Curtis slowly building solid resume

By Doug FergusonApril 24, 2012, 8:47 pm

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - His first win came with a silver claret jug. His latest win came with a pair of cowboy boots.

Based on his reaction, it was hard to tell which meant more to Ben Curtis.

Curtis wasn't sure what to feel after winning the British Open in 2003 as a 26-year-old rookie on the PGA Tour, a guy playing in his first major. He thought his 10-foot par putt on the last hole was for second place and enough money to keep his card. But after Thomas Bjorn took three shots from a pot bunker on the 71st hole, Curtis became the most surprising winner of the British Open since a chimney sweep named David Brown came down from the roof in 1886 and won at Musselburgh.

''More shock than anything,'' Curtis said.

Sunday in San Antonio was different.

He had a three-shot lead going into the final round of the Texas Open. It was a big day for so many reasons, starting with the fact Curtis no longer had a full PGA Tour card for the first time in 10 years. He had to ask to get into tournaments, and he had already been rejected more times than he received exemptions. The Texas Open was only his fourth PGA Tour event of the year.

Curtis poured in a 20-foot par putt on the 17th when it looked like he might lose the lead, and then finished with a birdie he didn't need for a two-shot win.

Moments later, he could barely speak.

Curtis is not one to show much emotion. There are times it looks like he doesn't have a pulse. But when a player goes six years and 118 tournaments without a win, when his world ranking was almost as low (No. 285) as it was when he won that British Open (No. 396) as the ultimate long shot, winning means a little bit more.

''I didn't know it was in there,'' Curtis said Monday morning between flights on his way home to Ohio. ''Two different things, two points in my career. At this point, you expect to win. At 26 years old, in your first major, you don't.''

He is not the first major champion to go through tough times. David Toms went more than five years without a trophy until he won last year at Colonial. In the last 10 years, five major champions wound up losing their full PGA Tour cards at some point - Curtis, Todd Hamilton, Shaun Micheel, Mike Weir and Rich Beem.

Curtis was lucky to even have conditional status this year. He was 149th on the money list going into the final event of 2011, and then he missed the cut at Disney. He was sure to fall out of the top 150, but somehow didn't lose his position.

''Everything fell into place,'' he said. ''I was thinking I would be going to Europe, to be honest. At the end of the day, it's not the end of the world. I've been over there enough. It's not where I want to be, but it's still a great tour. I figured if I went over and played good, I could get back in the top 50. Or I could play a little on the Nationwide Tour and see if I could get something going.''

Curtis has a 10-year exemption in Europe from his Open Championship win. He made the cut in all three events on the Middle East swing, with a tie for 13th in Dubai. And while it might be a silly exhibition, he won a playoff to earn the last spot on Lake Nona's team in the Tavistock Cup. There were faint signs of hope.

And he was healthy.

Curtis said he had been dealing with pain in his back and neck for the last 16 months. There was no structural damage, but he couldn't practice after rounds, and he couldn't prepare for tournaments the way he needed. He made a few changes in his swing with Sean Hogan to alleviate the pain.

Just five months after losing his full tour card for the first time, Curtis is ready to go back to some familiar places. He is in The Players Championship next month. He can return the exemptions he recently received to Quail Hollow and the Memorial. He'll be back at Kapalua for the Tournament of Champions. And he's back in the Masters, which he had missed the last two years.

''Liam is already planning the trip to Hawaii,'' Curtis said of his 5-year-old son. ''He was bummed we didn't go this year.''

Even in winning, though, some things never change.

Curtis had a flight home from San Antonio on Monday morning, so he went to the hotel bar at the TPC San Antonio after his win with Irish caddie Ricky Elliott, his trainer and the trainer's wife. They were knocking down a few beers to celebrate.

''There were about 300 people in there, all of them guests from the tournament,'' Curtis said. ''The four of us were at the bar, and not one person walked up to me. I don't think anyone knew us.''

He laughed. Curtis doesn't draw a lot of attention, and he's not about to change his personality to get some notoriety. Besides, he's used to being overlooked. For a guy whom some considered a one-and-done major champion, Curtis has four PGA Tour wins and played in a Ryder Cup. He nearly won another major in 2008 when he was tied for the lead at the PGA Championship with four holes to play and made two bogeys from the rough.

It's a better record than some might have expected when they didn't know who he was at Royal St. George's in 2003. He qualified for every major for two years after his exemptions ran out. He never lost his full card until last year.

OK, so he's not Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson.

He's no chimney sweep, either.

Vegas lists Woods at 20-1 to win a major in 2018

By Will GrayNovember 22, 2017, 12:53 pm

He hasn't hit a competitive shot in nearly a year, but that hasn't stopped one Las Vegas outlet from listing Tiger Woods among the favorites to win a major in 2018.

The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook published betting odds this week on dozens of players to win any of the four majors next year. Leading the pack were Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at 3/2, with Rory McIlroy next. But not far behind was Woods, who has been sidelined since February because of a back injury but was listed at 20/1.

Woods will make his much-anticipated return next week at the Hero World Challenge, and next month he will turn 42. Next summer will mark the 10-year anniversary of his last major championship victory, a sudden-death playoff win over Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open.

Here's a look at the odds for several marquee players on winning any of the four biggest events in golf next year:

3/2: Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth

5/2: Rory McIlroy

7/2: Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day

9/2: Justin Rose

5/1: Brooks Koepka

15/2: Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey

10/1: Adam Scott

12/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Marc Leishman, Thomas Pieters, Patrick Reed

15/1: Daniel Berger, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Patrick Cantlay, Branden Grace, Kevin Kisner, Alex Noren, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson

20/1: Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Tony Finau, Martin Kaymer

25/1: Ryan Moore, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Lee Westwood, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Chappell, Bryson DeChambeau, Bill Haas, Jason Dufner, Charley Hoffman

30/1: Pat Perez, Gary Woodland, Bernd Wiesberger, Brian Harman, Padraig Harrington, Emiliano Grillo, Ross Fisher, Si Woo Kim, J.B. Holmes

Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


FALLING

J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

"Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

"The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

"Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.