“Playing the Masters at Augusta has been my goal since I became a professional”
He is not particularly talkative in front of a tape recorder (the mobile phone variety, of course) but it is more important that he is comfortable with his clubs when facing challenges out on the golf course. Born in Cáceres 33 years ago, a major star on the amateur stage (rising to number two in the world ranking) and a leading figure in university golf in the United States, Jorge Campillo has been rewarded for his talent and tenacity (10 years since turning professional) with his first triumph in 230 appearances on the European Tour: the Hassan II Trophy last April. We interviewed him at Royal Valderrama Club on the eve of the Estrella Damm N. A. Andalucía Masters.
It has been a long wait, 10 years, for you to finally achieve your first triumph on the European Tour. What were your first sensations when victory was secured?
I don’t know really… relief, satisfaction, having finally succeeded. It was actually fine. I was getting close, with six seconds, and they say that, if you knock on the door many times, one day it will open, and that's what happened to me.
What goals have you set for this year?
I wanted to win a tournament and I've achieved that, and to play well in a major, so let’s see if I can finish the season strongly.
Your experiences in the majors have not been all that positive, not having made the cut in any of the three you have competed in…
In the British Open one year I didn’t play badly but I ended up missing the cut; the PGA very bad both times, this year a little better, but at the moment pretty weak. Let's see if I can play well in the British Open.
Climbing positions in the world ranking so you can opt to play in the majors will also presumably be one of your goals?
-Yes… Playing the Masters at Augusta has been my goal since I became a professional, and now I'm not far away (top 50 in the world ranking, and Jorge was 68th at the end of June), but you have to play well from here to the end of the year to be involved.
Do you see yourself debuting in the Ryder Cup next year?
If they counted the rankings for this year... Obviously, you have to play very well to have a chance; you have to get into the majors. I have a lot of work to do but, well, some day maybe.
It's not the first time you have played at Valderrama. What do you think of the course?
It's great. It’s a complicated course and you have to be accurate, but I really like to come here. You can see the changes they have made in recent years — they have cut many trees, they have made the greens a little wider — and it is actually very good. There are no holes that previously might have been considered unfair.
Speaking of changes, what you have done with your putting seems to be producing excellent results…
Yes… Last year at the end of the season I wasn’t playing so badly — the results showed that — but I noticed that even playing well I had bad feelings with the putter. It didn’t flow and I wasn’t hitting the ball well, so I decided to go to Liverpool to see this man (Phil Kenyon, who assigned his assistant Mike Kanski to him) and from there I’ve improved my putting.
The American dream is, for you, still only that, or do you believe you could still make the leap to the PGA Tour?
It’s true that it is difficult to make it over there. It’s very closed, and it’s not easy to get into the top 50 (of the world ranking) to be able to play the invitationals and the majors and thus have any option. If not, I see it as being very difficult.
After your amateur career, and having been number two in the world ranking, it seemed as though you could have had better luck on turning professional: that is, obtaining top results quickly…
To be at the top as an amateur does not guarantee anything when you turn professional. There are many names who do succeed, but there are others who you do not even know where they are now. The truth is that I arrived on the Tour promptly — one and a half or two years after turning professional — and since then I have gradually improved, and I think I’m meeting expectations a little.
Changing the protagonist… what did you think about Tiger’s victory at Augusta?
Fantastic…. It’s good for golf; it’s been good for all of us. I thought that he would never win another major, although perhaps a PGA Tour tournament, but it has silenced many of us. There were people who believed in him, but very few. And I believe he can win one more: let’s see if he has some good fortune.
Although you are from Cáceres (Extremadura), your first contact with golf — at only three years of age — was in this area, the Costa del Sol. What are your recollections of that?
We were in Benamara (an urbanisation located between Marbella and Estepona), and my father, who had never played golf, started playing for the first time at Aloha or El Paraíso, and he took me with him. Then Cáceres Golf Club was founded, but it was in Marbella where we all started playing golf.