132nd Open - Royal St George's 2003
The Open produces a surprise young champion
Few people noticed when Ben Curtis came home in 32 strokes in the third round of the 2003 Open to lie two off the lead. But when he went out in 32 the next day, and collected six birdies in the first 11 holes to lead his better-known peers by two strokes, he got everyone’s attention. Who was Ben Curtis? A 26-year-old from Ohio, he was in his rookie season on the PGA Tour, ranked 396th in the world, and encountering links golf for the first time.
“Right now many people are probably saying, ‘Well, he doesn’t belong there,’ but I know I do and that’s all that matters.”
When he arrived, he asked the club professional how to play the course. The local knowledge proved invaluable on a fast and bouncy, sun-baked links. Until he dropped four strokes in six holes. But he holed an eight-footer for par at the last to finish as the only player under par. It turned out even the best were dropping shots. Vijay Singh and Thomas Bjorn finished one adrift, while Tiger Woods, who lost a ball on his opening drive on the first day and took a 7, and Davis Love were two behind.
Bjorn’s demise was the most shocking. He birdied the 14th to go three ahead but dropped four shots in the next three holes, taking three to get out of a bunker at the 16th for a double bogey. In the first round the Dane also had bunker problems at the 17th when an angry swipe at the sand cost him a two-shot penalty and a quadruple bogey.
Not since Tom Watson in 1975 had a player won when playing in his first Open and not since Francis Ouimet at the 1913 US Open had a player won his first Major. “Right now many people are probably saying, ‘Well, he doesn’t belong there,’ but I know I do and that’s all that matters,” Curtis said.
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