Campbell Conquers Open as Goose Collapses and Tiger meows

By Peter Aviles
Updated: June 21, 2005


Michael Campbell

NEW JERSEYUnheralded and relatively unknown Michael Campbell (unknown to most) captures the 105th United States Open, but it took a Retief Goosen collapse and Tiger’s mini meltdown to open the pathway for Campbell’s victory.

Michael’s journey to becoming the Open champion is an interesting one. In 1997, he lost his playing card and had no place to play. One of the reasons was because of a serious wrist injury; the other was because of erratic play. However with a few exemptions, he was able to work his way back to the European and Australasian tours where he later achieved some success by becoming a multiple winner on each tour.

Amazingly, Michael had to qualify through the open qualification process playing in sectionals and advancing (just barely) in the European qualifiers, (the first time this was done) in order to get into the tournament. Had it not been for the urging of his management group to attempt to qualify, the story would be very different and the golf world would be talking about someone else, probably Tiger Woods.

Though ranked 80th in the world, most of his competition has come from playing on the European and Australasian tours; and he does not compete against the caliber of players on those tours that he faces on the PGA, where one routinely faces the top ranked players week in and week out. One wonders what might be if there was not the European qualifier.

Opening the interview session, he started by saying “It’s unbelievable, that’s all I can say. I worked hard for it, I deserve it, I think, and I have it so it’s all mine.” He said this as he gazed at the trophy somewhat seemingly unconvinced that the trophy and all of the other accouterments that come along with winning the U.S. Open now belong to him. In a nutshell, that says it all; he has it and will forever be known as a U.S Open champion. Curiously, Michael gave an interesting answer to a question as to what the victory means to him. His response was that he gets to see the “All Blacks” play the Lions in Rugby. Obviously, rugby, like soccer has greater significance worldwide than it does here. Given the number of exemptions he has, (ten years on the PGA, five years for all majors), the PGA may have another “Black” that may contend on the PGA tour. Flash back 10 years ago, when he was leading the British Open after three rounds, only to collapse in the final round and lose to John Daly by one stroke. Had he held on to win, who knows what kind of story might have been written.

As for his background, Michael is a New Zealander of Maori heritage and is the first to win this event. Maori’s are a Polynesian group generally associated with the South Pacific. One of the things that Maori’s are known for is tattooing. The tattoo Mike Tyson has on his face is Maorian in nature as they tattoo the face and buttocks. One of the reasons for the tattoo is to identify those who were free and of noble ancestry.

As for Tiger, it was too little, too late. Certainly, the bogeys on 16 and 17 severely damaged his chances, but give Michael credit because he birdied 17 which gave him just enough of a cushion.

The one thing that derailed Tiger’s chances was his inability to make any putts. In the past, it was his driving which had him constantly scrambling. This time he was hitting fairways and greens in regulation. However, the slick crown greens never allowed him to get close to the pin. That and his inability to accurately judge the speed of the greens eliminated any chances he had to win. “I didn’t feel comfortable with my putter all week” Tiger was quoted as saying, “It was frustrating because I could never get the speed right…I struggled with my speed all week” and because of that, a missed opportunity and second place, only the second time for Tiger to finish in second.

As for Vijay, he made a run with three consecutive birdies, but it also was a case of too little too late as he never seriously contended finishing tied for sixth, six strokes behind Campbell.

So it goes the whispers about the Tiger slam and talk about Vijay. The next major is the British Open to be played at St Andrews. This time there will be one more face, that of Michael Campbell, winner of the 105th U.S. Open.