Michael Campbell managed to suspend the parliament of New Zealand back in June 2005. Such was the significance of Campbell’s victory at Pinehurst; ministers felt it was more important to watch their fellow countryman win the U.S. Open than deal with matters of State.
It was an impressive win, as he fended off the challenge of Tiger Woods, imagining the huge roars he heard rumbling through the pine trees were all for him rather than for their intended targets. He was on top of the world, and went on to claim the Volvo World Matchplay at Wentworth later in the year.
Yet four years later he was lost, a shoulder injury was not helping the cause, but his lack of confidence – especially with the driver – was killing him.
From late 2008 until March of this year, Campbell failed to finish inside the top 50 of a European Tour event. It was a stretch that saw him miss 35 of 44 cuts.
Some questioned whether he would disappear from competitive play in a similar fashion to the way Ian Baker-Finch drifted to the commentary box, but a chance meeting at last year’s Dunhill Links Championship seems to have changed his fortunes.
Campbell took a courtesy car from Carnoustie to St. Andrews with Sir Steve Redgrave, the five-time Olympic Gold Medal winner who claimed his titles in five consecutive Summer Games. The pair have been friends for six years and Campbell had been keen to rack his brains, and with the journey time close to 45 minutes, he had the perfect opportunity.
Redgrave told his friend to start working harder, explaining that once you’ve achieved the pinnacle of the sport there is no reason why you can’t do it again.
“if you’ve already climbed Everest, do it the next time without oxygen,” he said.
The words stuck and now some six months later, Campbell believes he’s turned the corner.
After an opening 67 at the Volvo China Open last week, he told the media he was on the way back. A third-round 75 knocked him back down the field but it was another check banked and a third consecutive cut made.
Campbell is traveling with a full-time fitness instructor keeping a careful eye on his shoulder problems, he’s working hard and seems to be making steps toward finding the sort of form which has propelled him to the top of the game.
This isn’t the first time he’s made a comeback, after finishing fifth on the European Tour Order of Merit his rookie season of 1995, a year in which he sniffed an Open Championship at St. Andrews, finished just outside the play-off, Campbell lost his way before re-emerging in 2000.
There’s nothing to say he can’t do the same again.
The future of the Volvo World Matchplay Championship is secure. Per Ericsson of Volvo, speaking during Saturday’s broadcast of the Volvo China Open, confirmed the event will be a regular fixture on the European Tour calendar.
Having been absent last year, the event will continue in its May time slot each year from now on.
The same can also be said for the new Volvo Golf Champions event which was played this year in Bahrain, shortly before the country was affected by civil unrest.
Ericsson confirmed the company’s pleasure with the tournament but said the host country and venue was still to be confirmed. Ericsson will travel to Bahrain next week to meet with officials and discuss the country’s future involvement.
Golf is not the only sport with question marks surrounding its future in the Kingdom, organizers of the Bahrain Formula 1 Grand Prix, which was cancelled due to the troubles, have until May 1st to confirm whether they will re-schedule the race for later this year.
One option which has been discussed with the Volvo Golf Champions is to move the event around the world, playing in a different region each year. With a February slot on the schedule one thing is for sure, “It won’t be played in Europe,” said Ericsson.