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2005 Open winner Campbell has known rough times

What a year Michael Campbell had in 2005. He won the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, fending off Tiger Woods the final day. As way of validation, he won the World Match Play in England that fall.

But where has he been since?

In a career of peaks and valleys, the soon-to-be 40-year-old New Zealander has pretty much been deep in the valley ever since. He's missed four straight cuts in the Masters, been cut twice in the U.S. Open, including the following year as defending champion, managed to at least make the weekend in three British Opens and has been cut twice in the PGA Championship. He hasn't won a tournament since the Match Play, and his score cards have broken into the 80s. He hasn't made a cut this year in eight starts, though in fairness, he's coming off rehab for an injured right shoulder that sidelined him for six months.

Such a record could produce spells of uncontrolled weeping, but Campbell remains jovial and optimistic. His game has always been thus.

"It's my whole career," Campbell said yesterday after his practice round on the Black. "I'm used to it. I'm used to the cycles, even as an amateur. My cycles are like four or five years. I'll go a long spell and do nothing and then have a year where I do something great. I'm well into the cycle right now."

Campbell jumped into prominence at the 1995 British Open at St. Andrews, taking the lead into the final round and finishing third. But then there was a wrist injury and long cycle of poor play, a substantial valley. Then suddenly, a peak. In 2000, he won five times internationally, including the New Zealand Open, a hugely popular win.

He didn't disappear after that, winning three times in the next four years but he wasn't exactly on the radar when he showed up at Pinehurst in 2005. "Not a lot of people [in the United States] knew me then," Campbell said. "I was a bit of surprise to them. But I was playing well and it continued into the Open. I was definitely on the up-cycle there."

After the Open win, Campbell tried to change his swing to make it more repetitive, shortening the backswing and quickening his rhythm. It didn't work. "I have to take the blame for that," Campbell said. "I was trying to get better, but it didn't work. I was always a natural swinger, just take a rip at it. Now I'm trying to combine the two."

He's not hitting too many shots straight at the flag these days, but his optimism isn't flagging.

"It's only the game of golf," Campbell said. "The only thing that's important to me is the health of family, my wife and kids. They are all fine. I will come back."


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