'I snuck in there without anyone noticing,' admitted Campbell, who pocketed $1,170,000 for the win. 'Nobody took notice of this little kid from New Zealand until the last nine holes. There I was telling myself 20 times a hole to keep my focus and it worked.'
It was Campbell's first major victory and first title in the United States. The win was Campbell's first PGA Tour victory and his seventh on the European Tour. The 36-year-old had not visited the winner's circle since 2003.
'It's amazing, just completely changed my whole career,' said Campbell. 'This is what I've practiced for and I can't believe I am holding this trophy. I knew if I could shoot two- or three-under I would have a chance of winning and things went my way.'
Woods' putter let him down late in the round. He missed par putts from inside five feet at the 16th and 17th holes, but drained a 12-footer for birdie at 18 to shoot a one-under 69. Woods, the reigning Masters champion, finished in second at two-over-par 282 for his second runner-up finish at a major. Woods came up just short against Rich Beem in the 2002 PGA Championship.
'I did not get the speed of putts,' said Woods, who took 128 putts in the championship. 'I thought I needed to get to even par and hopefully that would get me in a playoff. It was not easy out there. I hit the ball well, it was poor decision making.'
As solidly as Campbell played (one of four rounds under par on Sunday), he benefited from the rest of the field struggling badly.
Retief Goosen, who collected his second U.S. Open title last year, held a three-shot lead Sunday, but completely fell apart. He posted a six-over 41 on the front nine, then bogeyed five in a row on the back nine. All totaled, he shot an 11-over 81 and tied for 11th at plus-eight.
'It was disappointing,' admitted Goosen. 'This is nothing serious. Nobody died or anything. I had a great Father's Day with the kids. The family is a lot more important than playing 81 out here today.'
Jason Gore, the Nationwide Tour player who golfed with Goosen in the final group on Sunday, fared even worse. He carded a 14-over-par 84 and dropped all the way to a tie for 49th at plus-14.
Once Goosen collapsed with a double-bogey at two and a bogey at three, Campbell assumed the lead. Campbell drained a 10-foot birdie putt at the first, then his lead was extended when Goosen made two more bogeys.
At the eighth, Campbell's drive hit a spectator in the head and bounced into the rough. His approach from 174 yards out landed 50 feet right of the hole and he three-putted for a bogey.
Campbell did not get his game rolling until the back nine, but that's when Woods moved into the picture.
Woods, a two-time U.S. Open champion, was one-over on his front nine thanks to some mistakes with second shots at one and two. He found himself eight shots out of the lead, but thanks to most of the field going backward and steady play from Woods on the rest of the front nine, he was within striking distance.
Woods sank a six-foot birdie putt at 10 to move within two. He knocked his approach inside three feet to set up birdie at 11 and now the No. 1 player in the world was down one.
But Campbell rebounded at the par-five 10th. His second shot missed right of the green and the 36-year-old chipped 35 feet long of the stick. Campbell drained the long birdie putt to move to even par and take a two-stroke lead.
Campbell converted a nice par save at the 11th, then came up 25 feet short with his approach at 12. The Kiwi rolled in that birdie putt and found himself three ahead.
Woods ran home a six-footer for birdie at 15 which prompted a famous fist-pump from the nine-time major winner. The good feelings were quickly erased as Woods made a mistake at No. 16. His second came up short of the green and his pitch stopped five feet from the cup. Woods missed the par putt to fall three back again.
Woods put himself in a good spot for birdie at 17. He was 22 feet from the hole, but ran his putt four feet past the hole. Woods, normally one of the best in the world at short putts in pressure-packed situations, missed this putt and was now in serious trouble.
Campbell, four ahead, sank a clutch four-footer for par at 15, but drove in the rough at 16. He laid up his second shot, then hit his 98-yard third shot 40 feet left of the stick. Campbell two-putted for the bogey, but now only had a three-shot lead over Woods.
Campbell played safely at 17, stopping 20 feet short of the hole. He ran in yet another long birdie putt and was four clear of Woods, but the two-time U.S. Open champion birdied 18 to claw within three.
Armed with a three-shot cushion, Campbell missed the fairway and laid up into the fairway at 18. His third came to rest five feet from the hole, but he missed the par putt.
All that meant was that Campbell's first major victory would be a two-shot win, not three.
'I think I had three shots to play with on the last hole,' said Campbell. 'So sinking that birdie putt on 17 was a turning point.'
Campbell joined Bob Charles as the only players from New Zealand to win major championships. Charles captured the 1963 British Open, a tournament where Campbell had some history.
At the 1995 British Open at St. Andrews, Campbell took a two-shot lead into the final round. He shot a 76 on that Sunday and tied for third place.
But on this Sunday 10 years later, Campbell is a U.S. Open champion. It's almost a shock considering he almost did not play this week. He did not want to go through the qualifying, but his management talked him into it and Campbell got in at Walton Heath.
'I was at ease with the golf course,' said Campbell, who became the first qualifier to win since Steve Jones in 1996. 'It wasn't my turn in '95. I went through some ups and downs, but deep down inside, I knew had something in me to do something special.'
Sergio Garcia (70), Tim Clark (70) and Mark Hensby (74) shared third place at five-over-par 285. For Hensby, that is his second consecutive top-five in a major after a share of fifth at the Masters.
Davis Love III (69), Rocco Mediate (71) and Vijay Singh (72) tied for sixth at plus-six. Nick Price (72) and Arron Oberholser (73) shared ninth place at seven-over-par 287.