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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    Schauffele just fine being the underdog

    By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

    Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

    Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

    Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

    “All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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    Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

    Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

    So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

    Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

    Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Jordan Spieth: 7/4

    Xander Schauffele: 5/1

    Kevin Kisner: 11/2

    Tiger Woods: 14/1

    Francesco Molinari: 14/1

    Rory McIlroy: 14/1

    Kevin Chappell: 20/1

    Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

    Alex Noren: 25/1

    Zach Johnson: 30/1

    Justin Rose: 30/1

    Matt Kuchar: 40/1

    Webb Simpson: 50/1

    Adam Scott: 80/1

    Tony Finau: 80/1

    Charley Hoffman: 100/1

    Austin Cook: 100/1

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    Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

    By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

    For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

    By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

    But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

    As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

    “This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

    Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

    As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

    After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

    “I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

    But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

    Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

    “I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

    There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

    Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

    And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

    As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

    “We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

    Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

    Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

    The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

    Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

    It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

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    Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

    One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

    McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

    McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

    “I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”