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July 20, 2003

Ben Curtis


STEWART McDOUGALL: Ladies and gentlemen, champion golfer of the year, Ben Curtis. Ben it's been some week for you. How does it feel sitting here as the champion golfer, give us your reaction.

BEN CURTIS: Oh, man, that's about all I can say now. I came in here this week just trying to play the best I could and hopefully make the cut and compete on the weekend. And obviously I did that and went out there and probably played the best weekend of my life.

Q. All throughout that ceremony on the 18th green you seemed to have this look of bewilderment on your face. Have you comprehended what you did or when do you think you will?

BEN CURTIS: Probably tomorrow morning when I wake up. Right now I was just in a zone and very focused on what I was doing that I didn't really think about winning until afterwards, and it's just kind of been pretty hectic -- it's been unbelievable. I just can't describe how I feel right now. I just wish that my family was here to be with me. But fortunately I had Candace with me. We had a great time this week. The fans were great and I felt right at home.

Q. When you've never finished in the top-10 of any event, let alone a major, how do you cope with that pressure, when you find yourself two shots ahead in the Open Championship?

BEN CURTIS: Well, I've won in the past, just not at this level yet. This is my first year at this level, really, a rookie on Tour. I was shaking in my boots, obviously, but I was just out there very focused on what I had to do and let my work speak for itself. And if it was good enough, fine, if not, I can live with it.

Q. What's it feel like that you're never going to have to qualify for another major?

BEN CURTIS: I don't even know. Knowing that I'll be able to tee it up at every major for the next I don't know how many years it is, but it's going to be awesome. And I feel like my game is good for major championship golf, because you don't have to go out and shoot 20-under. You can go out and shoot right around par, like this week, and have a chance to win. And I feel that's where my game is the best.

Q. When did it dawn on you that you actually had a chance to win this thing? And also can you take us through your emotions of what you were going through on the back nine when you started to slide a bit?

BEN CURTIS: I knew yesterday afternoon that once I got going on the back nine I had a chance of winning. Today I just got off to a better start and got ahead. I was playing hard coming in. And I was trying to keep the course in front of me, and I maybe played too cautious, instead of playing like I had been. Instead of worrying about it, I should have went out there and fired at the flags like I've been all week. I hit a couple of bad shots and it cost me, and it put a lot of pressure on my short game.

Q. Could you take us through the Western Open finish? Were you notified right away that you had qualified for the Open here and then did you say, "I'm going?" Did you know anything about it and then know anything about the golf course when you arrived?

BEN CURTIS: Well, I knew going into the Western that I needed to finish in the top seven or eight, I think it was. And I knew going into that week that I was playing a lot better from the beginning of the year, I was starting to putt a lot better. I knew if I just played like I had been the last two weeks that I would have a good chance of doing it. And that was my goal and I did it. And then I, just Thursday night, hopped on a plane and got over here. I've never played over here and stuff like this, so I said, I'm going to come over and prepare.

Q. Did you just play this golf course?

BEN CURTIS: Yeah, I played here Saturday and Sunday, went into London on Monday, took the whole day off and played 18 on Tuesday, nine on Wednesday.

Q. A lot of guys would look at links and say, "My God, is this a golf course?" Did you have any idea how to deal with it or did you learn as you went along?

BEN CURTIS: Well, a little bit of both. I knew that going into the tournament that you've just got to pay attention where the pot bunkers are, know the yardage, so if the wind switches around you know how far it's going. You get a 2-iron, 300 yards, it was rolling so far. If you knew ahead of time how far you had to hit the shot, it made it a lot easier. So I just -- unfortunately the last two days was the only time -- like yesterday was the only time I was in the pot bunkers out of the fairway. Around the greens they weren't too bad. But you don't want to be in the fairway bunkers, that's for sure.

Q. How much of a student of the history of the game are you? And can you immediately place yourself in some of the most unlikely winner majors ever, Jack Fleck, John Daly, et cetera? What do those names mean to you and what do you know about your place now?

BEN CURTIS: I'm one of the few that's had this opportunity to do it in this world. There's so many professional golfers out there that set the dream just to win a major. And I did it my first try and I feel I got a lot of lucky bounces, and some that didn't go so well. The history of the game -- I know quite a bit, but also when I'm away from the golf course there's no golf in my life. I try to keep that away, because I'm around it so much that I just like to be normal and have some fun and do normal things. And that's -- I don't really read a lot about the game, I just -- but I know there's a lot -- I know the names that are on the trophy, obviously, just from watching it and growing up around the game. I'm in great company and I feel like I don't belong right now, but I knew in my mind that I did, but right now many people are probably saying, well, he doesn't really belong there, but I know I do, so that's all that matters.

Q. For those of us who don't know, can you tell us how you got into the game in the first place, and also do you have a coach?

BEN CURTIS: Well, my grandfather built a course in 1973 or '4, I believe. And I grew up living right off the 18th green for 12 years and then we moved a couple of miles away. We didn't move very far. But I grew up with the game right around me. It's a very nice public golf course, but it's not a championship style golf course. But just having that there at my footsteps was unbelievable. And that's how I got started in the game. And actually I do not have a coach. My family has been on me for two years now to get a coach. But I just -- I have a good feeling of what I believe in my system and I just stick with it. And it carried through this week.

