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CAMPBELL MAINTAINS POSITIVE ATTITUDE DESPITE AVERAGE DAY EVEN-PAR 72, OTHERS' STRUGGLES PUSH HIS LEAD TO THREE STROKES.

Byline: Dave Shelburne Staff Writer

THOUSAND OAKS - Last December, Michael Campbell of New Zealand sat down to write a list of his impressions of his 12th season as a golf professional.

``The last thing I wrote down was, 'I've had enough of this game,' '' said Campbell, whose career at that point had produced nine international victories and no wins on the PGA Tour.

Campbell stared at his list, which consisted mostly of what he thought was wrong with his game, and remembers thinking, ``This is pretty negative.''

``I ripped the piece of paper up,'' he said, ``and from that point on I changed my attitude, or my life, really.''

Unexpectedly, he also altered his place in golf, too. Forever.

Campbell is concluding the most amazing 12 months of his professional career, a season he highlighted with his nation's first victory in the U.S. Open and one in which he stretched his success to the sunny slopes of Sherwood Country Club this week.

After nearly breaking the Target World Challenge record with a record-tying 63 on Thursday, Campbell expanded his tournament lead to three strokes Friday, despite playing his final two holes in 3-over-par to finish with a 72 and drop to 9 under in the 16-man invitational.

In keeping with the new attitude that had him ripping up his bleak assessment of his 2004 season, Campbell wound up laughing at his closing struggles Friday.

``It's only a game,'' said the man whose game in 2005 enabled him to become only the second major champion from New Zealand.

The residue of that accomplishment has left Campbell - who joined later-knighted 1963 British Open champion Sir Bob Charles as the only Kiwi major champions - committed to playing around the world to help promote golf, as earlier major champions like Jack Nicklaus and tournament host Tiger Woods have done.

``I think it's really important for guys like ourselves to go around and see different parts of the world and to promote this game around the world,'' Campbell said. ``I want to share my success with people from different parts of the world.''

On Friday, he wound up sharing his good attitude, shaking off a back-nine slump that sliced his six-shot tournament lead down to three - over Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland (73-138) and Padraig Harrington of Ireland (70-138).

``I made one bad swing - that was on the last hole - probably two bad swings all day, really,'' Campbell said. ``That's pretty good for 50-odd swings.

``He's playing beautifully,'' said defending champion Woods, whose even-par 72 left him nine shots behind Campbell, who also won this year's World Match Play Championship. ``Obviously, this is what he's been doing most of the year.''

Kenny Perry of the U.S. (70-139) shares fourth with Fred Couples (68-139), both a stroke ahead of David Howell and Luke Donald (both 68-140) and Chris DiMarco (68-140).

Tim Clark (70), Jim Furyk (68) and Thomas Bjorn (71) shared ninth at 141, followed by Davis Love III (a round-best 67) and David Toms (70) at 143, Woods (72) at 144, Fred Funk (73) at 145 and Colin Montgomerie (70) at 146.

Couples said Campbell's play has been ``very impressive'' throughout the tournament.

``He's very consistent and very good,'' Couples said of Campbell, who entered the tournament ranked No. 15 in the world. ``You can't do anything crazy. It's not like you can start shooting for every one of those flags, because that's how you make bogeys.''

Harrington thought the course played easier on Friday than Thursday, because of easier pin positions.

``More front pins,'' he said. ``I would have expected the scoring to be better today.''

But, playing in the final group and facing more wind, Harrington said Sherwood played tougher on Friday, despite the fact more players broke par in the second round (12, to seven in the opening round).

``A lot tougher today,'' he said. The breeze came up probably the last nine holes for us, for me and Darren Clarke.''

That windy back nine helped bring Campbell - who held a six-shot lead after 12 holes Friday - back to the field and back, he said, to the reality of the game.

``It does really keep you in check, I think,'' Campbell said. ``Just to say, 'hey, this game is pretty hard to play.' It's not as easy as you'd think.''

Easier for some, however, than others from week to week, as Campbell is in the process of demonstrating at Sherwood.

Dave Shelburne, (818) 713-3609

dave.shelburne(at)dailynews.com

CAPTION(S):

2 photos, 3 boxes

Photo:

(1 -- color) Michael Campbell has a three-stroke lead after two days in the Target World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks.

(2) Despite an even-par 72, Michael Campbell is in front by three shots at the 16-player Target World Challenge in Thousand Oaks.

Reed Saxon/Associated Press

Box:

(1) TARGET LEADERS

(2) SCORES

(3) TEE TIMES
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 10, 2005
Words:814
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