Golf-Not such a happy birthday for Curtis after 81

Reuters

Sat, 26 May 14:07:00 2012

Former British Open champion Ben Curtis's 35th birthday celebrations on Saturday were somewhat muted after ending his PGA Championship third round with two triple-bogey eights to slump to an 81.

The American came badly unstuck in winds gusting up to 40-kph at Wentworth, going out of bounds at the two par-five closing holes to finish on 10-over 226 at the European Tour's flagship event.

"I've been hitting it badly all week," Curtis told Reuters in an interview on another glorious summer's day on the outskirts of London.

"Today I didn't know where it was going and when you get out of whack with the way this wind is, it's easy to hit some real bad shots," he said after ballooning to a seven-over 44 on the back nine.

Curtis has been in sparkling form on the U.S. Tour and won for the first time in six years when he triumphed at the Texas Open last month. But his game unravelled in spectacular fashion at the 17th and 18th on Saturday.

"On 17 I hit it right and was up against a tree root, the ball popped up and went in the fairway," he explained. "I tried to hit it up by the green but snap hooked it left.

"At the 18th I pushed my drive right again, the wind grabbed it and took it into the trees ... and then I three-putted on the green."

Curtis said he was finding it tough to adjust to the slow pace of the putting surfaces on the iconic West Course.

"The greens are a little bit slower than what I'm used to and this week has been a big adjustment for me," said the winner of the 2003 British Open at Sandwich.

FIXABLE PROBLEM

"I've always struggled on slow greens so I'm not totally surprised. I feel like I'm hitting good putts but I just can't get anything to the hole.

"The way I'm seeing it isn't the way the ball is breaking but it's a problem that's fixable, that's for sure," said Curtis, the first player to win a major at his first attempt since Francis Ouimet landed the 1913 U.S. Open title.

There has been criticism this week for the lack of a strong American representation here but Curtis said it was understandable his fellow countrymen declined to travel to a tournament that offers a prize fund of 4.5 million euros ($5.63 million).

"This is a great event but we have great events in the States too, like this week at the Colonial Invitational in Texas," added Curtis who was tied sixth at Wentworth in 2009 after ending his campaign with five threes including back-to-back eagles.

"You're playing for the same sort of prize money at home so it's tough to tell anyone to spend $10,000 to come over here and play when you can spend $1,000 and be close to home.

"I have European Tour membership, this is a big marquee event over here and I've always liked it," said Curtis. "You get a chance to play against a great field.

"It's a fantastic week. Of course you never know what the weather's going to be like but that's the beauty of it too."

($1 = 0.7992 euros)

 

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