Q. Can I take you back to when you walked off the 18th green? Did you, first of all, believe that you could actually, with only 1-under, win the championship? And what was going through your mind on the practice ground when you were preparing for a possible playoff?

BEN CURTIS: When I looked up at the score board when I finished and saw that I was two back, and he had three holes to play, and those are not easy holes -- I knew 17 and 18 especially were playing really difficult -- and I knew I needed to make that putt to have a chance. And fortunately with the pin on 17 being where it was, it was hard to get it close, even into the wind. Like my ball hit halfway up the hill and came back. But if you laid it on top, you didn't know if it was going to stay or not. I knew I needed that putt on 18 to win -- to have a chance, at least, I should say. I didn't necessarily think it was going to be the winning putt. And then just on the driving range I just was having fun and just trying to keep relaxed and not really think about it.

Q. Any feelings of sympathy for Thomas?

BEN CURTIS: Of course. He played great all week. Being 4-under par for a major championship is no slack, at all. And obviously he could be sitting here just as easily as I am. I feel bad for him. And he'll have his chances, because he's a great player.

Q. Have you ever met Tiger, Ben?

BEN CURTIS: I met him back when he was still an amateur. I roomed -- he was a college teammate of Joel Kriebel. I met him on the putting green for a brief 20 seconds.

Q. How long ago was that?

BEN CURTIS: It was when he turned pro, '96 -- so probably '94 or '5.

Q. Can you tell us how much help you got from your English caddy? What's his name?

BEN CURTIS: Andy Sutton. He was a lot of help. I came over here, and especially in the first couple of days we were just out there practicing and playing around the greens and he's like, here, try this, try that, because I was just sticking with the 9-iron. Because back home if you're missing the green you're either flopping it on, you may have a chance to bump-and-run it, but nothing like here. He handed me the 8-iron and I hit a few chips with this. And I said, "I'm chipping with this thing all week, unless otherwise noted." He was a lot of help. He was always there, supportive, kept me patient. It was a big help.

Q. Did he caddy for Andrew Coltart? And second of all, you said you're a normal guy, you just do normal things. Describe normal. Tell us a little bit about yourself off the golf course.

BEN CURTIS: Well, like going and doing things with my fiancee. Like Monday, we went into London, went to see the historical sites. And that was a lot of fun. It was very hot and muggy and a lot of people, but it was great. To be able to do those things, I like to do that. And to be able to hang out with the family and go to dinner, and do stuff around the house, I like to do that stuff more, and go to movies, not so much party, just to do those kind of things.

Q. Where did you stay over here and also when did you find out that Thomas had double bogeyed on 16?

BEN CURTIS: Well, I stayed in a little cottage in Wingham, a bed and breakfast. I found out when I walked off the 18th that he doubled 16.

Q. Ben, your fiancee had said that had you not qualified for over here you guys would be doing wedding planning stuff. Can you tell us what you probably would be doing right now if you didn't qualify, specifically?

BEN CURTIS: I'd probably be sitting around watching the golf, that's what I'd probably be doing, but in front of the big screen. I'm glad I came, definitely.

Q. Can you tell us, please, have you done anything in your life so far to compare with this in terms of the emotion and the feeling it's given you? And also could you tell us which was your favorite historical site in London, please?

BEN CURTIS: Okay. Well, I played at the U.S. amateur in '99, runner up to David Gossett. And that was not as big as this, but at the time for me it was probably as big as this.

Q. Anything outside of golf in life, generally?

BEN CURTIS: Just I think getting married, I think, starting a family, and I think that will be the greatest thing.

Favorite thing in London? Big Ben, probably. I look up to Big Ben.

Q. How did you hook up with your caddy, Andy?

BEN CURTIS: Through my agency, IMG. I just called them up and said, "I need a caddy," and they made some calls.

Q. How much experience with links golf have you had before this week?

BEN CURTIS: Practically none. I played in one tournament in Germany. We played on a course similar to this. That was it. I played two rounds on it, and that was all.

Q. In the immediate future, how are your plans going to change? Obviously this is going to affect them, isn't it?

BEN CURTIS: Obviously, hopefully. I want to keep as normal as possible. I'm just a normal guy with a lot of talent, and that's the way I look at it. My life is going to change from today, but I'm looking forward to it and a lot of great challenges ahead of me.

Q. Did you have any idea what was going on with Thomas in the bunker on 16? It looked like you were turning that way. And also do you feel you gave away the tournament and were given it right back?

BEN CURTIS: Yes and no. I felt like I made a couple of bad swings, a couple of bad putts on the back, but I hung in there. I knew that the back nine was playing tough, the wind, the tough pin positions. I just knew that I had to worry about what I did, don't worry about the past. Even though I didn't putt very well on the back nine, I stepped up on 18 and said, "Make it." I said, "If you want to win this thing, make it." I did, and fortunately everything came out right. I didn't know what he was doing, I had no idea on 16.

Q. (Inaudible.)

BEN CURTIS: Not at all, because once you're inside the grandstands, everything outside you can't really hear. So everything was stuck in there.

End of FastScripts....

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