By ALEX PODLOGAR
When Michael Campbell fired off the tweet that raced through the golf world on Sunday, a memory came rushing back.
It was seven years ago, and there I was, standing 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 blinding 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 clear 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 Campbell to reflect on his triumph. Yet so much had gone wrong since all went so right in 2005 on Pinehurst No. 2. Would he even want to revisit it? Back then, Cambo 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.”
Campbell spent 5-6 minutes with us, and in those 5-6 minutes, we were reminded why we remain among his biggest fans. The man is so genuine, so earnest and so open that after those 5-6 minutes, all one could 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.
And today he remains immensely likable, proven again by his tweet that shot through the golf world on Sunday.
You can hear it in the video from that sweltering day at Merion back in 2013. 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.
The video at the top of this post recounts, in detail, Campbell’s greatest triumph. And the replies to his tweet this weekend remind us how beloved he really is. And so, as the U.S. Open finally comes along in the most unusual of years, we’re proud to relive his own moment in time with his most ardent fans.
There’s room to join us. You’ll be glad you did.
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