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Golf | European Tour

Michael Campbell © Reuters

Life begins at 40 at Hong Kong Open

All the talk beforehand was about Rory McIlroy and teenager Matteo Manassero, but it is a group of fortysomethings who are leading the charge at the $2 million UBS Hong Kong Open.

At the end of the second round, the world No 1 McIlroy, 23, was out of the tournament after he failed to make the cut. At the top of the leaderboard instead were five men all aged 40 or over.

Kiwi Michael Campbell, who won the US Open in 2005, is coming back into form at the age of 43. He led at the halfway stage at nine-under-par 131, and said afterwards that he had drawn inspiration from the sport's elder statesmen.

"There have been times where I wanted to throw it in, but what's really inspired me – particularly over the last four or five years – is seeing my friends around the same age bracket as me, the 40-plus club," he said.

"The likes of Ernie (Els, now aged 43) winning his fourth Major, Thomas Bjorn (41) winning three times last year.

"So not just me: Paul Lawrie (43), a wonderful last couple of years. Padraig Harrington, he's 40 (actually 41). Jim Furyk (42) winning the FedEx Cup. And the list goes on. So being 40 isn't that bad playing golf.

"Seeing my friends win tournaments left, right and centre definitely inspired me to not give up and keep on playing."

A shot behind Campbell after two rounds were veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez, 48, Sweden's Fredrik Andersson Hed, 40, and Zhang Lianwei from China. They were followed in outright fifth by the Dane Anders Hansen, 42.

Zhang, 47, the first Chinese to win on the European Tour, in 2003, said: "I'm glad to see several 40-plus players at the top of the leaderboard.

"Jimenez and Michael Campbell, like myself, have played at Fanling (Hong Kong) before. And on this course, you don't need a lot of power but you do need accuracy and you have to have patience, and your overall game has to be on-target to be able to score well."

Jimenez will be the oldest winner of a European Tour event if he finishes top of the leaderboard on Sunday. It will also be a hat-trick of Hong Kong Open titles for the wily Spaniard, who seems to always hit form in Hong Kong.

"I just want to enjoy myself," the pony-tailed Jimenez said after his second-round 67 on Friday. "That's the only way to play your best golf."

Going into the Hong Kong Open, which is co-sanctioned between the European Tour and Asian Tour, Scotland's Lawrie was clinging on to a lucrative 10th place in the Race to Dubai. He was tied 20th at the halfway stage.

The strapping Campbell said that Lawrie, who is enjoying a surge in form in the twilight of his hugely successful career, was a "prime example".

"He's bounced back the last couple of years fantastically, and to me that's very inspirational," said Campbell.

"He's about the same age as me. One thing about this game is that age is no barrier. That's one thing that makes me keep coming back."


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