Michael Campbell has revealed his goal to return to the world's top 50 this year and paid tribute to a family who refused to let him quit, urging him to give golf "one last try".
After a number of lean seasons saw the 2005 US Open and world matchplay champion drop to 910th in the world, Campbell has fought back 675 ranking places over the last 13 months with a consistent return to the top of European Tour leaderboards.
Campbell, 43, has had a number of top-20 finishes over the last seven months including legitimate shots at winning the Hong Kong Open and Portugal Masters, where he was tied eighth and third respectively.
With his tee-to-green game back to its best, Campbell is confident he could have already returned to the winners' circle had he been able to produce better putting performances.
However, he says that would all have been totally irrelevant had it not been for his family.
Campbell has revealed a pivotal family meeting two years ago where he put his career in the hands of his wife and children, asking: "Tell me if you want to me to quit. I'm not going to lie about it. I've thought about giving up the game to pursue something else, whether course design, corporate golf, whatever," Campbell told the Sunday Star-Times from his home in Marbella, Spain.
"I've never spoken about this before as it's quite a private matter, but I feel that now I can. I recall sitting down with my wife, Julie, in September 2011 when I went through three years of complete hell. I was on the brink of giving up. It was tough. Not so much financially, but for my own wellbeing.
"I said to Julie, ‘if you want me to give this game up and do something else, I will.'
"I needed her blessing, and my children's, to have one more chance.
"If they'd said no, I would have gone with it.
"My wife and children have sacrificed a lot in their lives. They've sacrificed friendships, we've moved from Australia, to Switzerland, to Spain. As a parent, it's hard to move your children out of schools - and we're not just talking about moving around the corner. It's been across the world. But they wouldn't let me give up.
"They told me to give it one more try. And I can't thank them enough for their support. I'm very humbled. In the last six months there's been a definite turnaround with a lot of things.
"In May last year my coach, Jonathan Yarwood, moved from America to England and we started doing a lot of work together.
"That's when things started changing.
"My ball-striking is as good as it's ever been and I've tasted the chance of winning again. I can't tell you how good that feels.
"My putting has probably cost me a win in that time, but it's improving, slowly. I'm getting there.
"I'm finally able to take the way I hit balls on the range out on the course. I'm confident."
Campbell says the reaction to his turnaround has been borderline overwhelming.
"Other players, caddies, staff on tour, sponsors, fans, you name it, everyone has been so supportive. It's been an incredible experience," he said.
"The amount of messages I've received through my website recently has been mind-blowing. And I'm very grateful."
The goal now is to keep going. While Campbell is more of a "feel" player than statistical scrutineer, he has set clear targets for the year ahead.
"Obviously, I want to win again and as long as I'm in contention and giving myself chances, I'll back myself to do it," he said.
"I'm not a big stats man, but I want to return to the top 50 and I can do that if I can keep this up," he said. "That number is important because it will get me back into major championships, not just the US Open as a former champion, and also world championship events.
"I would love to be playing those tournaments regularly again and I believe I can do it.
"I'm on the road to proving it to myself."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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