Martin Campbell swears by the Maori term “kia kaha”. In English, it translates to “stay strong”. On numerous occasions, especially after narrowly missing out on the 1995 British Open title, the New Zealander has leant on the phrase to gain strength. In his rookie season on the European Tour, Campbell announced his arrival by leading through three rounds before finishing in a tie for the third place on the hallowed greens of St Andrews.
“I had no tools then to calm me down on the last day,” he said while making his way to the putting greens of the DLF Golf & Country Club. But winning around the globe over the next decade ensured he “accumulated those aids”.
The chance to “use all of them” presented itself during the 2005 US Open Championship, and watched by the New Zealand Parliament, which had suspended its proceedings to watch the drama unfold in Pinehurst, Campbell pipped world No. 1 Tiger Woods by two shots.
Before the year rolled over, Campbell had added several distinctions against his name. Not only did he become the fourth player to win the US Open and the World Match Play Championship in the same year, he was named the 2005 European Tour Golfer of the Year and given honorary life membership of the European Tour.
Four years down, the 40-year-old is struggling to regain the touch that catapulted him into the golfing elite. But the belief in “kia kaha” has remained, and Campbell will be relying heavily on the time tested saying to erase the self-bestowed tag of a “yo-yo player” at the 46th Indian Open. “I seem to peak every five years, so better watch out for me next year,” he grinned.
India's favourable disposition towards Kiwi golfers is another factor Campbell is relying on to swing things his way here. “Kiwis seem to love this course,” he said, referring to Mark Brown's triumph in last year's Johnnie Walker Classic.
True to his temperament, he has allowed time to whet his desire to visit India. “Over the years I've heard a lot about the country and its culture, especially after last year when European Tour players came here for the Indian Masters and Johnnie Walker.”
Whether the $1.25 million prize money was a bigger pull than the country's charm failed to catch him off-guard: “How much is the prize money? It was the Indian Open that drew me here, not the money.”
Here minus wife Julie and sons Thomas and Jordan, Campbell, listing fishing and wine collecting as interests, is out to make his brief brush with India count.
“Unlike a lot of golfers, I don't restrict myself to the golf course and hotel,” he said. On the agenda, among other things, is a whirlwind tour of the Taj Mahal and sampling a toned-down version of his favourite Chicken Tikka Masala.