Hong Kong Open leader Michael Campbell said it would be easier for him to end a seven-year winless drought after defending champion Rory McIlroy missed the halfway cut yesterday.
Campbell, 43, holed a 10-foot putt for birdie at the last to shoot a six-under-par 64 and move to nine-under on the Fanling Course at Hong Kong Golf Club.
Four other over-40s filled the next four positions on the leaderboard. Miguel Angel Jimenez, 48, posted a 67 to share second place on eight-under with 47-year-old Zhang Lian-wei of China (66) and 40-year-old Fredrik Andersson Hed of Sweden (66).
Forty-two-year-old Anders Hansen of Denmark matched Campbell’s 64 to lie fifth on seven-under.
Campbell denied Tiger Woods to capture the 2005 US Open at Pinehurst, North Carolina, but has not tasted success since winning the World Match Play Championship at Wentworth, England, four months later.
He was surprised to learn McIlroy missed the cut with a five-over total.
“It now makes winning the Hong Kong Open a lot easier, definitely,” Campbell said with a smile. “But then Rory’s world No. 1 for a reason as he’s a wonderful talent and I’ve admired him ever since he turned pro.”
The New Zealander based in Spain was third in the Portugal Masters a month ago, his best result in years.
He confessed there were occasions since his last win, after which he became distracted by off-course events, that he considered quitting golf.
However, he gained inspiration from the winning efforts of fellow 40-somethings.
“You can’t buy confidence, you just have to earn it, and I think I’ve earned it over the last seven years since I haven’t won a golf tournament,” Campbell said. “There have been times where I wanted to throw it in, but what’s really inspired me over the last, particularly over the last four or five years, is seeing my friends around the same age bracket as me, the 40-plus club. The likes of Ernie [Els] winning his fourth major, Thomas Bjorn winning three times last year. Paul Lawrie’s had a wonderful last couple of years. Padraig Harrington, he’s 40 now. Jim Furyk winning the FedEx Cup and the list goes on.”
McIlroy double-bogeyed his last hole in a round of 72, following a 73 to open his title defense.
“It’s disappointing as you never want to miss the cut and even more when you are defending a tournament,” he said.
“So it’s not the week I wanted, but then I have a few days to work on my putting and try and get ready for [the Tour Championship in] Dubai,” McIlroy added.