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THE U.S. OPEN

Campbell's Up to Par

New Zealander holds off Woods down the stretch to win his first major with an even-par 280 on a difficult final day at Pinehurst No. 2.

June 20, 2005|Chris Dufresne | Times Staff Writer

PINEHURST, N.C. — There is a reason they call it the United States "Open," but it would have been far-fetched to imagine a Kiwi from Down Under earning a qualifying berth in Surrey, England, and winning America's national golf championship on a North Carolina course designed by a Scot.

But darned if that's not what happened Sunday.

On a day when the contenders all but did Acapulco cliff-dives from atop the leaderboard -- the final group shooting an astronomical 25 over par -- Michael Campbell shot one-under 69 and held off hard-charging Tiger Woods by two shots to win the 105th U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.

Campbell, a 36-year-old from New Zealand, became the first sectional qualifier to win the Open since Steve Jones in 1996.

He finished at even-par 280, winning with a bogey putt on the 18th hole that was punctuated by fist pump and a gush of emotions, Campbell even getting a bearhug from Woods' caddie, Steve Williams, a fellow New Zealander.

"Unbelievable," Campbell said of his victory.

He once lost his tour card and nearly gave up the game in 1998 after a wrist injury, but Sunday he played among giants.

"Little old me," Campbell said, " ... I snuck in there, and without anybody noticing, really, I won."

Woods who, thanks to the carnage, had a legitimate shot at winning his 10th major title, finished with a one-under 69 for his round and two-over 282 overall.

His bid for golf's Grand Slam this year ended on a "par wins" course that rated just short of brutal.

Determined to break Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major championships, Woods was upset to have come up short.

"If you feel you had a chance to win and you didn't take that opportunity to win the tournament, then it's disappointing," he said.

Three players -- Sergio Garcia, Tim Clark and Mark Hensby -- tied for third at five-over 285.

Summed up, it was a day that had to be seen to be believed.

"A bloodbath," said Olin Browne, who went from second place to tied for 23rd after shooting a 10-over 80.

Davis Love III, who started the day in 26th place, ended up tied for sixth, taking advantage of a free fall that will rank in the U.S. Open annals.

"Everybody was crashing," Love said.

The leader in the crash clubhouse was Retief Goosen, a two-time U.S. Open champion, who began Sunday with a three-shot lead and ended up losing by eight shots after posting an 11-over 81.

Goosen finished at eight-over 288 and tied for 11th.

He was paired in the final group with Jason Gore, the feel-good journeyman from Valencia, who shot a 14-over 84, finished tied for 49th and collected a check for $20,275.

Gore dropped 47 places in 18 holes.

The day turned so gruesome that Goosen and Gore made a $5 bet with two holes to go on who was going to finish with a worse score.

It got so golf-gory, Gore and Goosen were put on the time clock for slow play after needing 81 shots to play the front nine.

"I finished," Gore said. "All 18. It took a while. Stuff like that happens in the last round of the Open, and I'll be a better player for it. It was a wonderful, enjoyable, overwhelming week."

Goosen's collapse won't be forgotten, although he certainly would like it to be.

He was playing for posterity, seeking to become only the sixth player to win at least three U.S. Opens -- Sunday was supposed to be a coronation.

Instead, he exploded into feathers, to the amazement of golf's establishment.

"You never would have guessed the Goose would have done what he did," Woods said.

Goosen shot a six-over 41 on the front and bogeyed five holes in a row on the back.

"I was basically bleeding on the way home," Goosen said.

He then hitched up his pants and added, "nothing serious, nobody's died."

With the leaderboard parting like the Red Sea, Campbell and Woods swept into the vacuum and made it a two-player race.

Campbell was four shots off the lead when the day started but quickly snared a share of the lead after Goosen bogeyed the par-four third hole.

Woods was eight shots behind after he bogeyed the first two holes.

When he made a four-foot birdie putt on No. 11 to briefly pull within one shot of Campbell, you sensed the momentum was turning toward golf's No. 1 player.

Campbell, though, never buckled.

Playing two groups behind Woods, Campbell made a 30-foot putt on No. 12 to take a three-shot lead on Woods with six to play.

Woods pulled to within two again after making a five-foot putt on par-three 15th, pumping his fist in the air after the ball disappeared.

He said he was trying to post par so, "if I was lucky, I might be able to get into a playoff."

Woods, though, made bogeys on his next two holes and fell four shots behind -- his tournament-closing birdie on the par-four 18th coming too late.

Those two bogeys, he said, "kind of put me out of the equation."

Campbell stumbled with a bogey at No. 16, the second-toughest hole on the course, but rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt on the par-three 17th to take a three-shot lead to the 18th tee.

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