KEY POINTS

  • Michael Campbell will never forget being lauded by Jack Nicklaus after beating Tiger Woods in 2005
  • Campbell said Nicklaus hailed him as the “best player in the world”
  • The Kiwi golfer followed Nicklaus’ advice

Michael Campbell looked back at his unforgettable Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus moment.

The year 2005 was the highlight of Campbell’s professional career. During this period, the Kiwi golfer achieved arguably the most prestigious accolade anybody in the sport can claim – beating the legendary Woods.

In an exclusive interview with Golf Australia’s John Huggan, Campbell recalled receiving the “best compliment” of his career following his win against Woods at the 2005 U.S. Open Championship. According to the now-51-year-old, the said victory was tagged as “underwhelming” because he didn’t join the PGA Tour after, but even Nicklaus was convinced at the time that Campbell was the best player in the game.

“I regret not joining the PGA Tour after I won the US Open,” Campbell recalled. “I would have had a five-year exemption. So I should have gone there full-time. I didn’t because of my family. I didn’t want my kids to have to move from England. That probably led to the 'underwhelming' thing.”

“Americans tend to care only about the PGA Tour,” he continued. “I’m not the only guy they look down on because of not playing there much. If it doesn’t happen in America, it doesn’t happen apparently. I’m not like guys who have made themselves the best player in the world. I’ve always known that. I don’t have that hard edge. But I’ve always felt like I was good enough to win a major.”

Tiger Woods struggled on the greens on the way to a five-over par 76 in the third round of the US PGA Tour Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club Tiger Woods struggled on the greens on the way to a five-over par 76 in the third round of the US PGA Tour Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / CHRIS TROTMAN

“So I was never going to be the best, just one of the best,” he added. “Having said that, Jack Nicklaus paid me a huge compliment at the closing ceremony for the 2005 Presidents Cup. He was making his speech and told millions of people, right at that moment, he thought I was the best player in the world. Tiger was sitting there. That’s the most incredible compliment I have ever been paid. I’ll never forget that moment. To have Jack say that was pretty special.”

The 2005 U.S. Open Championship is the only PGA Tour tournament Campbell has to his name. Since then, the Hāwera native never managed to cop any major title in America, but due to the said victory, he retained his playing rights before officially retiring in 2015 due to an ankle injury and personal issues.

However, Campbell was reminded of an important piece of advice Nicklaus gave him shortly after he beat Woods and found new motivation in honing aspiring golfers in his academy.

“Jack Nicklaus planted that seed in me,” the former major champion said of his golf academy. “Not long after I won the US Open, he gave me some advice. ‘Now that you’re a major champion, you are responsible for growing the game.’ So when the opportunity to do just that came along, I took it. It has been very rewarding.”

Jack Nicklaus, an 18-time major champion, was part of the most memorable roars at the Masters for defending champion Tiger Woods and three-time winner Phil Mickelson Jack Nicklaus, an 18-time major champion, was part of the most memorable roars at the Masters for defending champion Tiger Woods and three-time winner Phil Mickelson Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Kevin C. Cox