Monday, July 11, 2011

Ben Curtis returns to scene of British triumph

SANDWICH, ENGLAND — Ben Curtis never gets too worked up about anything.
Back in 2003, when he pulled off one of the most stunning wins in golf history, Curtis didn't comprehend the significance until he returned to the United States.
"We came down the escalator in baggage claim and there were thousands of people down there," Curtis recalled. "That's when it really hit that this was a lot bigger deal than I thought it was."
Now that he's back at the scene of his improbable British Open triumph, how's he feeling?
Same as always.
"I just got here and got acclimated a little bit with the course and the grounds again," Curtis said, looking and sounding as if he might doze off any second. "I'm sure on Thursday I'll be a bit more excited and a bit more fired up and ready to go."
Lately, Curtis hasn't had much reason to get excited about his game. He has missed more cuts than he made this season, so naturally he hopes that being back at Royal St. George's will give him a bit of a spark.
"It definitely gives you a little bit of confidence because you know you've done it before, and there's no reason why you can't do it again," Curtis said. "I just hope this is my week. But I'm not going to think about holding that trophy yet. Hopefully, when the last putt is holed on Sunday, it will be coming my way."
Then again, the 34-year-old never has put much stock in karma. He certainly doesn't think he's got some sort of edge just because he claimed the Claret Jug eight years ago at this course on the English coast.
While Curtis has put together a solid career — he has won two more times on the PGA Tour and played on the American team that won the 2008 Ryder Cup — but he's still known mainly as the guy who won a major championship on his first try.
That week, he arrived at Royal St. George's ranked No. 396 in the world, barely known in golf. Then something clicked.
"Really, the only goal I had was to play four days and see what it was like," he said. "It was my first major. I just wanted to see what it was like and just enjoy it. I never thought (about winning) coming in here. I said, 'This is the last time I might play in it.'"
Now, he's good to go until age 65.
Looking back, Curtis sensed it was going be his week the night before the final round. He was solidly in contention, though still barely noticed among the bigger names on the leaderboard. His now-wife Candace asked him what he expected to do the next day.
"I just kind of looked at her," Curtis remembered, "and said, 'I'm going to win.'"

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