September 19, 2008 (updated sept 22) –There were more than a few people who asked "What?" when Ryder Cup Captain Paul Azinger named Chad Campbell, a Las Vegas golfer who was an All-American at UNLV, to the 2008 United States Ryder Cup team. After all, Campbell has the lowest world ranking of any competitor, and wasn't blistering courses leading up to the Ryder Cup. But he was a two-time Ryder Cup veteran, and Azinger was more than happy with his selection. Campbell helped propel the US team to victory with a fateful shot.
And now Campbell's second shot into the par 5, 18th hole at Valhalla during the morning matches on Friday could become THE shot of this Ryder Cup. The shot landed near the hole and in eagle range, and when the team of Ian Poulter and Justin Rose three-putted, the team of Stuart Cink and Campbell (playing alternate shot) had secured a point for the US. Azinger said it was the most important shot of the morning, and Campbell was still feeling it following the round. "It was a perfect 5-iron for me, and it was great," Campbell told the media. "I hit that shot and had chills. It was awesome." Click now for Campbell's complete press conference notes.
Captain Azinger said that Campbell hitting that shot was the exact reason he picked Campbell. "Chad's 5-iron was amazing," said Azinger. "Part of the reason I picked Chad is because I feel like he's got the heart of a champion. You know, Chad did not hit it great off the tee today. He always hits his irons well. For whatever reason, he didn't drive it well today. He'll have an opportunity to practice this afternoon, but he manned up when he had to. He's a gamer. He hit that terrific wedge on 17 and he hit that terrific 5-iron today on the last hole. I put my arms around him and could not be any more proud of him, and I told him that's the reason he's here."
Campbell hit his 5-iron from 186 yards on the hole, and said that not only was the shot exciting, but the entire match was a challenge, especially when he and Cink were in trouble early. "The last few holes were very exciting," Campbell said. "We got off to a little bit of a tough start, dug ourselves a little bit of a hole, but we told each other, just fight back one shot at a time. After we went 3-down on 7, Stewart hit a great shot there on 8 and kind of turned things around and was able to play some great golf coming in. I hit Stewart into some interesting places off the tee, we were able to fight back."
Cink was as impressed with his tee shot on 18 as he was with Campbell's second shot. "It might have been the best tee ball of my life, to be honest," said Cink. "I caught it pretty solid. It's not exactly my favorite tee ball there on 18. You know, it's a little bit of an awkward angle, the water is right, and their golf ball was already in the fairway. Just tried to stay in the present. All day we were just taking it one shot at a time and just trying to chip away at whatever we had to chip away at. There, you know, I just tried to stay within myself and just swing and caught it really solid, perfect line, and gave Chad a good club."
Cink said that the match was just like he remembered playing in the Ryder Cup to be."It was a vintage Ryder Cup match, really," said Cink. "I mean, there was great play, there was poor play by everybody in the group, but nobody gave up and everybody fought hard. There were some miraculous saves out there, and as is so often the case, when you put two teams like this together to fight it out, it came down to the last hole."
After the morning matches, Team USA was leading 3-1. Campbell was slated to sit out the afternoon matches, but was expected to play on Saturday. The matches conclude on Sunday.
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