a lot of experience when I won the US Open. I feel that it is going to hold me through if I get in a situation to win another major championship. This will hold me in good stead for the last round."

Campbell said he was delighted that The Open has come hot on the heels of the US Open. "This is great for me. When you're on a good run, in good form, it's easy to carry it on. It enables me to prove a point, which is that I'm not just a flash in the pan. I'm here for a very long time and I want to win more major championships. The hardest one is the first and the rest will hopefully get a little easier. I did my time at Pinehurst and I'm looking forward to the next 24 hours."

Campbell, who started playing golf at the age of 10 after caddieing for his father, won his first tournament in 1992, the Australian Amateur Championship. The same year he was named New Zealand's young sportsman of the year and following his triumph in the US he is odds-on to be named the New Zealand sportsman of the year (he is now 36) for 2005 - although Graham Henry and his All Blacks may also win a few votes.