Bob Asmussen: Campbell's ready for U.S. Open
If you are going to play in the U.S. Open, might as well dream big.
Like “Roy McAvoy” in “Tin Cup” big. Like “Carl Spackler” in “Caddyshack” big. “It’s in the hole.”
Brian Campbell isn’t even done with his college career. But the Illinois senior-to-be is dreaming big going into his first U.S. Open.
“You never know if this is going to be my only U.S. Open I’m at or if this is going to be one of many,” Campbell said.
“I’m actually going to go out to the U.S. Open believing in myself and knowing that I belong out there. Anyone in the field has a chance to win. If I keep that mentality going, I think I can play well and make something happen.”
He just shot a 63 during the NCAA tournament. Ask him if he can do it again on golf’s biggest stage.
“It’s definitely a possibility,” Campbell said.
As he travels to Pinehurst (N.C.) No. 2, Campbell has already defied the odds. He advanced from local qualifying to the sectional in Daly City, Calif.
There, Campbell tied for fourth to make the Open field.
“It’s still a pretty unreal experience,” Campbell said.
Campbell will play the famous course for the first time this week. He has friends in the area who have played there and filled him in. Local knowledge is key.
“I think it will fit my game pretty well,” Campbell said. “Most of the course is about the greens. I think a big, strong aspect of my game is my short game. I feel like I’ll be able to manage myself around the green very efficiently. The big key will be getting it in the fairway.”
Doesn’t sound jittery, does he?
“Honestly, right now I’m not too nervous because I’m already getting the opportunity to go and play at the U.S. Open,” Campbell said. “I’m sure one of the first tee shots, I’ll be nervous. But it will be that excited kind of nervousness. I’m really excited to play.”
Campbell’s caddie will help keep him loose. He picked friend Michael Haeri, who carried the bag in the qualifier. Haeri is a student at Southern Cal, and the two have been longtime friends.
“I like to have a calm atmosphere when I’m playing, and I think we’ll do a good job,” Campbell said. “I think that’s most important, kind of relaxing out there and not getting too ahead of myself.”
The Campbell support group doesn’t end with Haeri. Brian’s parents Don and Kim will be there. And so will his brother Derek.
It is a big week for the family beyond the golf course. Derek, a standout baseball player at Cal, was expected to hear his name called during the major league draft.
While his brother is likely moving on to the next level, Brian Campbell plans to be back for his senior season at Illinois. No chance he turns pro after Sunday.
“I am very set on coming back to school next year to get that degree and another year of experience,” Campbell said.
Campbell has all sorts of former Illini as examples to follow. He will play a practice round with Steve Stricker. They are among the five U.S. Open entries who played college golf in C-U.
“It feels awesome being able to see all those guys,” Campbell said. “I’m sure we will all be repping Illinois in some attire. It’s really cool, especially for the younger kids seeing what our program has done.”
Before the pairings were announced Friday, Campbell would have liked to see his name next to Phil Mickelson’s. Or one of the ex-Illini.
Instead, he gets to tee off with Clayton Rask and Nicholas Mason at 8:57 a.m. on Thursday, roughly an hour after Mickelson. But it’s a tee time he’s earned. And one that’s well-deserved.
Bob Asmussen writes a column three times a week for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at 217-351-5233 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Illinois will be well represented at the U.S. Open, which starts Thursday at Pinehurst (N.C.) No. 2. Staff writer Bob Asmussen rates their chances to bring home the big trophy:
Brian Campbell 1,000-1
For the Illini junior, being there is what matters most. All the rest is gravy.
Luke Guthrie 100-1
Going into Memphis, he was 91st on the money list at $688,000.
Scott Langley 80-1
St. Louis-area product might be the next ex to win, hanging close until the final day at the Memorial.
D.A. Points 200-1
Two-time winner on the PGA Tour is struggling to find consistency, sitting at No. 164 on the money list.
Steve Stricker 25-1
One of the best without a major, part-timer is running out of chances. Still playing well in rare appearances.