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Campbell: A win isn’t far away

Ben Campbell is not dwelling on the frustration of finishing runner-up for the second time in the New Zealand Open and is quickly moving on to his next assignment.

The Masterton golfer, who is based in Queenstown, the venue for New Zealand’s premier tournament, came home strongly in Sunday’s fourth round at Millbrook, firing a five-under par 66 to finish three shots behind winner Australian Brendan Jones.

But the demands of the lucrative Asian Tour meant there was little time for Campbell to reflect on the outcome. The next day, he was on a flight to Bangkok, where he arrived on Tuesday to prepare for the Thailand International Series tournament starting today.

Campbell left his best until late into the final round of the NZ Open. He scored only one birdie on the front nine but was on fire on the back nine, sinking an eagle on the 10th, birdies on the 12th and 13th, a hiccup with a double bogey on the 15th, and birdies on the 16th and 17th.

“It was good but a bit frustrating; I didn’t putt great for the first three days,” Campbell said.

“I hit the ball nicely all week, and yeah, it was nice to drop a couple of putts on that back nine on Sunday. It was a week that definitely could have been [better] because I was hitting the ball well enough to easily win.

“It was frustrating, but then also, I’ve had a good start to the year, and my game is definitely trending in the right direction.”

The result mirrors Campbell’s second placing in 2017, although, on that occasion, he finished the 72 holes tied for the lead, only to lose out to fellow Kiwi Michael Hendry on the first playoff hole.

“I feel like my game is in better shape than it was then,” he said.

“I played quite nicely about three weeks ago up in Qatar, so I’m pretty happy where the game is at, and I definitely feel like a win is not too far away, but it’s frustrating not to get over the line, especially in New Zealand. That’s one tournament I really want to win, but it’s one of those things, and I’ve just got to stay patient and keep hitting the ball how I’m hitting it.”

Campbell made a promising start to the Asian Tour with 43rd place in Oman, followed by an encouraging 13th equal in Qatar. Those results and the second placing in Queenstown have given him confidence heading into the rest of the year.

After Thailand, he will head to India for the Delhi Open and the World City Championship in Hong Kong.

The latter is a qualifying tournament for The Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, an event Campbell is keen to return to after playing, and missing the cut, in the 150th edition at St Andrew’s last year.

“That [Hong Kong] will be a good one; it’s been given four spots for the Open Championship, so that will be a nice one to play well in and get back over to the UK.”

Campbell will then have a couple of weeks off before heading to Vietnam, with a brief winter break to follow until the Asian Tour resumes.

An operation last year to cure the back problems that have plagued much of Campbell’s career has been successful, and he is confident that his body can handle the pressure of constant tournament play and travel, although the 31-year-old said he needs to monitor his schedule wisely,

“This year, the Asian Tour has guaranteed about 24-25 events, and I will try and keep it to about that, but it’s just the long stretches, and I probably won’t play more than four [in a row], but three is pretty good. I’m having a stretch of four at the moment.

“I was obviously at home last week, so I saw the physio and made sure everything was good before I came away.

“It’s just going to be one of those things. The lower back has taken a bit of a hammering over the years, and unfortunately, I’m getting older, but it is what it is, and all in all, it’s feeling really good.”

Although disappointed not to pick up the major spoils at the NZ Open, Campbell was happy the tournament was won by Jones, one of the good blokes on the tour.

“He’s been a great player. He’s won a lot of times up in Japan, and yeah, he’s a really good bloke, so if you are going to lose to someone, you don’t mind losing to him.”

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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