Ben Curtis wouldnt be a surprise this time at the British Open

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2009, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship TURNBERRY, Scotland ' When Ben Curtis won the British Open on his first try, he seemed one of the most fluky major champions in golf history. Beyond family and friends, no one had ever heard of the guy.
 
Its different now.
 
After a few rocky years trying to live up to his amazing debut at Royal St. Georges, Curtis has proved a worthy champion. He made the U.S. Ryder Cup team. He challenged for the PGA Championship. He finished in the top 10 at the last two British Opens, and hes got his eyes on the claret jug again.
 
Curtis shot a bogey-free, 5-under 65 Thursday that left him one stroke behind leader Miguel Angel Jimenez after the opening round at Turnberry.
 
Ben Curtis has come a long way since winning the 2003 Open Championship. (Getty Images)
Ben Curtis has come a long way since winning the 2003 Open Championship. (Getty Images)
While he still has to pinch himself at times when he looks back on his 2003 triumph, the 32-year-old Curtis has no doubts about his ability to contend for a second major title.
 
Id like to think if I was in this position heading into Sunday that Id be able to handle it well and go out there and play well, he said.
 
Curtis didnt have that sort of confidence six years ago when he was crowned the Open champion while whacking balls on the practice range, preparing for a possible playoff. Ranked No. 396 at the time, he wound up winning in regulation by one stroke over Thomas Bjorn and Vijay Singh.
 
The news was delivered to him by a fill-in caddie: Ben, youre the Open champion!
 
Curtis kept the caddie but struggled trying to live up to being a major champion. He missed the cut the next three times he traveled across the Atlantic, and he wouldnt win on the PGA Tour until 2006.
 
You look back on it and you kind of have to pinch yourself every now and then to realize that, hey, I won the biggest tournament in the world on the first try, he said. That just doesnt happen. Its just weird that it happened to me. I was very fortunate. I just had a great attitude that week. To be honest, I was just happy to be there.
 
Once he stopped worrying about expectations and let his talent take over, Curtis showed he was capable of being more than a journeyman who happened to put four magical days together at the best possible time.
 
He probably should have won last years PGA Championship at Oakland Hills, but ran out of steam while playing 36 holes on the final day. Curtis squandered a three-stroke lead with three bogeys in a four-hole stretch, finishing two shots behind winner Padraig Harrington in a tie for second with Sergio Garcia.
 
Still, the performance sent Curtis to the Ryder Cup for the first time, and he helped the Americans end a nine-year drought against the Europeans with a runaway win at Valhalla.
 
Also, Curtis has stepped up his play in the British Open, finishing eighth at Carnoustie in 2007 and seventh at Birkdale a year ago.
 
The last couple of years have been good to me, he said. The big thing, I just love playing links golf, knowing that you have to control your irons pretty well and just keep the ball out of those fairway bunkers and kind of manage your way around the golf course. I like doing that a little bit.
 
He did it just fine Thursday, taking advantage of the most un-British Open-like conditions along the craggy Scottish coast. The sun was out most of the day. It never rained. And the breeze barely rippled the flags above the grandstand.
 
Curtis had a couple of wayward shots, taking bogeys at the fourth and 10th holes. But he eagled the par-5 seventh and finished with four birdies in the final six holes.
 
Even with the pristine weather, Curtis was proud of his showing. Hed been struggling with his tee shots in practice and wasnt sure hed be able to keep the ball out of the tall, treacherous grass lining the fairways at Turnberry.
 
To shoot 65 today, yeah, I was a little surprised, even as easy as it was playing, he said. I was just hoping to find a fairway.
 
After posting the same score as 59-year-old Tom Watson, who led most of the day, Curtis was asked what he remembered about the famous Duel in the Sun on this very same course.
 
That day, in the final round of the 1977 British Open, Watson and Jack Nicklaus went head-to-head for the claret jug with no one else in contention. The Golden Bear ' from Ohio, like Curtis ' rolled in a 60-foot putt at No. 18 to give himself a chance, but Watson tapped in to preserve one of his five British Open titles.
 
So, Ben, any thoughts on that day?
 
I was 2 months old, Curtis cracked. I remember Jack making that putt. Thats about it.
 
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    Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

    With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

    Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

    The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

    Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

    In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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    Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

    By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

    After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

     There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



    It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

    It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

    “The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

    In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



    Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

    Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

    “You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

    Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



    Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

    If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

    For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

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    Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

    While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

    When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

    Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



    After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

    The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

    That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

    The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

    While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



    Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

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    John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

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    Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

    Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


    Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


    Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

    World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

    Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.