Longshot Winners in the Majors
Up ahead, workers trying to keep their balance in 35 mph gusts were tearing down the massive grandstands surrounding the 18th green.
Thousands of fans had been in those seats as they watched Ben Curtis pass by, not knowing who he was or even daring to imagine that the 396th-ranked player in the world would be introduced within the hour as the champion golfer of the year.
On the day after a bizarre week produced a most unlikely winner, Royal & Ancient secretary Peter Dawson summed it up with a bemused smile on his face.
'It can be done,' he said.
By now, everyone should believe it.
Depending on what happens at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in two weeks at the Women's British Open, and at Oak Hill next month in the PGA Championship, this could be remembered as the year of the longshot.
First came Hilary Lunke, the only major champion in recent memory to carry a master's degree and an 11-wood.
Lunke had never finished higher than 15th in her two short years on the LPGA Tour. No one gave her a fighting chance at the U.S. Women's Open because she had so little experience and could barely hit the ball out of her shadow.
She won a playoff at Pumpkin Ridge two weeks ago, the first champion to have gone through two stage of qualifying -- and that includes opening the second stage with an 80.
Next up was Curtis, a PGA Tour rookie who never came close to cracking the top 10 until he tied for 13th at the Western Open. That was good enough to get him into the British Open for his first taste of a major championship.
On Sunday, Curtis took his place among Harry Vardon, Walter Hagen, Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Tiger Woods. All of those names are above his on the silver claret jug.
In the history books, Curtis will be linked with the likes of Alf Perry and Jack Fleck.
Perry, a British club professional, begged for a few days off so he could play in the 1935 British Open at Muirfield. He won by four shots, and was last seen caressing the claret jug while sitting on a bench at the train station to go home.
Ben Hogan was already in the clubhouse at Olympic Club in the 1955 when someone said Jack Fleck -- Jack who? -- was making a run. Fleck caught Hogan with a birdie on the 72nd hole, then beat him in an 18-hole playoff the next day, his only victory of the decade.
'There's so many professional golfers out there that set the dream just to win a major,' Curtis said. 'And I did it my first try.'
The longshots had some help.
Lunke might have had a tough time taking on Annika Sorenstam in the playoff at Pumpkin Ridge, only Sorenstam failed to deliver in the clutch. With a 4-wood into the par-5 18th, needing only a par to get into the playoff, the best player in women's golf made bogey.
Curtis got some help from Bjorn, who plays out of the desert in Dubai but couldn't handle the soft sand in the pot bunkers at Royal St. George's.
Bjorn took three swipes out of the sand before escaping the pot bunker at No. 17 in the final round, despite having plenty of green behind the flag and a two-shot lead.
His collapse wasn't nearly as shocking as Jean Van de Velde hitting into the rough, off the grandstand, into a burn, into a bunker and making triple bogey on the final hole at Carnoustie to blow his three-shot lead.
Sometimes, mistakes are more memorable than anything the winner did.
Don't forget that Paul Lawrie shot 67 in the final round at Carnoustie, then two of the purest iron shots in the playoff, to win the 1999 British Open.
And be sure to remember Curtis as more than an unknown.
While Bjorn botched the bunker shots, while Woods, Vijay Singh and Davis Love III failed to make clutch putts down the stretch, Curtis never shot worse than 72 over four days at Royal St. George's. Equally impressive, he never made worse than bogey.
Lunke did not stumble into the biggest prize in women's golf. She made nine putts of 5 feet for longer in the 18-hole playoff, including a 15-foot birdie on the final hole.
Yes, the odds were ridiculously high. That doesn't mean the victory was a fluke.
Singh saw it coming at the Western Open. He played with Curtis and the 26-year-old from Ohio closed with rounds of 69-68 to earn a spot in the British Open.
On the eve of the final round at Royal St. George's, Singh said he told his wife, 'This guy can play. He's no pushover.'
What remains to be seen is whether young players with no credentials and hardly any name recognition are inspired by what Curtis and Lunke did this month.
Perhaps there will be another longshot winner at the PGA Championship.
Someone like Tiger Woods.
Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son
ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.
Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.
''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''
They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.
''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''
Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.
''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''
Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.
Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.
Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.
Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?
Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.
Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”
Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.
Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.
The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.
Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.
Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.
Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational
Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.
The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.