One Day Off Curtis Back to Work

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2005 Buick ChampionshipCROMWELL, Conn. -- Weary, and a bit bleary-eyed, Ben Curtis has had little time to savor his second career victory. Or dry out for that matter.
 
Hours after Curtis won the soggy, six-day Booz Allen Classic by five strokes, he arrived in Connecticut for the Buick Championship hoping to add onto his $900,000 payday from Tuesday.
 
'I just woke up, really. I was tired,' Curtis said Wednesday afternoon. 'It was four straight days of getting up right around 5 a.m. It was a very long week sleeping on the lead every night, so I think I was more tired mentally than physically.'
 
More rain, actually a few torrential downpours, awaited him Wednesday at the TPC at River Highlands. But by late afternoon, the sky brightened, the sun even peeked through and Curtis and rest of the players were hopeful they'd be able to wrap up all 72 holes by Sunday.
 
'I hope we can get out there and play four straight days, and go home. It could be rain for tomorrow, but it could end up being sunny and warm,' Curtis said. 'Who knows.'
 
The field also features defending champion Brad Faxon, the Rhode Island native who finally won it in his 22nd appearance. Other former champions teeing off Thursday are Stewart Cink, Olin Browne, Paul Azinger, Notah Begay III, David Frost, Woody Austin and Brent Geiberger.
 
Curtis has played well on the 6,820-yard course in his only appearance in 2005, finishing in a tie for fourth and earning $177,773. The winner this weekend gets $792,000. Curtis was scheduled to play the tournament in 2003, the week after he won the British Open. But the whirlwind of media and attention that followed, overwhelmed the then-rookie and opted to pass. He had no intention of skipping it this time, despite the elongated Booz Allen where more than 9 inches of rain fell in 1 1/2 days.
 
'It's ironic, both wins on Tour came before this tournament,' Curtis said. 'Maybe they'll move Hartford every other week and I'll all right.'
 
The tournament nearly got dropped from the heart of the PGA Tour schedule.
 
Buick is ending its sponsorship after this year and the 54-year-old tournament was in danger of being relegated to the fall for second-tier status. But it was brought back to life in April with a new title sponsor -- St. Paul Travelers -- and spot on the summer schedule starting next year. The tournament also will be part of the new FedEx Cup portion of the tour.
 
That will give top players an incentive to show up and earn points toward the Tour Championship. They also will be competing for a $5.5 million purse, up from $4.4 million this year.
 
'I for one am very excited about it,' said Zach Johnson, a third-place finisher here in 2003. 'Its great for us players because of the incentive playing well obviously toward late summer, early fall, is huge financially speaking.'
 
Johnson said the Cup also should bring many of the elite players out more often and that would help showcase those in the tour not of the household-name variety. Johnson is one of four players in the top 20 on the money list and is sixth in Ryder Cup points.
 
J.J. Henry, a member of the Player Advisory Council, acknowledges the race the Cup will likely need some tweaking as members and the fans adjust to it.
 
'We're still kind of in the learning process. Who knows really,' Henry said. 'It's still golf. It's still a golf tournament. It's not like we're playing tennis here. You're still going out trying to win a golf tournament.'
 
Henry, who's had two top 10 finishes this season, is still looking for his first win since turning pro six years ago and this is one he's been itching for a long time. The Fairfield, Conn., native knows the course well and would love get is first win before a home crowd.
 
'I love playing here. I've always said one of these years I will get this tournament,' Henry said. 'When you come close to home or come to place you've watched as a kid and you want it so bad, you sometimes try too hard. If I can go out and have a good time, I will probably play well.'
 
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