Tuesday, July 22, 2003
Ben Curtis watches the ball after his tee shot on the third hole of the 132nd British Opens final round on Sunday.
The Ostrander native won golfs oldest tournament championship with a 283.
Ben Curtis beats 500-to-1 odds to win British Open
Gazette staff, wire reports
| Strangely, the answer now is British Open champion.
Not on the most unpredictable links in golf. Not after one of the wackiest weeks in the
games oldest championship. Not even with Tiger Woods and an All-Star cast in
position to restore order.
"Oh, man! Thats about all I can say now," Curtis said after the momentous final round.
"I came in here this week just trying to play the best I could and hopefully make the
cut ... And obviously I did that and went out there and probably played the best
weekend of my life."
When the 72-hole tournament began on Thursday, British bookmakers listed Curtis
odds of winning at 500 to 1.
"Many people are probably saying, Well, he doesnt really belong there, " Curtis said. "But I know I do, so thats all that matters."
He earned his spot in golfing lore by closing with a 2-under 69, leaving him the only
player to break par at 283.
He got plenty of help from Thomas Bjorn, who took three shots to escape a pot
bunker, dropped four shots on the final four holes and finished as the hard-luck
runner-up with Vijay Singh.
"Major championships are sometimes won out of the blue," Bjorn said. "This is one
won out of the blue for sure."
The Open took a zany turn right from the start when Woods, the worlds most watched
player, lost his opening tee shot in the rough.
It ended with a player hardly anyone knew holding the claret jug.
Bjorn still had a chance to force a playoff with a birdie chip from just short of the 18th
green. When the ball turned away, caddie Andy Sutton turned to Curtis on the practice
range and said, "Ben, youre the Open champion."
The words might not have sounded so strange had he been talking to Hogan.
Then again, he was the perfect winner to cap the craziness that didnt end until Curtis
name was engraved on the jug.
Woods opened with a triple bogey when two dozen marshals and 2,000 fans
couldnt figure out where his ball was hiding.
Bjorn was penalized two strokes Thursday for slamming his club into a bunker after
failing to get out a no-no when the ball is still in the sand.
Davis Love III hit a tee shot that was going out of bounds Friday until it ricocheted
off a white boundary stake only 3 inches wide.
Local hero Mark Roe, who would have been paired with Woods in the final round
two shots behind, was disqualified Saturday for putting his score (67) on Jesper
The final surprise was the biggest of them all.
Curtis is believed to be the first player since Francis Ouimet at the 1913 U.S. Open to
win a major championship in his first try.
"I came in here this week just trying to play the best I could, hopefully make the cut
and compete on the weekend," he said. "Obviously, I did that and went out there and
probably played the best weekend of my life."
The final stroke was an 8-foot par putt on the 18th, and only after Curtis walked off the
green did he realize that Bjorn was in trouble three groups behind.
All he could do was wait to see if anyone could match him.
They all wilted.
Woods couldnt find the fairway down the stretch and let a perfect opportunity to
capture his ninth major title slip away.
"Its going to work out for somebody," Woods said. "Youve got to have things go your
way in order for you to win."
Singh didnt make enough putts. Love was doomed by a bad start.
That left the oldest prize in golf to a guy who never had so much as a top 10 finish on
the PGA Tour.
His best was two weeks ago at the Western Open, a tie for 13th that allowed him to
qualify for his first major championship.
When he started the final round just two shots out of the lead, no one gave him a
chance, not against this lineup.
In the end, no one played better on the canted, lunarlike links of Royal St. Georges.
"I dont know anything about Ben," Love said. "But when the golf course plays like
this, and when its that fine a line between a good shot and a bad shot, these things
There have been other surprises in the majors.
Paul Lawrie won at Carnoustie four years ago when Jean Van de Velde collapsed on
the final hole; John Daly won the 91 PGA Championship as the ninth alternate; Jack
Fleck beat Hogan in a playoff in the 1955 U.S. Open at Olympic Club.
Still, this ranks among the greatest shockers of all.
Ouimet was a 20-year-old who beat the greatest golfers of his time, Harry Vardon and
Ted Ray, in a playoff outside Boston in 1913, a victory that made golf popular in
This one will give hope to underdogs around the world.
Bjorns sloppy finish, especially the bunker shots on No. 16, dropped him to a 72 and
into a tie for second with Singh at even-par 284.
Another stroke back was Woods, who bogeyed two of his final four holes for a 71, and
Love, who missed two crucial birdie putts down the stretch for a 72.
Curtis broke down briefly when he tried to thank his family and fiance.
"I know the names that are on the trophy," he said. "Im in great company."
Until this week, Curtis was mostly known for being a two-time Ohio State Amateur
champion, along with Arnold Palmer and John Cook.
He earned more than $1.1 million. He has his PGA Tour card for the next five years, is
exempt to the Masters, U.S. Open and PGA Championship for five years and can play
the British Open until he is 65.
Call him a surprise winner, but he earned it.
He blasted out over the lip, but the ball returned down the slope and into the sand.
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The Ostrander native won
golfs oldest tournament
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