Reminiscing about his 2005 US Open triumph over dinner with Tiger Woods has lit the competitive fire within Kiwi legend Michael Campbell as he seeks to add a second USGA title to his resume at the US Senior Open in Indiana this week.
To be played at the Warren Golf Course at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, the US Senior Open attracts some of golf’s greatest names, the over-50s set now boasting the likes of Bernhard Langer, Vijay Singh, Retief Goosen, Steve Stricker and the legendary Tom Watson.
The only Australian joining Campbell in the field is six-time European Seniors Tour winner Peter Fowler who has been paired with Loren Roberts and 2004 British Open champion Todd Hamilton.
In the lead-up to his second start on the seniors tour, Campbell took part at the US Open Champions Challenge the week of Gary Woodland’s triumph at Pebble Beach where he shared his memories of holding Woods off to win by two shots 14 years ago.
He played famed Cypress Point on the Tuesday and then joined 33 of the 36 living former champions at the Champions Dinner including superstars of today such as Woods, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy.
For Campbell, who has returned to tournament golf after a six-year hiatus, reacquainting himself with old friends and mixing with today’s dominant players is all part of the journey in becoming a competitive golfer again.
“It was so much fun catching up and just talking about the old times, talking about normal things, and not necessarily about golf,” Campbell told USGA’s Ewan Porter.
“The fun thing about that night was that everyone had to get up and say a story about their major win. I remember Johnny Miller being very emotional about it.
“It was so much fun, being under the same roof with all these amazing golfers and sharing some stories about our victories was definitely incredible.”
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Campbell will play with fellow former US Open champions Corey Pavin (1995) and Steve Jones (1996) in the opening two rounds still somewhat smarting from his maiden seniors tour appearance to date.
Last month at the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship Campbell struggled with rounds of 81-79 to comfortably miss the cut but is confident about his level of ball-striking; now it’s just a matter of competing.
“My first event was at Oak Hill and that was tough. First senior event, second tournament in six years, mentally it just kicked my butt,” Campbell conceded.
“Funnily enough I’m actually hiting the ball further now than ever since I retired, even since my prime. I’m hitting it 300 now which is unusual. I’m moving it the same, if not better. I don’t know why, but I am.
“Maybe I needed that six-year break, to get away from golf for a bit and recharge the batteries.
“The biggest problem I have right now is a lack of tournaments. I need to get out and play and compete.
“I’ve been playing a little bit with my friends and my buddies but it’s all about competing. That’s one thing that’s missing.
“It’s not about ‘if’ for me, it’s when. I can feel that. My game’s coming together nicely and hopefully this week will be the time.”