Relaxed Michael Campbell rediscovers his mojo
OPINION: A year ago Michael Campbell rocked up to the New Zealand Open among a field desperately lacking star power and, sadly, didn't even look as though he belonged there, let alone on the highly competitive European Tour.
He came to Clearwater that week raving about his ball striking and convinced that if he could get a few putts to drop, he'd be in the hunt.
Nothing we hadn't heard before and after he failed to make the cut with rounds of 77 and 79 for a 12-over par total, and looking a shadow of his former self, you had to wonder about the merits of moving home from Sydney to Europe to give the tour a real crack in 2012.
The first half of the year looked as grim as his week in Christchurch last year.
In his first 12 starts in 2012 on the European Tour he made just two cuts, finishing those events in a tie for 60th and a tie for 63rd, for a total of about 10,000 euros.
But having re-aligned with his old coach Jonathan Yarwood, and seven years after his magnificent 2005 when he won the US Open and world matchplay titles, he has started to find his mojo again.
In his last 10 starts he has four top-15 finishes, has won more than 320,000 euros, and has finished 77th on the European Tour order of merit, narrowly missing the season-ending Dubai world championship this week for the top 60 players.
Perhaps the best thing about watching his title charge at the Hong Kong Open at the weekend - having led after the second and third rounds he faded to finish eighth - was not his smooth swing (and it does look rather good at the moment), or the fact he was finally dropping some putts, but his smile.
Even when he was fading out of contention playing alongside fellow 40-something-year-old Miguel Angel Jimenez yesterday, Campbell seemingly couldn't wipe the smile off his face.
And who could blame him? He hasn't enjoyed this sort of form in years.
As Yarwood tweeted last night, Campbell's golfing comeback is still a "work in progress", and he's far from completely back. But the signs are all good and there is genuine hope he can win again at the top level.
Isn't that good to see. It's a shame he won't be returning to the Clearwater for the national open starting on Thursday.
The field again lacks names and Campbell, in form, could have done wonders for the event.
However, the interest might be provided by the fact this year, based purely on what we saw at the Australian Masters over the weekend, there appears to be real chance of a local winner for the first time since Mahal Pearce triumphed at Middlemore in 2003.
Mark Brown was swinging it superbly en route to a tie for third with lefty Gareth Paddison, who made a number of clutch putts in the final round.
The Wellington duo were only outdone by Adam Scott and Ian Poulter, two players ranked in the world's top 20.
Australasian tour order of merit leader Michael Hendry had one bad round - and it was really bad - but otherwise his form continued and despite his 79 on Saturday he still finished tied for sixth, while Ryan Fox, who has won twice in the Pacific in his rookie pro year, was also on the rise and secured a share of 14th.
Chuck in David Smail, perhaps the most accomplished Kiwi golfer in the field at Clearwater, and Josh Geary, who appeared to like the Clearwater layout in finishing third at the Open last year, and there are a handful of realistic Kiwi chances in what is a far weaker field than the Masters.
Maybe the drought is about to end.
- Fairfax Media