Former Open Champ Leads in DC

By Sports NetworkJune 22, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 Booz Allen ClassicPOTOMAC, Md. -- Ben Curtis fired a career-best 9-under-par 62 on Thursday to take the lead after one round of the Booz Allen Classic.
Four days after finishing 57th at a tough U.S. Open, Curtis made the TPC at Avenel look easy, carding nine birdies in a bogey-free round to take a one-shot lead over Jeff Gove.
Ben Curtis
Ben Curtis is seeking his first win on TOUR since the 2003 Open Championship.
'I think after playing last week, the fairways look like they are 80 yards wide, the greens look huge, so you just kind of free swing,' said Curtis, the 2003 British Open champion. 'I felt like if I could get my irons going that I could shoot a good number.'
Curtis collected his birdies in two long stretches: four straight from the second, and five in a row from the 13th. The 62 bested his previous career-low of 64, set three times, including twice last year.
'Everything was easy,' said Curtis. 'I hit every shot pretty much where I wanted to. Hit it close quite a few times and made a few putts as well. So everything, it just was slow and easy.'
Gove posted nine birdies too, but also had a bogey in his round of 8-under-par 63. He was 6 under par on the front nine.
Jose Coceres shot a 7-under 64 to stand alone in third place. Steve Flesch and Will MacKenzie share fourth place 6-under 65, while Bart Bryant, Grant Waite and James H. McLean are tied one shot further back in sixth.
A lot of players chose to take this week off following four long days at Winged Foot and the U.S. Open. Curtis saw it a different way.
'For me, I was playing well, so I knew I needed to play. If I wasn't playing well, then maybe I wouldn't be here,' said Curtis.
'Just because all the top players in the world aren't here doesn't mean it's not a good field. Everybody here is a good player, and so anybody can play anymore. That's the way golf is going.'
Curtis opened his round with a par, then began his first birdie string at the par-5 second, where he knocked a sand wedge within 4 feet.
He followed that with long birdie putts at the third and fourth holes before setting up the fourth birdie with another nice sand wedge shot at the par-4 fifth.
After seven consecutive pars, Curtis chipped to within a foot at the par-5 13th to get back on the birdie track. He drove the green at the 301-yard, par-4 14th and two-putted for another birdie.
Curtis went pin-seeking on the next three holes, rolling putts of 12, one and eight feet to reach minus-9.
Since claiming the British Open in 2003 -- in just his 16th start on the PGA TOUR, no less -- Curtis has gone without a second victory. Thursday was the sixth time he has held a first-round lead since that day at Royal St. George's.
'I feel like I'm playing like I did three years ago,' said Curtis. 'I'm making a lot of cuts, just haven't put four rounds together. So I felt like if I could get four rounds together then I would play extremely well and maybe have a chance to win.
'It's been tough, but the last year, but it's been pretty good. I just wish I could get four rounds together.'
Gove strung three birdies together from the 14th hole to pull within one shot of Curtis, but ended with two straight pars. His 63 was also a personal best -- one shot better than the 64 he shot in the second round of the 2002 Greater Hartford Open.
Weak as the field is this week -- only two of the world top 20 are here -- it got weaker when defending champion Sergio Garcia pulled out with a back injury.
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    Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

    By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

    It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

    Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

    The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

    The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

    For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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    Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

    By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

    After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

    But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

    Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

    Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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    Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

    By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

    Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

    The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

    “There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.

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    In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

    “To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

    Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

    “To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.

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    Rose: T-2 finish renewed my love of The Open

    By Jay CoffinJuly 22, 2018, 9:00 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Justin Rose made the cut on the number at The Open and was out for an early Saturday morning stroll at Carnoustie when, all of a sudden, he started putting together one great shot after another.

    There was no pressure. No one had expected anything from someone so far off the lead. Yet Rose shot 30 on the final nine holes to turn in 7-under 64, the lowest round of the championship. By day’s end he was five shots behind a trio of leaders that included Jordan Spieth.

    Rose followed the 64 with a Sunday 69 to tie for second place, two shots behind winner Francesco Molinari. His 133 total over the weekend was the lowest by a shot, and for a moment he thought he had a chance to hoist the claret jug, until Molinari put on a ball-striking clinic down the stretch with birdies on 14 and 18.

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    “I just think having made the cut number, it’s a great effort to be relevant on the leaderboard on Sunday,” said Rose, who collected his third-career runner-up in a major. He’s also finished 12th or better in all three majors this year.

    In the final round, Rose was well off the pace until his second shot on the par-5 14th hole hit the pin. He had a tap-in eagle to move to 5 under. Birdie at the last moved him to 6 under and made him the clubhouse leader for a few moments.

    “It just proves to me that I can play well in this tournament, that I can win The Open,” Rose said. “When I’m in the hunt, I enjoy it. I play my best golf. I don’t back away.

    “That was a real positive for me, and it renewed the love of The Open for me.”