Campbell heads cast of Europeans


STRAFFAN, Ireland, AP

Michael Campbell of New Zealand, using new clubs and a new ball, shot 67 to share the lead with four unheralded Europeans in the first round of the European Open at The K Club Thursday. Campbell, winner of the Heineken Classic in February and third on the European Order of Merit, was level with Massimo Scarpa of Italy, Henrik Bjornstad of Norway, Dutchman Maarten Lafeber and Mikael Lundberg of Sweden. They led by a stroke from another group of five that included Colin Montgomerie and Darren Clarke, first and joint second at the Irish Open four days ago. U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen, in his first competitive round since winning that title in Tulsa 17 days ago, carded a 3-under-69. He was level with seven others. Goosen said he had not yet come to terms with his achievement. “I don’t think I am back down on the planet yet,” he said. “In the circumstances I think I played OK. There was a bit of rust but I’m happy with my position. I left a lot of putts short. The greens are slower than at Southern Hills.” Campbell, who is one of several players who use Belgian sports psychologist Jos Vanstiphout, said he took his mentor to Southern Hills with him. When Goosen, who Campbell played with on Thursday, did not want to use him as well, Campbell decided to pay Vanstiphout’s air fare and accommodation. After Campbell missed the cut in Tulsa, Goosen decided to employ Vanstiphout and after he won, credited the Belgian with helping him do so. Goosen then offered to pick up the fare and accommodation tab for the European Open. “He is a fine gentleman and I admire him as a golfer as well as a friend,” Campbell said. “This Goose is a very relaxed person. His mindset is to forget the U.S. Open and get on with playing this week. “I told him I think his life has changed. He said: ‘It has changed but I haven’t changed. People around me have changed’.” Campbell birdied five of the first eight holes, but the other three birdie putts lipped out. “It could have been eight straight birdies, but hey, I can’t complain,” he said. He said he changed to new clubs Thursday for the first time in four years because the grooves on the old ones were a bit worn. He also used a new ball which spun a little bit less and went “a little further and a little higher.” Scarpa, is a 31-year-old from Venice who learned to play golf left-handed. He switched when he was 14 but he still hits wedge shots from 70 yards (64 meters) and closer with left-handed clubs. Scarpa, who won the inaugural North West of Ireland Open last year for his only European Tour victory, birdied three of the four par-3s on the 7,227-yard layout. Two came on superb iron shots close to the flag, the other on a 25-foot (7.6 meter) putt. Bjornstad, 22, birdied his first two holes after starting at the 10th, then after his lone bogey at the second, his 11th, he ran in four birdies in a row including putts of 30 and 15 feet (9 and 4.5 meters). Montgomerie, who described his round as tidy, did not birdie any of the four par-5s on a course he said was more difficult with the addition of trees and thicker rough.