You wouldn’t ever want to compare a US Open winner with a Saturday hacker, but it will be a nervous Michael Campbell who lines up in his first competitive round in six years on the opening day of the 100th New Zealand Open in Queenstown on Thursday.
Campbell, who headed Tiger Woods by two shots at Pinehurst in 2005 to secure a place in golfing history, is coming out of a self-imposed retirement as he targets the Seniors Tour, and will be sure to pull a curious gallery at The Hills and Millbrook Resort this week.
“I’m pretty nervous, I must say. It’s the first time I’ve had a scorecard in my back pocket for six years. It’s going to be pretty interesting on the first tee, but from the very beginning I’ve got no expectations – I’m here to celebrate a wonderful 100 years of the New Zealand Open, that’s a pretty cool thing and I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Campbell said.
“I’m here to support the New Zealand Open, I’m here to grow the game in New Zealand and for me, personally, turning 50, it’s my senior tour this year so what a great way to start than with the New Zealand Open.”
It is a decade since Campbell last played in his national open, having won the tournament in 2000.
His preparation for the senior ranks has included blending science with his natural game for an ‘evolved’ Michael Campbell.
“I’ve been really into the whole science of it now. Before I was more of a feel player, now I’ve combined the science with my feel and obviously the technology these days is out of this world.”
Campbell has 14 starts guaranteed on the Champions Tour, exemption into all the majors on the senior tour, as well as the European Tour and European Seniors Tour.
“I’m not here to play 30 events a year, I did that for years. I want to play 15 events, do well, win a couple of tournaments, say thank you and then move on for next year. I’ve done the grind, I’ve done the hard work, I’m not 25 years old, I’m 50, so I want to just enjoy life,” he said.
“I feel that if I keep fit and my body is healthy, I feel I can actually do well out there again. It’s amazing how things can come back quickly.”
Still, Campbell is an anxious as anyone to see how he will go when he tees it up at The Hills at 12.38pm.
“I want to do well, of course, but I don’t know what to expect. We had many discussions about the senior tour and I still move the same as 20 years ago, but it’s more a mental thing for me now,” he said.
“It’s healthy to get nervous on the first tee. I’ll be nervous on the first tee, no question.”
Generous with his time for media ahead of the 100th New Zealand Open, Campbell, one of the most respected opinions in New Zealand golf share his thoughts on a range of topics including…
Campbell On Ryan Fox:
“I think Marcus Wheelhouse has done a great job of his technique, and maybe it needs a little bit more tightening. Confidence-wise he’s out there with the best players in the world and when you get to play with the best players in the world, like he has on the European Tour and America you get to see how these guys perform and you learn off them, like I did when I was playing with Tiger and Mickelson and those guys.”
On the future:
“I’ve been fortunate enough to get 14 starts on the Champions Tour. I start after Augusta, I’m not playing Augusta. I’m exempt on all the majors on the senior tour and also I’ve got a full card on the European tour so I’ve got a choice of lots of tournaments to play inI feel that if I keep fit and my body is healthy, I feel I can actually do well out there again. It’s amazing how things can come back quickly.”
On wanting to win again:
“My kids were too young to understand the importance when I won a tournament, but now they understand fully.”
There are 152 professionals and 152 amateurs taking teeing it up in the first two rounds played at both The Hills and Millbrook Resort before a cut to the top-60 professionals plus ties, and any amateur inside that number, to compete in the final 36 holes at The Hills.