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Former US Open winner Michael Campbell believes Rory McIlroy is ‘ready to find his Major mojo’ again following his stunning win at last week’s Canadian Open.
The 52-year-old, who famously held off the challenge of Tiger Woods to win America’s National Championship in 2005, says it is ‘phenomenal’ that the Northern Irishman has failed to add to his tally of four majors since claiming the PGA Championship in 2014, adding: “Eight years is just too long for a player of his quality. I say this respectfully, but he has probably underachieved in that regard, but he is such a wonderful player and everything is clicking right now.”
VIDEO: PERKS OF WINNING THE US OPEN
Campbell, who has returned to professional golf following his retirement in 2015, is now plying his trade on the Legends Tour – Europe’s over-50s circuit. His US Open win at Pinehurst 17 years ago remains one of the most iconic moments in the tournament’s history. Heading into the final round, the New Zealander – who had forged a successful career with six wins on the European Tour up until that point – sat four shots behind 54-hole leader Retief Goosen, with Woods lurking a further two back.
Goosen would ultimately fall away following a double bogey at the second hole, while Campbell took control by reeling off seven consecutive pars to hold a two-shot lead approaching the turn.
Then came the Woods charge, with the-then nine-time Major winner slotting birdies at 10, 11 and 15, before dropped shots at 16 and 17 put paid to his challenge. Campbell, to his credit, played the back nine in one-under to register a two-shot victory.
“Time has gone quickly,” Campbell says. “It doesn’t feel like yesterday but maybe it feels like a year ago. I still have very fond memories of it all and thankfully those memories never go away. For me, to beat Tiger in his prime, his absolute prime, was the ultimate prize. Winning the US Open was fantastic but to beat the great man in the process was very special.
“To hold him off coming down the back nine, not many people have managed to do that. But yeah, it was one of those days where I felt it was my time to shine. I just played some great golf: I think I had 10-11 putts over the last nine holes. So, the putting was great and my distance control with my irons was fantastic, it was a fun week and to beat Tiger was just so special.”
Historically the toughest of golf’s four Majors with the USGA setting its courses up to test every facet of a player’s game, this week’s event at Brookline looks set to continue that trend with penal rough and narrowed fairways placing an even greater premium on accuracy.
For Campbell, winning remains a test of endurance as well as skill. “You have to stay in control,” he says. “The USGA set the golf course up on a knife-edge, and that is the thing. Every time I have played the US Open, and I have probably played between 15-20, the course was on the brink of being unplayable.
“The greens are hard and firm, and so fast, the rough is thick, you have to drive the golf ball so well because if you go in the rough there, sometimes you can’t find your ball and that’s why they have markers on both sides of the fairways as it sits right down at the bottom.
“The week I played I drove it great, I think I averaged 10-11 fairways out of 14, and my distance control with my irons was great, as was my putting. Put those three things together and that’s why I won the US Open. And whoever wins this week will have to do the same. Your game must be on. You can’t be struggling with one and succeeding in another.”
Michael Campbell is a playing ambassador for the Legends Tour. To buy tickets and play in the tour’s Celebrity Series and Alliance Series, visit www.legendstour.com/playing-experiences
Elliott Heath is our Senior Staff Writer and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016. He graduated in Sports Journalism in 2016 and currently manages the Golf Monthly news, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Elliott has interviewed some huge names in the golf world including Sergio Garcia, Thomas Bjorn, Bernd Wiesberger and Scotty Cameron as well as a number of professionals on the DP World and PGA Tours. He has also covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as three Open Championships including at Carnoustie in 2018 when he was inside the ropes with Tiger Woods. He has played 31 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Old Head and Alwoodley. He currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 4-6. His golfing highlight is making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, and he has made one hole-in-one.
Elliott is currently playing:
Driver: Honma TR20
3 wood: TaylorMade SIM2 Max
2 iron: Mizuno MP-18 MMC Fli-Hi
Irons: Mizuno MP5 4-PW
Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58
Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
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