TRANSCRIPT | Michael Campbell, 101st NZ Open, pre-tournament press conference


Q. It looks to me like a different Michael Campbell to 12 months ago I’m back to my fighting weight you could say. I’m down to 90 kilos which is what I was when I was playing which is nice. The only thing that’s lacking really is a bit of match practice, competitive rounds. I […]

Q. It looks to me like a different Michael Campbell to 12 months ago

I’m back to my fighting weight you could say. I’m down to 90 kilos which is what I was when I was playing which is nice. The only thing that’s lacking really is a bit of match practice, competitive rounds. I haven’t played since November so once again coming into this tournament I’m not expecting too much. I just want to support the New Zealand Open obviously and support my sponsor Manuka Doctor, who brought me over here. He’s been instigating the whole thing about me returning to New Zealand which is fantastic. So without his help and stuff like that I wouldn’t be here. It’s nice to be here. Both courses are fantastic. In great condition, wow. The Hills and in here (Millbrook) it’s a bit more lush, a bit more green, the rough is definitely longer than it was last year. I’m playing with another Major Champion, Geoff (Ogilvy), a very good friend of mine so it’s going to be fun playing with him and my sponsor Matt.

Q. Talking from how you played last year, how much have you come along since then?

Leaps and bounds. I played I think 12 events last year, finished I think third in one and 14th in another on the Seniors Tour. A bit disillusioned with response from sponsors. I thought that I’d at least get 10 invites from the Champions Tour but I thought my resume was good enough to have own national Open winner playing in their events but it’s not to be. It’s a very closed shop over there and it’s basically guys who have played the PGA TOUR, it’s based on career money list where before it was a points system and they changed it about five years ago so I think I wrote away to about 12 sponsors and got one. Paul Lawrie is in the same boat as me. Basically I went to the Tour School, finished like 20th and there’s only five cards so now I have to Monday pre-qualify which is a little bit disappointing but it is what it is. I need to up my game and hopefully get a few good starts on the Champions Tour next year.

Q. What do you want from 2020? What are you wanting to achieve this year?

Just to get on Tour, just to get some sort of schedule going. Last year, I was waiting around for five or six weeks and not playing and I was in America away from home so it was quite hard doing that. I want just a solid schedule and build up momentum. It was very scattered you could say last year with my schedule.

Q. Now that you’ve gotten into shape again, I remember last year you said you’ve done all that when you were younger touring and playing and didn’t know if you wanted to do that, are you now thinking you do want to do that more?

Yeah, absolutely. I see all my friends now out there playing with Retief Goosen had a great year last year. He and I are good mates. I know that I’ve got the ability to do well on the Champions Tour and on the Seniors Tour in Europe as well. I tried to play a few events on the European Tour, on the regular Tour, but the courses were too long for me. You see now, I think, Podrick Harrington, he struggles out there, Thomas Bjorn, around the same age as me. I spoke to Retief recently about playing a few events. He played a few events on the PGA TOUR. You just know you’re not good enough for these young kids who hit it so far now. The courses suit them better with the bunkering system. They carry it 300, 310 in the air and I can’t do that physically. Whereas I find myself more competitive on the seniors tours.

Q. Would you rule out playing on the regular tour again after trying it last year?

Probably not. I threw myself in the deep end a little bit last year. I played five events over there and I just thought, this is not for me. You kind of know as a competitor, as a player, that you’re not good enough. If I pick and choose my courses, if I play shorter courses like links courses it’ll be a little bit different but there aren’t many on that tour. Most of the courses now are over 73, 74 thousand yards.

Q. What are you driving now?

Around 280, 290 but I played with Luke Brown yesterday, a young kid who’s I think on the Japanese Tour, and in Europe, and he hits it 60 yards past me. He’s a bomber.

Q. Is that demoralising?

No, actually it’s made me realise that the game has moved on a lot. I don’t like it to be honest with you. I feel that it’s lost its creativity, imagination, because the ball doesn’t move as much and all they do now these days, these kids, they just bomb it and swing the club as hard as they can and find it. I’m old school obviously and I’m used to the Langers (Bernhard Langer) and the Faldos (Nick Faldo) and those guys back in the 90s and even Tiger too obviously and we’d just shape the shot more because you could. But not these days. That’s why you see Tiger have a, play with a spinnier ball, because he wants to shape the ball more but he loses distance. So it’s definitely changed. Is it evolution? Yeah I think of course it is. I’ve been in this game since 1993 I think it was when I first turned pro so a long time.

Q. That 290, what were you hitting 15, 20 odd years ago?

I was probably about 20 yards shorter. Funnily enough I was looking at my driving stats and definitely it’s improved every single year, 10 yards or five yards here and there give or take but it’s completely different. A completely different game.

Q. Geoff was talking about that. Has the skill been taken out of the game do you think?

Absolutely. I remember when I first turned pro and 15 guys were going to win every single week and they were the most talented ones. Whereas now you’ve got these rookies winning every single time which goes to show that the less talented, due to the golf ball and the design of the club, the driver, whatever you want to call it, the sweet spot is bigger, it gives them more of a chance. I agree with Geoff what he said. I think we both agree. Both Geoff and I are in the same boat. We’ve a similar age, obviously I’m a bit older than Geoff but we’ve seen the huge transformation, the big jump in how the game is played now.

Q. Better?

Well I guess views are up so people like to see guys smash it now like Justin Johnson and Brooks Koepka and all these guys bomb it, Rory McIlroy, they bomb it now and I think people like to see that so they get more views. So I suppose it is but if you go back to the old school, and I’ve said this many times, I’d rather see the ball maybe played or even the clubs themselves, played a little bit harder so you need more skills. The skill set’s a little bit different now. I noticed as well that the 25, 26-year-olds their short game isn’t as sharp as it should be because they rely on their distance.

Q. How about you mate, you had a sore ankle last year. Is that all sorted?

It’s all sorted now. That’s one of the things I had to do was just a bit of rehab on my ankle and that’s no problem now.

Q. And expectations for this week?

The thing is the expectation for this week is pretty much I’m taking it easy. I’m not practicing as much and as I said before it’s my first tournament in four months so I’m just going to go into this week and enjoy the moment and support the New Zealand Open and my sponsor.


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