AUCKLAND: New Zealand golfer Michael Campbell plans to concentrate almost exclusively on the US PGA Tour this season and leave behind some of his biggest European successes.
Campbell had one of his best seasons in 2002, moving to 15th overall on the European career money list and finishing eighth on the European Tour’s Order of Merit while winning the European Open.
On the US PGA Tour, he finished second to Tiger Woods in the Bay Hill Invitational, third in the Cisco World Match Play Championship and had five other top-10 finishes around the world, including a second in last year’s New Zealand Open.
Campbell will soon begin looking for a house in Florida with his wife and two children while he gets serious about the US tour, playing in about 21 or 22 tournaments.
“I sat down with my coach and manager and we decided to commit to the US tour this year,'' Campbell said yesterday at the New Zealand Open, where he begins play tomorrow at Auckland Golf Club.
“My main goal is to win in America. I came close last year at the Bay Hill. I’ve won almost everywhere around the world, but not there.”
Campbell admitted there was also some peer pressure – he watched fellow New Zealand pros Phil Tataurangi and Craig Perks win big in the United States last year, Perks in the Players Championship and Tataurangi at the Invenys Classic in Las Vegas.
“I guess I’m a little envious,” said Campbell, smiling.
Age was also a factor.
“I’m 33 years old now and I thought it was time to go,” said Campbell. “I don’t think I’ve been ready mentally before now. I don’t know how to explain it, but I think I wasn’t comfortable with the American scene – it’s so big over there, the tour was so big. But I’m ready now.”
Campbell, who has also won on the Australasian PGA Tour, has already changed some of his game because of the softer greens and fairways in America.
“I’ve had to make some adjustments in my ball flight, to take into account the softer courses,” said Campbell.
“It’s best to hit it higher and longer, so I’ve already changed my driver to give me a better launch angle.”
Along with a win, he’s looking to be more consistent.
“If there is one thing I’m missing in my game, it’s consistency,” said Campbell. “I’m not only not winning a tournament, I’m missing the cut.
“For someone in the top 20 rankings in the world, that’s not a very good record to have.”
Campbell, Perks and Tataurangi are the headliners in the New Zealand Open along with former US PGA champion Wayne Grady of Australia.
It’s a low-key affair compared with last year’s Open at Paraparaumu Golf Club north of Wellington, when Woods made his first appearance in New Zealand, finishing sixth behind winner Craig Parry of Australia.
On Monday, Campbell was named New Zealand Golfer of the Year. In the Open, he will again donate his New Zealand prize money to a children’s charity. – AP