Michael Campbell might start a new trend. Professional golfers soon could be spending less time working on their games and more time getting their personal lives in order. It might just net them a U.S. Open trophy and a payday of $1.81 million.
That’s what Campbell earned for winning the HSBC World Match Play Championship Sept. 18. He topped Paul McGinley, 2 and 1, in the 36-hole final to earn the richest prize in any official golf tournament.
Campbell became the fourth player to win the World Match Play and U.S. Open in the same season, following Gary Player (1965), Hale Irwin (1974) and Ernie Els (1994).
Campbell’s turnaround this year is startling. At the start of the season he was taking off weekends with unwelcome regularity, missing the cut in his first five tournaments.
Drastic times call for drastic measures, and in February Campbell sat down with his wife, Julie, and decided to make important changes in his personal life. He refuses to reveal what those changes are or what caused him to make them, but they have paid huge dividends.
“I’ve worked on different aspects of my life, not just golf,” he said. “People think that you work on golf, golf, golf. But there are other things that make you tick as a person. There are other things in this world that make you feel better about yourself. There’s a big universe out there, and I worked on a lot of things outside golf. It’s personal, but I’ve changed my whole routine around.”
Campbell’s U.S. Open victory made him an overnight hero in his native New Zealand, and his latest victory could propel him to his first European Order of Merit title. He managed to climb atop the European pyramid – leapfrogging Retief Goosen, his semifinal opponent – by playing marginally better than McGinley in a final that was as insipid as the field that started the tournament.
It was a final neither seemed to want to win, with golf that failed to dazzle. Campbell was 1 up after the morning 18 when he won the par-5 18th with a birdie. He moved 3 up after three holes in the afternoon, but saw his lead evaporate when McGinley won Nos. 6, 7 and 9 to draw even.
The par-5 12th hole proved a huge turning point and arguably won the New Zealander the match. Campbell needed just a 4-iron for his second shot, but nearly hit the ball out of bounds. He was able to fashion a pitch shot from near a boundary fence, then holed a 5-foot putt for birdie and a 1-up lead.
“That was a huge turnaround,” Campbell said. “It was literally a foot from out of bounds. So that could have been a two-hole swing there.”
McGinley also labeled the 12th as the crucial point.
“The ball never ran for me all day,” McGinley said. “Twelve sums up everything for me. It was massive. I’ve come from 3 down to all square and, to use a boxing analogy, he’s on the ropes. He hits a poor second shot, and if he goes an extra 6 inches, he’s out of bounds and I win the hole to go 1 up. To go from 3 down to 1 up in four holes would have been massive psychologically. That was a huge, key point psychologically for him.”
McGinley dug his own grave with mistakes at Nos. 15 and 16. He missed the 15th green from the center of the fairway and made bogey. He then hooked his tee shot into trees at No. 16 and made another bogey. He lost both holes and Campbell waltzed to victory.
“I made some course management mistakes around Wentworth that you cannot afford to
do,” McGinley said. “I should have played the course a little bit more in hindsight than playing match play.”
The victory pushed Campbell back to No. 1 in European Tour earnings.
“One of my goals this week was to regain my No. 1 spot on the Order of Merit,” Campbell said. “I only have two tournaments left: the American Express Championship and the Volvo Masters. So this was a big week for me. I knew I had to play well.”
It also was a big week for McGinley. He was seeking his first victory of the season, but notched his third runner-up. More disappointing, it was his second runner-up finish at Wentworth this season. He was second to Angel Cabrera at the BMW Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event.
“It hurts like you can’t imagine that I’ve lost twice here, that I came second in two big tournaments,” he said.
Campbell, bound for the Presidents Cup, probably was hurting a little, too, after playing 138 holes during the week. But golf’s biggest official paycheck made up for that.