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Campbell holds on to win Open

The Associated Press

PINEHURST, N.C. - Michael Campbell heard a roar that shook the sun-baked ground at Pinehurst No. 2, the unmistakable sound of Tiger Woods making another birdie to cut into his lead Sunday at the U.S. Open.

Campbell backed off his shot in the adjacent 14th fairway, then hit a laser that never left the flag.

Moments later, another cheer rang out, louder still, from the 18th green as Woods finished with a birdie. Campbell had more work to do to earn his first major championship. This time, he fired an 8-iron into 20 feet on the par-3 17th, and the birdie putt dropped in the center of the cup.

''I heard the roars going up,'' Campbell said. ''And I knew what was going on.''

Campbell answered every challenge Woods threw at him until a U.S. Open full of surprises - from Jason Gore's memorable run to Retief Goosen's unforgettable collapse - got the biggest one of all.

Woods was the one who buckled.

Once touted as a rising star, Campbell finally delivered a major championship no one saw coming with a collection of steely par saves and a knockout punch on the 17th to capture the U.S. Open, joining 1963 British Open champion Bob Charles as the only players from New Zealand to win a major.

''I worked hard for it. I deserve it. And I have it,'' Campbell said. ''It's all mine.''

The last 10 years were a collection of unlimited potential and shattered confidence.

The last 10 holes were packed with pressure during an intense duel with the world's No. 1 player.

''I stayed patient for 10 years, and I went through some ups and downs, some injuries, missing cuts, missing tournaments,'' Campbell said. ''But deep down inside, I knew that I had something in me to do something special.''

Woods must have felt like he went back in time to the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst, when his rally was snuffed out by a bogey on the 17th hole. He made two of them this time, missing an 8-foot par putt on the 16th hole, then ramming his 25-foot birdie putt 6 feet by and missing that one to the right.

A birdie on the last hole gave him a 1-under 69, his second runner-up finish in a major and little consolation.

''I figured if I could just get to even par … if I was lucky, I might be able to get into a playoff,'' Woods said. ''Unfortunately, I made those two bogeys on 16 and 17 and (they) kind of put me out of that equation.''

Campbell had a three-shot lead at No. 18 and finished with a bogey he could afford. The only thing he couldn't beat was Pinehurst, finishing at even-par 280, the first time a U.S. Open champion failed to break par since Lee Janzen at Olympic Club in 1998.

Campbell raised his arms when the final putt fell and looked to the sky, stunned by a crowning moment in a career that looked so promising in the British Open at St. Andrews a decade ago.

The 36-year-old tugged his cap down over his face and then dabbed at his eyes. After hugs with his caddie and playing partner Olin Browne, Campbell thrust his fist in the air and threw his ball into the crowd.

''It's just amazing,'' he said.

The last hug was for Woods' caddie, Steve Williams, a fellow New Zealander.

''I think that was the single greatest sports moment in New Zealand history,'' Williams said.

Woods stayed behind the 18th green and watched Campbell finish, gently rubbing a clenched fist over his lips as he stared back toward the 17th green. There would be no 10th major on this day.

''Unfortunately, it's frustrating,'' Woods said. ''If I putt just normal, I'm looking pretty good.''

There might not have been any tense moments if not for Goosen, the two-time U.S. Open champion who turned in a collapse that ranks among the greatest in major championship history. He lost his three-shot lead in three holes and crashed in spectacular fashion, closing with an 81.

Gil Morgan was the last 54-hole leader at the U.S. Open to fade so unceremoniously, shooting 81 in the final round in 1992 at Pebble Beach.

''I messed up badly,'' Goosen said. ''I obviously threw this away, but I'll be back next year. We all have bad rounds.''

Gore, 818th in the world rankings but No. 1 to the massive crowd at Pinehurst, shot 84. Browne, who started the final round tied with Gore three shots from the lead, closed with an 80.

That set the stage for a duel between Campbell and Woods.

''I was telling myself 20 times a hole (to) keep my focus, keep my focus, keep my focus,'' Campbell said. ''And it worked.''

Campbell hasn't been in contention at a major since the '95 British Open, where he hit one of the most memorable shots out of the Road Hole bunker to save par and take the lead into the final round. He finished with a 76 at St. Andrews, missing out on the playoff by one shot.

His career has been a roller coaster since, much like the state of his emotions Sunday afternoon. But he showed the poise of a champion down the stretch, even with roars for Woods ripping through the pines.

Woods, eight shots behind as he headed up the third fairway, had the look of a winner when he birdied the first two holes on the back nine to get within two shots of the lead.

Campbell answered with a 25-foot birdie on No. 12, the toughest hole in the final round.

Woods stuffed his approach on the 203-yard 15th hole to 5 feet, and the cheer was such a jolt that Campbell backed off his shot in the 14th fairway. He hit that one to 8 feet and made par.

The tournament effectively ended on the next two holes.

Campbell was short and in the bunker on the 15th, but hit a terrific shot out to 6 feet to save par. Up ahead, Woods quickly took himself out of contention with bogeys. He ended with a 12-foot birdie, but it was too late.

Campbell earned $1.17 million for his first victory in the United States, which comes with five-year exemptions on the PGA Tour and the other three majors.

Sergio Garcia (70), Tim Clark (70) and Mark Hensby (74) tied for third at 5-over 285.

It was the hardly the star-quality leaderboard that Pinehurst produced six years ago, when the late Payne Stewart beat Phil Mickelson with a 15-foot par putt on the last hole, with Woods and Vijay Singh another shot behind.

But it still demanded the best golf, and Campbell proved a worthy champion.

''Hats off to him,'' Woods said. ''He was in the doldrums and worked his way back. Now he's one of the best.''