He flopped rather than flew over the finish line, but maybe that was to be expected. After 17 top-five finishes since 2011 and nine in the past two seasons alone – including T-2s and a third in his past four starts – Jorge Campillo’s maiden victory on the European Tour has been a long time coming. So perhaps it was not so surprising that he, ultimately at least, made hard work of clinching the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco.
At the end of a final-round 71 that started with two bogeys in his opening three holes, the 32-year-old Spaniard pulled his drive badly off the par-5 18th tee on the 7,632-yard Royal Golf Dar Es Salam course and was more than a little fortunate to finish in a bunker. The recovery shot found the fairway 117 metres from the green, and from there Campillo successfully avoided further disquiet, making a par to claim the biggest share of the €2.5 million purse. The Madrid native finished at nine-under par 283 in Morocco, two shots ahead of Erik Van Rooyen and a pair of Americans, Julian Suri and Sean Crocker. Another of Uncle Sam’s nephews, David Lipsky, was alone in fifth.
“It has been a long wait – almost 250 tournaments [229 to be exact] – but I didn’t have my A-game today so I am proud of that,” said the man who will rise from 90th to 65th in the world ranking. “It was tough. I was missing shots off the tee, but I hit some great shots coming home and putted great. Waiting on the last tee did not help; I wish I could have hit my tee shot sooner. But I hit a great shot from the bunker. I’m proud of how I finished – like a champion. I have so many promises to fulfill after this win, I will have to take a few weeks off. But it has all been worth it.”
Of those closest to the new champion, Van Rooyen will perhaps have most cause for regret. Two shots clear with nine holes to play, the South African stumbled early on the back nine. By the 14th, courtesy of Van Rooyen’s three-putt bogey, Campillo was ahead to stay. Birdies on the 16th and 17th only confirmed that status.
Speaking of which, Campillo’s long wait for this overdue success is even more surprising when one considers his record before turning professional in 2009 and graduating from the European Challenge Tour two years later. While at the University of Indiana, he claimed the Big Ten Conference’s “triple crown” in 2008 – taking the season-long golfer of the year award, earning the Les Bolstad Award for low stroke average and winning the Big Ten individual championship. Later that year, he also won the Spanish Amateur title, and he represented his country at every level and Europe three times in the Palmer Cup. Impressive stuff that only underlines the old saying that, on tour, no one cares – not even a little bit – about what anyone achieved as an amateur.