Chad Campbell looked back on his fondest Ryder Cup memories such as playing out of turn against Padraig Harrington in 2008, heading to away soil for the first time in 2006 and much more
Two days of intense tussling culminated in a narrow American advantage with one day left at the 2008 Ryder Cup.
Paul Azinger’s singles selections were up for submission as he looked to become the USA’s first winning captain since 1999.
The Ryder Cup doesn’t always reach the final match, but the USA only led by two points in Louisville, Kentucky – the birthplace of sporting icon Muhammad Ali.
There was every chance Chad Campbell could deal the knockout blow at Valhalla.
He was drawn to face Padraig Harrington in the last match – a winner of three majors, two of which were that year’s Open Championship and PGA Championship.
“The night before, we were sitting in the team room after the matches and they were going over what they thought and I guess they’d already made a lot of their decisions and so that’s when they told me,” Campbell told NCG.
“I was the last match and I remember Azinger telling me and asking me ‘Are you OK with being the last guy? I’m going to put you last and this thing might come down to you’.
“For about four or five holes when we were out there, I looked at my caddie.
“We looked at each other and said, ‘This thing might come down to us’, just with the way things were playing out. They had a little bit of a lead on us there early.”
The trophy was won in game eight when Jim Furyk beat Miguel Angel Jimenez, completing a run of four consecutive matches going the USA’s way that afternoon.
Campbell added the cherry to the cake by beating Harrington 2&1 in what was a raucous and pulsating edition of the event.
This was the Texan’s second point earned after he and Stewart Cink beat Ian Poulter and Justin Rose in the Friday foursomes, and his match with Harrington was memorable for more than one reason.
“We had a pretty good lead – I’m like ‘yeah I’m definitely up for it’. The funny thing I do remember about it was on 15 when we (the team) clinched the win,” he added.
“I kind of lost my mind and teed off in front of Padraig and it was his honour, so we had a pretty good laugh about that. He was like ‘I can make you re-hit that if you want?’
“It was funny, I was out of my mind there for a second, like oh my gosh! That was a pretty good run for him in 2007 and 2008 at the majors, he was playing some good golf.”
Making his Ryder Cup debut
It took the Texan three attempts to win the golden trophy. His Ryder Cup bow came in 2004 having won the Tour Championship just two years after earning his card in 2001.
Campbell originally made his name by winning 13 times on the Hooters Tour and three times on what is now named the Korn Ferry Tour.
He came runner-up to Shaun Micheel at the 2003 PGA Championship – a man now famous for this major trophy being his only victory on the PGA Tour.
Campbell followed up his Tour Championship triumph with a win at Bay Hill to cement his place as one of five rookies on a US side captained by Hal Sutton, taking on Europe at Oakland Hills, Michigan.
“It was definitely a target of mine,” he said. “I was already set up pretty good with the year I had in 2003, so it was definitely something I wanted to achieve and to be a part of.”
Bernhard Langer’s side inflicted their biggest beating on America since the event’s inception in 1927 – but this didn’t hinder Campbell’s performance on the final day.
He humbled Luke Donald 5&3, but the nerves and apprehension of that first tee shot are what immediately came to mind.
“My first tee shot in Detroit. Man, I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous. But once you get out there and play, you’re fine.
“The lead-up to the very first tee shot was pretty tough, it was a pretty tough tee shot. But it’s enjoyable, it’s what we play for – to be in situations like that.
“When you play in singles, it’s a little bit different and it’s a bit more like a week-to-week event in a way because you’re playing your own ball and doing your own thing.
“I just wanted to have a good experience and try to win a point for our team. We were way down, we had to do a lot.
“We were definitely on the outside looking in on that, but I just wanted to do all I could to help the team and to play against Luke, with Luke being such a good player and having done so much in his career.”
Playing the Ryder Cup on away soil
A handful of Zach Johnson’s United States team will play their first Ryder Cup on away soil this year, something Campbell experienced in 2006 which became a second consecutive 18.5-9.5 loss.
He earned a point via two halves at the K Club when paired with Johnson and Vaughn Taylor, while Donald earned his revenge in the singles with a 2&1 victory.
The crowds at the Ryder Cup are often fraught with hostility towards the away side. It’s a distinctly different atmosphere compared to run-of-the-mill tour events.
But Campbell didn’t see it this way.
“It was different in Ireland. European fans are always awesome,” he added. “I always enjoyed going to The Open and I played the Scottish Open one year and I just always enjoyed the crowds and the way they react to shots and their knowledge of golf.
“If you hit a wedge to 30 feet, they usually don’t give you much clap. If you hit a 5-iron that creeps on the front edge in a hard wind, they really appreciate that shot.
“Sometimes, other crowds just yell when you hit it, European crowds really get golf and they’re really respectful to both sides.”
Despite his rich experience at golf’s greatest team event, Campbell couldn’t put his finger on the USA’s recent struggles prior to their dominant display at Whistling Straits in 2021.
But the former World No. 9 knows how difficult it will be for America’s new string of stars to win in Europe for the first time since 1993, no matter how talented they are.
Campbell had some advice for Team USA on coping with playing in enemy territory:
“I think we’ve got a lot of good players on the team and I think it should be good. It will definitely be tough, it’s always tough going over there and playing, so I think it will be an exciting match as always.
“You’re still doing the same thing. Some people might thrive on that more. You know the fans are against you, and I can definitely see that making you want it more.
“That drives you more. People aren’t really rooting against you, but they pretty much are! Not vocally, but in their heads.”
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