With most of the field faltering under the final-round U.S. Open pressure, Michael Campbell of New Zealand demonstrated a steady and solid game on the challenging layout of Pinehurst Resort’s famous No. 2 Course. The 36-year-old carded a 1-under 69 to hold off two-time champion and world No. 1 Tiger Woods by two strokes, posting a 72-hole total of even-par 280.
Campbell joined 1963 British Open champion Bob Charles as the only players from New Zealand to have captured a major title. But Campbell almost never came to Pinehurst. He had to be persuaded to go through sectional qualifying in England by his agent and caddie, where he earned one of nine spots. And when the final round commenced, two-time winner Retief Goosen was the focus of everyone’s attention as the South African owned a three-stroke lead over Olin Browne and the Cinderella story of the ’05 Open, Jason Gore.
Not surprisingly, Gore stumbled in the final round, shooting an 84 to finish tied for 49th. But more shocking was the play of the usually unflappable Goosen, who carded an 81, his worst 18-hole round ever at a U.S. Open. Likewise, Browne, who had shot a 59 in sectional qualifying in Rockville, Md., found the going rough on Sunday, carding an 80 to fall into a tie for 23rd.
With the leaders wilting under the North Carolina sun, Woods, who began the final round six strokes behind Goosen, surged up the leaderboard. A second-nine charge started at the par-5 10th with a birdie and he added birdies at 11 and 15 to pull within two strokes of Campbell. Campbell’s bogey at 16 shrank the lead to one, but it would be the par-3 17th that ultimately decided the championship. Campbell, playing a few groups behind Woods, secured his fourth birdie of the day on the penultimate hole, while Woods three-putted for bogey from 17 feet. Now leading by four strokes (Woods also bogeyed 16), Campbell played the final hole conservatively and made a bogey 5, while Woods holed an 8-footer for birdie and a final-round 69.