Curtis left standing

One-by-one, leaders fall

New York Times News Service

SANDWICH, England -- So many contenders entered the final round of the British Open with more experience and more success than Ben Curtis, the eventual champion.

When they reflect on what could have been, Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Thomas Bjorn, Davis Love III and Sergio Garcia will all wish they could play the final round again. Bjorn started the day with a one-stroke lead, Love was one stroke behind, and Singh, Woods and Garcia trailed by two strokes. All left disappointed.

"It feels like somebody has punched me in the stomach and sent me home," said Garcia, who shot a 74 and finished tied for 10th place. Garcia never challenged, making only two birdies on Saturday and putting poorly from start to finish.


"It seemed like the hole was moving," he said. "It was weird."

For Woods, putting was also the biggest problem. He three-putted for bogey at No. 8, missing a 3-footer for par. Then on the back nine, Woods let birdie opportunities slip away, missing an 8-footer at No. 13 and a 10-footer for birdie at No. 16.

Those are the putts that Woods makes when he wins majors. But on Sunday, they did not fall. He received a huge ovation from the gallery as he walked toward the 18th green, and he was clearly moved. But though he appreciated the affection, he wanted the championship.

Singh also faltered on the difficult back nine at Royal St. George's, with three bogeys and only one birdie.

"I had my chances and I blew it," said Singh, who has won two majors, the Masters and the PGA Championship. "There's no excuse for that."

Singh praised Curtis for being a better player than most people knew. "I played with him in Chicago," he said. "He had to shoot a good number to qualify, and he did. I told my wife yesterday: 'This guy can play. He's no pushover. He's got a very good short game, great putter, and he keeps the ball in play. That's what he did today."'

Love had the worst start of all the contenders, making three bogeys over his first four holes, losing ground on the easiest part of the course. By the time Love settled down, it was too late.

"I got myself so far behind, I didn't have a chance," he said. "If I'd had putted well, I would have won. If I'd hit a few more good shots, I would've won. Thomas, Tiger and Vijay are all saying the same thing."


Asked about Curtis, Love was honest.

"I don't know anything about Ben," Love said. "He's supposed to be a good young player on our tour, but I don't know anything about him. It's obviously a surprise, but when the golf course plays like this, and when it's a fine line between a good shot and a bad shot, then these things can happen.

"He played very well, but the rest of us didn't play good enough to get enough good bounces."

The most disappointed loser was Bjorn, who was faced with the challenge of not having this defeat haunt him.

"I have to go on from here, I have to try and get a bit stronger," he said. "Hopefully there will be a major coming may way very shortly."

But this one belonged to Curtis. And a long list of contenders left Royal St. George's suffering from a bad case of the back-nine blues.

British Open scores, Page 2C

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