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Michael Campbell happy to be the underdog again

Michael Campbell is delighted to be viewed as a long shot for his title defence at this week's U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club.

The New Zealander has been made a 100-1 chance by British bookmaker William Hill, with twice champion Tiger Woods the pre-tournament favourite at 6-1.

"Let Tiger and Phil (Mickelson) and Vijay (Singh) have all the attention, all the hoopla, and I can just do what I did last year," Campbell told a news conference on Tuesday.

"Fantastic, bring it on. I know I've got a chance. I'm just going to go out there and play golf.

"Last year, no one gave me a chance to win, and I won," added the 37-year-old, who held off a final-round charge by Woods at Pinehurst to clinch his maiden major title.

"Once again, no one has given me a chance this year, apart from myself which is the most important thing.

"The most important thing for me this week is to satisfy my own expectation, not anyone else's."

Campbell, who became the first New Zealander to win a major since left-hander Bob Charles claimed the 1963 British Open, expects a tough week at Winged Foot.  

"What I saw yesterday was pretty brutal," he said of the nine holes he played in practice on the par-70 West Course. "It's got to be up there with the thickest and deepest rough I've ever seen.

"It's going to be a caddie's nightmare this week because you can't see the ball sometimes, in some positions it sinks down right to the bottom.

"If you or your caddie walk on the ball, it's a two-shot penalty, so that's one thing you try to avoid."

Three tiers of rough have been prepared for this week's tournament, the first being cut at a generous one-and-a-half inches to line the fairway.

Six feet outside that, the rough will be cut at three inches with the third cut set at five inches to punish the most wayward drives.

"The greens are going to be hard and fast by Thursday and the weekend," Campbell added. "The fairways are, once again, long and narrow and the rough is probably thicker than last year, I believe.

"You've got to be on your 'A' game to win around here, particularly with driving accuracy."  

Campbell feels confident about his title defence, despite missing his last three cuts on the PGA Tour.

"I've had the same sort of results this year as I did last year," he said, referring also to his performances on the European Tour.

"I had five missed cuts at the start of this year, then I started playing better the last month or so.

"So my form coming into this week is pretty similar to last year. Confidence-wise, it's very similar.

"Being here this week makes me feel very excited. I feel very at ease with myself and very comfortable with my title defence."

Campbell is scheduled to launch his defence in the company of world number one Woods and U.S. amateur champion Edoardo Molinari of Italy in Thursday's opening round.

June 14, 2006


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