Are we witnessing a Cambo comeback?

Last updated 12:00 29/01/2013
CHIPPER: Michael Campbell slipped outside the top-10 spot in Doha, but still earned $38,230 for his troubles.

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How can any New Zealand sporting fan not be pleased to see Michael Campbell playing some decent golf again?

Cambo finished tied for 16th place in his most recent event on the European Tour - the Qatar Masters - but it could have been even better, considering he was fifth equal after the third round. Nonetheless, it gives the New Zealander his second consecutive top twenty finish in two weeks, to start 2013. That's not exactly a spectacular fortnight of golf, but considering what Cambo has been through over the past several years it makes me wonder how he ever found the will to continue.

Since Cambo had that unforgettable year in 2005 when he won the US Open, HSBC World Match Play Championship, and was ranked inside the world's top 15, his golf has been just the opposite: Forgettable. Cambo missed cut after cut, year after year. 

His golf was nothing short of a disaster. I lost count of how many times I would check his scorecard to see his progress, only to be met with double bogey scores.

Cambo's results in 2011 and 2012 painted a very sad picture. Of the 27 tournaments he entered in 2011, he failed to make the weekend on 19 occasions and only recorded one top 20 finish. From September 2011 to March 2012, he missed 12 straight cuts on the European Tour.

At the beginning of 2012, Cambo's world ranking hovered around the 750 mark. He missed 11 out of 13 cuts to start that year.

At this stage some people would ask themselves: What is the point? I cannot imagine the emotional turmoil he must have gone through and the constant self-doubt that must have crossed his mind, wondering if he could ever discover his form.

It would have come as no surprise to me if Cambo decided to wave the white flag, give up, and accept the fact that his time was now up.

But that's not the sort of character Michael Campbell is. He stuck at it, persevered, and fought back from the depths of despair.

In late 2012, Cambo chalked up his best finish on the European Tour and his best finish worldwide since 2008, with a tied for third finish at the Portugal Masters. I cannot remember the last time he shot four sub-par rounds in a golf tournament like he did that week. Less than a month later he backed up his performance in Portugal by participating in the UBS Hong Kong Open and coming eighth equal.

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We are witnessing the early stages of a Cambo comeback. His last 12 tournaments are a testament to his fighting spirit and never-say-die attitude: Nine made cuts (four in a row) and six top 20s that include four top 15s. 

His world ranking has skyrocketed from 910th in July 2012 to where it is currently at 264th.

His recent return to form is partly due to his reunion with former swing coach Jonathan Yarwood, the same man who helped bring him major success almost eight years ago.

It seems that this reformed partnership has brought about a change in attitude for Cambo. In an interview after the Portugal Masters late last year with Brendan Telfer on Radio Sport, Cambo stated that he was enjoying his golf again, and that his goal in the final round was to essentially have fun and, as he put it, "smile".

In that interview Cambo also addressed the root of his previous problems: He wanted to hit the ball longer and consequentially tried to change his swing. 

But he had faith in himself and trusted his ability to rediscover his golf game. Full credit to him in doing that. He has a heart of courage.

Now at 43, Cambo has drawn inspiration from fellow golfers in their 40s who have had success, such as 2012 Open Championship winner Ernie Els, Fiji's Vijay Singh, and Paul Lawrie.

This newly relaxed and confident Michael Campbell is fantastic to see and he is making a visible effort to enjoy himself on the golf course again.

Cambo has turned a huge corner and sparked a glimmer of hope in what looked like the back-ends of a diminishing golf career. I look forward to seeing what he achieves throughout the rest of 2013.

Cambo probably has five or six years left to make some noise again on the professional golfing circuit. Are we on the verge of something special? Who knows? He was at 500-1 odds to win the US Open in 2005, was completely out of form throughout the first half of that year, and holed a two metre putt just to qualify for the tournament. How did that turn out?

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