Curtis steals the show at Sandwich
YOU may not have heard the name before, but get used to it - Ben Curtis is here to stay.
The 26-year-old’s incredible Open championship victory from the depths of 396th in the world has opened more doors than he probably knew existed.
For a start Curtis is now eligible for every Open until he reaches the age of 66. That comes in the year 2043.
He can play in the next five Masters, United States Opens and US PGA championships as well - starting with next month’s PGA in Rochester, New York, where he will play the first two rounds with Masters champion Mike Weir and US Open winner Jim Furyk.
But that’s not all. He can tee off in any event on the US Tour he chooses for the next five years too, is exempt for the next ten Players’ Championships and this year’s two remaining World Golf Championships events and their multi-million-dollar purses.
Heady stuff indeed for a player who until last week had never even played in a major.
"I want to keep as normal as possible - I’m a normal guy with a lot of talent," he said.
"My life is going to change, but I’m looking forward to it. A lot of great challenges lie ahead of me. It’s going to be awesome."
Not that money means so much any more. His career earnings on the US circuit at the start of this season amounted to $6020, but the man from Kent, Ohio, is 700,000 richer for one week’s work in Kent, England.
Then there is the HSBC World Match Play at Wentworth in October. He is also guaranteed a spot in that - and the winner from the elite 12-strong field will take home an astonishing 1million. And all because of what he did at Royal St George’s over four days of drama-packed action - and what Thomas Bjorn did over the last four holes yesterday.
Bjorn looked set to give Europe its first major champion since Paul Lawrie in 1999 when he moved three ahead - courtesy of Curtis having four bogeys in six holes after grabbing six birdies in the first 11 to lead by two.
But the Dane bogeyed the 15th, double-bogeyed the 16th after needing three attempts to get out of a greenside bunker, bogeyed the 17th by missing a five-foot putt and then by "only" parring the last had to settle for a share of second place with Vijay Singh.
Curtis by that stage was away preparing for a possible play-off. He had feared his chance had gone with his run of bogeys, but a ten-foot putt for par enabled him to set a target of one under par that the last two groups - big names all in the shape of world No.1 Tiger Woods and Singh and then Bjorn and world No.4 Davis Love - were unable to beat.
Curtis was not even in the tournament three weeks ago and broke down during his winner’s speech at the mention of his family and fiance Candice.
Nobody has won the Open at their first attempt since Tom Watson in 1975. Nobody has won any of the four majors at their first attempt, it is believed - since records are difficult to check - since Francis Ouimet at the 1913 US Open. And nobody has ever won from such a lowly position since the world rankings were introduced in 1986. The biggest outsider previously was John Daly at 168th - also the last player to make a major his first tour win - and the only other player from outside the top 100 was Lawrie.
There was almost a need for Curtis to introduce himself when he faced the world’s press afterwards. But the words he chose revealed that he does not consider himself a fluke winner. "I came here just trying to play the best I could and I would have been happy just to make the cut," he said. "To win is unbelievable and I can’t describe how I feel. I was so focused on what I was doing that I didn’t really think about winning. I was shaking in my boots, obviously, but I let my work speak for itself. I feel like my game is good for major championship golf. There’s so many professional golfers out there that set the dream just to win a major. I did it at my first try. I’m in great company. Right now many people are probably saying ‘he doesn’t really belong there’, but I know I do and that’s all that matters."
Last Monday Curtis and his fiance spent a day in London looking at the sights, quite anonymously. His life is going to be different now. Very different.
Bjorn, meanwhile, has to reflect on the one that got away. He was also second in 2000, but on that occasion he was eight behind Woods and never had a chance.
This time he not only had a chance, he should have won. He won’t forget that bunker on the 16th in a hurry - or the one on the 17th where he incurred a two-stroke penalty in running up a quadruple bogey eight in the first round.
Bjorn’s ‘crime’ was to hit the sand with his club after failing to get the ball out. A failure that happened again and again in the space of a minute yesterday which cost him the Open.
Woods will wonder what might have been if his opening drive had not been lost, leading to a triple bogey seven at the first of the 72 holes. He played the other 71 in two under and that would have won.
Sergio Garcia fell away on the last day, Nick Faldo and Brian Davis were not quite able to make a big enough move forward - and Mark Roe, of course, watched it all from home.
Bad though Bjorn felt, the saddest story was Roe’s disqualification for forgetting to exchange cards with Jesper Parnevik. He would have played with Woods, he might have won. Nobody can tell him he wouldn’t have after seeing what happened to Curtis.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 18 June 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 21 C
Wind Speed: 10 mph
Wind direction: South
Temperature: 10 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: West