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Last Updated: Monday, 21 July, 2003, 10:44 GMT 11:44 UK
Curtis soars after Open win
Ben Curtis celebrates with his fiancee Candice
I'm up with the elite which is where I feel I belong
Ben Curtis

Rookie Ben Curtis has moved up 361 places in the world rankings following his surprise victory in the Open Championship.

Previously lying 396th, the 26-year-old PGA Tour rookie is the new world number 35 following his one-shot victory at Royal St George's in Sandwich.

He was the only player to complete the four rounds in a sub-par total, and the cheque he picked up for 700,000 was more than ten times his career earnings.

A 250-1 outsider at the start of the tournament, Curtis fired a closing 69 to finish at one-under 283, one shot ahead of Vijay Singh and Thomas Bjorn.

Bjorn, who led for most of the weekend, took three shots to escape from a greenside bunker at the par-three 16th and then bogeyed the par-four 17th in a dramatic finale.

His late errors paved the way for Curtis, who holed a 12-foot putt on the 18th and was then made to wait to discover his fate.

"I thought I was going to come out on top," said Curtis who qualified for the Open by tying for 13th at the Western Open earlier this month.

"I'm up with the elite which is where I feel I belong."

His victory is the first time a player from outside the top 100 has won on his debut since Francis Ouimet at the 1913 US Open.

I set out there to win - that's what I wanted to do
Ben Curtis

"I will wake up a different man," he said. "It's unbelievable. I set out there to win, that's what I wanted to do.

"It's a whole new level, up there with the elite - I am looking forward to it."

He said his success rested on "just being patient", adding: "I set out there at the beginning of the week to take the bounces and what the course gives you, just keep fighting.

"It's the grandest tournament of all and I am very fortunate to be the winner along with great names like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan - all those great names."


Curtis was playing in only his 16th Tour event and is in his first year on the US PGA Tour.

His caddie Andy Sutton only got the bag after his usual employer John Bickerton opted not to try and qualify for the Open.

The 39-year-old, who also caddied for Joakim Haeggman in the Ryder Cup in 1993, said: "I'm still pretty numb, I can't quite believe it's happening, it's fantastic.

"Ben just took it all in his own pace, he is ice cold, he just deals with everything. I honestly thought he was just glad to be here.

"He was just lapping up the whole tournament, he was in the merchandise tent on Friday afternoon buying t-shirts. He is a great guy to work for, the nicest guy you will ever meet."

The Ohio-based player plans to get married in September and his fiancee, Candice, was understandably delighted with his victory.

"I think he was more sure than I was [that he could do it]," she said. "It's just unbelievable."

Links to more The Open 2003 stories


Open champion Ben Curtis
"I set out there to win"

Curtis' caddie Andy Sutton
"It was incredible, absolutely incredible"






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