A new clip reminds us why we love 2005 U.S. Open Champion Michael Campbell
By ALEX PODLOGAR
I stood there, baking in the sun and wondering just how I could possibly forget to put on sunscreen.
There were no trees near the practice range at the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion. And in the midday sun, with barely a cloud in the sky, not even the range grandstand could offer relief.
Stand, bake, sweat and burn. That’s all I could do.
The player I wanted to talk to was hard at work, certainly sweating more than me. And, even as I stood there with my amateur video camera – the one with the funny little squirrel microphone that Sir Nick Faldo had made fun of – and feeling very much out of place next to the network heavyweights, this guy was struggling more than I was.
A lot more.
Michael Campbell, the 2005 U.S. Open Champion at Pinehurst, was wrestling with all sorts of drills, pounding driver after driver into the Pennsylvania sky, muttering to himself and twisting his back in agonizing stretches. Any of us would’ve killed for these drives he was blasting, but Campbell knew they were all wrong. The championship had yet to begin, and missing another cut was staring right back at him with every ball he struck. These shots wouldn’t do. These shots wouldn’t compete. The shots wouldn’t make the cut.
And so I stood there, watching and wondering how I might go about this. The U.S. Open was returning to Pinehurst in 2014, and I had an opportunity to get Michael Campbell to reflect on his triumph. Yet so much had gone wrong since all went so right in 2005 on Pinehurst No. 2. Back then, he didn’t just win, he slammed the door on Tiger Woods, back when Tiger Woods was TIGER WOODS.
And here I was, a melting schmuck with this little camera. Rickie Fowler walked by. Lee Westwood walked by. Dustin Johnson walked by. Bubba Watson walked by.
And finally, when Campbell was through with his work, I walked up.
I introduced myself, said I was with Pinehurst…and Michael Campbell cut me off.
Uh-oh. Here it comes, I thought.
“Pinehurst?” he said in that Kiwi lilt of his. “Oh, I’ll always make time for Pinehurst.”
I spent 5-6 minutes with Campbell, and in those 5-6 minutes, I became one of his biggest fans. The man is so genuine, so earnest and so open that after those 5-6 minutes, all you hope for is that he gets one more week where it all comes together. He was a world class player when he won at Pinehurst, and too few remember that. Michael Campbell was legit.
And today he remains immensely likable.
You can hear it in the video from that sweltering day at Merion. I tried to close the interview, but Campbell kept going. He didn’t mind. I got the feeling he was willing to chat about that special week in Pinehurst for as long as I wanted.
And now, we have the new clip above, which comes from a new documentary Pinehurst is producing. If you remember the Pinehurst history documentary that currently runs in our rooms, this will be the update to that, covering the 1999, 2005 and 2014 U.S. Opens and U.S. Women’s Open.
It’s a moment like the one Campbell gives us here that reminds us of how proud we are to have him as a champion at Pinehurst.