Unknown Curtis snatches
American rookie Ben Curtis
produced one of the biggest surprises in major championship history on Sunday,
winning the 132nd British Open by a stroke from Dane Thomas Bjorn and Fiji's Vijay
Curtis, a 300-1 outsider
at the start of the tournament and a 40-1 chance going into the final round, fired
a closing two-under-par 69 to finish at one-under 283.
Bjorn threw way a three-shot
lead with four holes remaining, his troubles highlighted by taking three strokes
to get out of a bunker by the 16th green.
World number one Tiger Woods,
who had been bidding for a ninth career major, faltered after a strong start,
closing with a 71 to end joint-fourth at one over, level with Davis Love III,
who shot a 72.
Woods, beaten by just two
strokes, may be reflecting even more sorely on last Thursday's opening hole where
a lost ball cost him a triple-bogey seven.
Bjorn, who had been bidding
for his first major, will also be regretting a two-stroke penalty incurred on
the opening day for angrily striking the sand after he fluffed a bunker shot.
Little-known Curtis, ranked
a lowly 396 in the world, became the first player to win on his British Open debut
since compatriot Tom Watson in 1975.
"It's just unbelievable,"
Curtis, 26, told reporters after a sun-baked day at Royal St George's. "I
went to bed last night saying I'm going to win this thing and I knew it would
take a good number (score).
"But I was just happy
coming in just to play the weekend. That would have been fine with me.
"This is the greatest
tournament in the world and I'm glad to be the champion," added the PGA Tour
rookie, who became the seventh American winner in the last nine British Opens.
Ryder Cup player Bjorn,
who bounced back from a bogey at the first with birdies at three, four, seven
and 14, then suffered badly in the bunker at the par-three 16th, registering a
He went on to bogey the
par-four 17th, failing to get up and down from just off the green, to hand victory
to the American.
Bjorn, who started the day
one clear of the field, carded a one-over 72 to slip back into a tie for second
with twice major winner Singh, who returned a 70.
The Dane will not forget,
though, that he could have begun the last day three ahead had he not been penalised
He said of Sunday's drama:
"I was standing on the 15th tee with one hand on the trophy and I let it
"But I've got to go
on from here and, hopefully, there will be a major coming my way very shortly."
Woods, who has never come
from behind on the last day to win a major, said: "I hit some great shots
and I also hit a couple of poor ones, but they weren't that bad. I just couldn't
make any putts on the back nine.
"The putts I needed
to keep the momentum going, or to start some momentum, just didn't fall."
Curtis, who qualified for
the British Open by tying for 13th at the Western Open earlier this month, produced
sparkling form with his approach play over the first 11 holes.
Appearing remarkably calm,
he reeled off four birdies to reach the turn in four-under-par 32, at that point
tied for the lead with Singh.
As Singh faltered at the
eighth, Curtis picked up further shots at 10 and 11, rifling his approaches to
five and 12 feet, to stretch his lead to two.
But the Ohio-based professional,
a semi-finalist at the 1999 U.S. amateur championship, dropped his first shot
of the day at the par-four 12th, where he failed to get up and down from the back
of the green.
After finding the rough
off the tee at the 459-yard 13th, Curtis also bogeyed 14, 15 and 17 to fade to
one under, before Bjorn threw away his own golden chance of a major breakthrough
with his poor finish.
Woods lost momentum with
two bogeys around the turn after three early birdies in four holes had lifted
him to within a stroke of then-leader Singh with 11 to play.
Woods dropped his first
shot of the day at the 455-yard eighth, missing a five-foot putt for par, and
also bogeyed the par-four 10th, where he found heavy rough with his second shot
and failed to get up and down in two.
Although he reached the
green in two to set up another birdie at the par-five 14th, he dropped further
shots at the par-four 15th, where he overhit his approach, and at the 17th, where
he also misjudged to slip back to level par.
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