Having made two consecutive cuts for the first time since July 2011, Michael Campbell was entitled to break into a smile on the second day of the Portugal Masters.
The New Zealander has endured his fair share of lows since winning the US Open Championship seven years ago, finishing outside the top 200 in The Race to Dubai in 2009 and 2010, and 181st in the Money List last year.
A naturally sunny disposition has helped him through the tough times, but by his own admission there has been a fair degree of soul-searching during his fruitless struggle for a consistent run of results.
Having changed coaches for the umpteenth time, Campbell was encouraged with his display at last week’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, where he opened and closed with sub-70 rounds for the first time this season en route to finishing in a tie for 47th place.
With a degree of confidence restored, therefore, Campbell approached this week’s €2.25million with something of a spring in his step, and his positivity has been rewarded with rounds of 68 and 69 to enter the weekend on five under par and in with a realistic chance of gaining his first European Tour title since the HSBC World Match Play Championship in 2005.
Campbell said: “It’s been very promising lately, but I’ve still been very inconsistent. That’s one thing I’m trying to strive for, to be more consistent. I think it’s just a matter of working on what I’ve been working on with my coach for the last two or three months, and hopefully that will pay off over the next couple of days.
“One thing I’ve been working on mentally is to just enjoy the game. It’s only a game of golf, so just go out there and if you play well it’s a bonus, and if not it’s no big deal. But that’s sometimes easier said than done.
“It’s actually been quite a tough couple of days in the wind, but it’s nice to finally put a few good scores together. I’m feeling pretty confident right now which hasn’t happened for a while, so I’m really looking forward to the weekend. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in contention, it feels nice again to be teeing it up there amongst the leaders and amongst the great players.”