Campbell's form could see him miss NZ Open

FRED WOODCOCK
Last updated 05:00 16/10/2012
Michael Campbell
Getty Images
CASHING IN: Michael Campbell recorded his first top-three finish on the European Tour in more than four years at the Portugal Masters.

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The apparent return of Michael Campbell's touch provides New Zealand Golf with the ultimate catch-22 scenario.

The 2005 US Open champion has the ability to capture public attention and a return to the form that has eluded him for so many years could only be positive for the game's profile in New Zealand.

But should his upward swing on the European Tour continue - he's had two top-15s as well as yesterday's third placing at the Portugal Masters in his past seven starts - the more likely it is Campbell will not grace the greens for the New Zealand Open at Clearwater in Christchurch on November 22-25.

Campbell has told NZ Golf he would play in the Open whenever possible but he is now a chance of making the European Tour's season-ending Dubai world championship, which runs on the same dates as the Clearwater event and is one of the world's richest tournaments.

In collecting about $220,000 for finishing third in Portugal yesterday, the 43-year-old moved from outside the top 130 to 86th in the Race to Dubai standings. There are six more events before the top 60 play in Dubai and Campbell is now in the frame.

NZ Golf are understood to have been talking to Campbell's management about a return to Christchurch but that is likely to be dependent on whether he makes the top 60.

Granted, his showing at the Open last year - he missed the cut with two miserable rounds - was nothing to be excited about but there's no doubt Campbell still has some allure, especially at a tournament that lacks star power. In form, he would help the turnstiles tick over.

Yesterday's result in Vilamoura was his best on the European Tour since a tie for third at the British Masters in September 2008, and the best by a New Zealander since Danny Lee won the Johnnie Walker Classic in Perth as an amateur in February 2009.

"I came here with no expectations really, I just wanted to have some fun," he said yesterday.

"I'm just happy to be in contention again. I felt very calm out there; it's surprising because I haven't been amongst it for a long time."

Campbell has fought various golfing demons since his major win at Pinehurst seven years ago and has never got close to replicating that career-best form, freefalling to sit outside the top 600 in the world rankings.

But he has clearly been on the improve during the past two months.

Consistency has been a major problem but Campbell showed he was still capable of putting four good rounds together, with scores of 68 69 67 and 69 for a 12-under-par total of 272.

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That was two shots behind the winner, Ireland's Shane Lowry, who closed with a five-under 66 to beat England's Ross Fisher by one stroke.

Meanwhile, a triple bogey at the par-five 15th ended Kiwi No 1 Danny Lee's hopes of challenging for the title at the Frys.com Open on the PGA Tour in California yesterday.

The 22-year-old bounced back to birdie the 17th and 18th holes but it was too late, an even-par 71 leaving him tied for 16th at 10-under and doing little for his chances of retaining his playing card for next year. 

- Fairfax Media

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