Campillo Secures Maiden Victory at 229th Time of Asking
IT HAS been a long time coming but Jorge Campillo finally ended his wait for a maiden European Tour win at the 229th time of asking with a two-shot victory at the Trophée Hassan II.
He arrived at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam in terrific form, with two second places and a third in four events and when he bogeyed two of his first three holes in the final round it looked like he was going to be missing out yet again. However, the 32-year-old Spaniard birdied the 16th and 17th holes to hit the front at nine under and finish ahead of Americans Sean Crocker and Julian Suri, and South African Erik van Rooyen after a closing 71.
Campillo turned professional in 2009 and graduated from the European Challenge Tour in 2011, finishing inside the top 100 on the Race to Dubai Rankings Presented by Rolex in every season since. That included six second places - with four in the last three seasons - four thirds and 18 further top 10s but he can now call himself a European Tour champion at long last.
"It's been a long road," he said. "I'm grateful, but it's been way too long. Way too many hours of work since I was a boy to today. I'm just proud that I can say I'm a winner on the European Tour. I just love the game, I love competing. Most people say, maybe I'm not a winner, but I was when I was an amateur. It was a matter of time, I think I proved it today.
"I made so many promises that I have to do after I win that I might have to take a few weeks off! It was tough, I didn't have my A game. I was missing shots off the tee but I putted great. I hit some great shots coming in and I'm proud. I'm proud of the way I finished. I finished today like a champion."
When Campillo bogeyed the par three second, Van Rooyen's overnight lead had quickly been increased to two shots. Van Rooyen missed a short par putt on the third for his first bogey of the day but Campillo also dropped a shot and the lead stayed at two.
Suri put his approach to eight feet on the sixth to cut the lead to one but Van Rooyen left himself 12 feet for eagle on the fifth and made a birdie. Campillo had made a good par save at the seventh and he made it count as he took advantage of the par five next to get within two at the turn.
Van Rooyen could not get up a down for par on the tenth and Campillo holed from eight feet on the 11th to join him in the lead.
A Van Rooyen three putt on the 14th handed Campillo the lead on his own but he had Suri for company soon after as the 28-year-old broke a run of ten pars with a birdie on the short 17th after a lovely chip from just short of the green.
Campillo responded with a brilliant approach to ten feet on the 16th for a birdie and Van Rooyen followed him in from similar range to stay within one. A beautiful chip on the 17th gave Campillo a two-shot advantage going up the last and he made his par after a wonderful second shot from a fairway bunker.
Crocker's chances looked to be gone after bogeys on the third, sixth and seventh but he hit an excellent tee shot at the ninth, chipped in at the 11th and hit a stunning approach to the 13th to get within one. A bogey on the 15th dropped the 22-year-old back again but he drove the 17th and took advantage of the par five last for a birdie-birdie finish.
Fellow American David Lipsky turned in 34 with a hat-trick of birdies from the seventh and when he chipped in on the 13th he briefly shared the lead. He would follow that with three bogeys before picking a shot back up on the 17th in a 72 that left him at five under.
RYAN PALMER and Jon Rahm teamed up to win the Zurich Classic of New Orleans by three shots from Ryder Cup heroes Tommy Fleetwood and Sergio Garcia. For Rahm it was a third PGA Tour success in three years. For Palmer it was much more than that.
It 2017 his wife Jennifer was battling with breast cancer. The previous year she had begun chemotherapy on her husband’s 40th birthday at a time when Palmer himself was struggling badly on the greens. “He had the yips,” said his long-time caddie and good friend James Edmondson, uttering the one word no golfer never wants to hear. And certainly never wants to admit. “I’m not going to use that word,” Palmer said “… but it was getting close to it.”
In 2012, Palmer was one of the best putters on the PGA Tour. Five years later he was ranked 190th. At the time, it had been seven years since Palmer had last won and Edmondson, who’s been on his bag since 2002, worried about his good friend’s future.
“I thought he was done,” he admitted. “It was really, truly hard to watch. I just had to tell him – you gotta change something.”
Palmer always has used a conventional putting grip. It has served him well, with three Tour wins. But now at a crossroads, he was willing to make an adjustment. At first, he looked at changing putters – he went to a golf store in San Antonio and bought six different putters. Later, he was testing out 10 different putters.
Ultimately, he decided to stick with his old putter, but on the advice of coach Randy Smith, change hit putter grip, which is essentially four-sided instead of rounded. That resulted in a grip change, as he moved away from conventional and opted for the claw grip.
“I just kept grinding and grinding with it,” Palmer said.
Then at the 2018 Farmers Insurance Open, he was part of a three-man playoff. Jason Day won the tournament, but for Palmer, it solidified his confidence in the new grip.
The renewed confidence still wasn’t translating into victories. He had a couple of chances last year, including THE CJ CUP @NINE BRIDGES in Korea when he tied for third. But at age 42,he began to wonder if he would ever win again.
On Sunday, in the foursomes alternate-shot format, Palmer proved to himself and to Rahm that he could putt again. At the eighth hole, he saved par by rolling in a six-footer. At the 11th, he saved par by holing a seven-footer. At 14, he rolled in an 11-foot putt for birdie. One hole later, Rahm followed with a 24-foot birdie putt that essentially sealed the deal.
It was an emotional victory for the Texan, his first for nine years. The best news of all for the golfer is that his wife is cancer-free now. Palmer, meanwhile, has his favourite part of the PGA Tour season coming up with events back home in Dallas and Fort Worth at his beloved Colonial for the Charles Schwab Challenge.
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