KORN FERRY TOUR INSIDER
Campbell's game is precise yet fearless
June 29, 2016
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- June 29, 2016
- Brian Campbell recorded his fourth consecutive top-10 at the Air Capital Classic presented by Aetna. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
When Brian Campbell was standing on the tee of the treacherous par-4 7th at Crestview Country Club during the final round of the Air Capital Classic presented by AETNA, he had driver in his hands.
He wanted to clear the water, some 270 yards away, and have nothing more than a flip wedge into the green. His playing partners for the day – JT Poston and eventual winner Ollie Schienderjans – ended up using an iron to get into a safe position.
But not Campbell. He went for it.
Contrast this with his earlier approach to the par-5 2nd, where he hit iron off the tee, iron to a comfortable yardage, and a wedge to 15-feet.
It was as if the University of Illinois graduate was hoping to surgically dismantle the golf course in hopes of creeping on the leaders.
It’s that combination of surgical precision and a fearless, yet somehow relaxed, attitude that has Campbell, 23, sitting 8th on the Web.com Tour money list after just seven starts.
In those seven starts, he has five top-10s, including two runner-up finishes. He had only conditional status on the Web.com Tour for 2016 at the beginning of the year, but he has certainly made the most of his season so far.
Campbell admits he’s had a very consistent year, and that’s been the key to his success.
“I’ve got a new guy on the bag, a friend, and we’ve had the same process week-to-week, which has been working,” he says. “When you throw some confidence on top of that, I’ve just been able to believe in what I’ve been doing. I’ve been trusting my own game, and grinding.”
He eventually tied for 6th this past week at the Air Capital Classic – his fourth-straight top 10 – and is in line for a PGA TOUR card.
Campbell, who graduated from Illinois just over a year ago, says there is just one name that has been his biggest professional golf influence over the last five or so years – legendary Illinois golf coach Mike Small.
“He showed me what good golf was,” Campbell explains of Small, who won twice on the Web.com Tour in 1997. “Year to year we kept getting better, and he’s definitely been the biggest inspiration.”
Small, who also played on the PGA TOUR in the 1990s, says Campbell’s competitive nature is what stood out to him when he was first recruiting the Californian.
“During his time at Illinois, his game and his fundamentals grew, and they caught up with his competitive fire,” explains Small. “He’s just a stand-up kid. He comes from a great family, and with Brian, you get what you see. He’s a very mature young man, which helped him in his progress here.”
Campbell turned professional in 2015 and had a splashy start to his career, finishing tied for 10th at the Web.com Tour’s Nova Scotia Open last July.
“I was there to win,” he admits. “I wasn’t really surprised I played well. The putter was working, and the wedges were dialed in. I had a good week.”
That event came after another good week for Campbell, as he finished as Low Amateur at the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay.
Despite the critiques the course received, Campbell says none of that bothered him all week long.
“There were a lot of guys complaining, and I could have complained. Maybe two or three of the greens were in bad shape. But otherwise, it was a perfect course. It was unbelievable,” he recalls. “I thought there was no point in complaining, because everyone had to play the same course. I kept a positive attitude and I putted really well that week.”
Small explains he knew Campbell had that kind of strong finish in him.
“He’s that type of player. When he gets it going, watch out,” says Small. “His finish at the U.S. Open didn’t surprise me. Low Amateur is a heck of an accomplishment, and I knew he had it in him. I could see him building off that.”
Campbell credits some of his relaxed attitude to his birthplace, as the native of Orange County, California admits the cliché West Coast vibe applies to him.
“I don’t think I get very angry or pissed off,” he says with a smile. “I just like to stay relaxed. It definitely helps my game. This is a tough game we play, and it helps to stay as relaxed as you can.”
So far through 2016, though, Campbell has made a tough game seem easy.
Small says he’s happy to see Campbell achieve success so quickly and is confident his former pupil will be on the TOUR next year.
“He’s following the path that’s laid out for him, and hopefully he’ll keep playing well,” he states. “If he does, he’ll be doing that about as quick as you can do it right now. He’s only been out of school for 13 months.”
Although Campbell has the TOUR in his sites – fairly locked in, at that – don’t expect him to be letting (or laying) up any time soon.
“We’re in a good position,” he says. “We want to get better though.”