Wed, Nov 21, 2001 - Page 16 News List

World's top golfers begin swinging for Asian Open

By Jeffrey Wilson  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Vijay Singh practices at the Westin Resort Ta Shee Golf & Country Club in Taiwan yesterday before the start of the BMW Asian Open tomorrow.

PHOTO: LEE HUNG-MIN, TAIPIE TIMES

Michael Campbell put an end to one hot streak while ending a long cold spell, the last time he played in Taiwan.

The streak was Tiger Woods' run of five consecutive tournament victories, as Campbell fought past Woods and a local media frenzy to win the Johnnie Walker Classic at the Westin Resort Ta Shee Golf & Country Club.

At the same time, the victory resurrected the career of a comparative unknown who was struggling after having lost his European Tour card.

"I just stuck at it and practiced pretty hard and all of a sudden broke through for the first time and won here at the Johnnie Walker two years ago," Campbell told the Taipei Times. "It just snowballed from there."

The win propelled him to two more victories on the European Tour and a pair of wins on the Australasian Tour for the 32-year-old New Zealander.

"It was a great start to what I'll always called my second career," said Campbell, who is currently ranked 32nd in the world.

"To beat the field with the likes of Tiger and Ernie Els is a huge confidence booster."

Campbell is back on familiar ground in Taiwan for the BMW Asian Open, which begins tomorrow, also at the Westin Resort

"Walking around today, I could recall all of the fond memories from 1999 when I won and it was kind of nice to come back here," he said, after playing in an exhibition shootout at the Tashee golf course.

Campbell added that the Ta Shee layout, which was redesigned by Robert Trent Jones Jr., plays to his advantage.

"It's the type of golf course that suits my game because the greens really aren't that fast. You can be pretty aggressive [and] I'm a very aggressive putter," he said.

He gave another clue to playing the course well.

"Your approach shots to the greens are the most important thing. You have to put the ball in the right places because the greens are so huge and undulating."

The only difference from 1999 he could pick out was the change in the weather conditions.

"The course is pretty much the same as two years ago," he said. "Two years ago it was very hot ? the course is playing a little bit longer because of the weather being cooler."

In the inaugural year of the BMW Asian Open, Campbell has to be the favorite as he was the last big winner on the course.

He exudes his newfound confidence as he prepares to face Vijay Singh, Nick Faldo, Costantino Rocca and a field of players drawn from the European and Asian tours.?

"I been practicing pretty hard with my coach the past couple of weeks under very intense conditions, so I'm looking forward to this week," he said.

He is also coming off a good performance last week.

Campbell and partner David Smail led until the 72nd hole at last week's World Cup in Japan, finally losing to South Africa's team of Els and Retief Goosen in a playoff -- which also included Woods and David Duval of the US and Thomas Bjorn and Soren Hansen of Denmark.

"We were leading for most of the tournament, but unfortunately it was just not enough. It was fun and I enjoyed it. It was nice to have a chance to win the World Cup."

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