Get the lowdown on the golf feast taking place in Sandwich - first of a four-part series
PUBLISHED: 17:33 21 April 2011 | UPDATED: 19:13 20 February 2013
There was certainly plenty of drama in the last Open Championship in 2003 - a young unknown American scooped the famous claret jug. In the first of a four-part series, our golf expert gives us the lowdown on the golf feast taking place in Sandwich...
A Golf Feast at Sandwich
There was certainly plenty of drama in the last Open Championshipin 2003 when a young unknown American scooped the famousclaret jug. In the first of a four-part series, our golf expert givesus the lowdown on the golf feast taking place in Sandwich.
The Open Championship the oldest of golfs four Majors arrives back in Kent in July.
But when the likes of Lee Westwood and Germanys Martin Kaymer, who have replaced the games ever-so slightly fallen star Tiger Woods at world number one over the winter, and young pretenders Rory McIlroy and Matteo Manassero roll-up in Sandwich in the second week of July, can we expect the kind of shocks we witnessed back in 2003? For those readers who probably tune into watch golf on telly once or twice a year, the Open is capable of being one of the great sporting spectacles. And while form, both current and on certain tracks, can point to a likely winner just as it does with the horses, every so often golfs greatest championship can provide the sensational shocks and moments of drama like no other sporting contest.
That was certainly the case in 2003 when Ben Curtis, a 26-year-old from Kent, in Ohio, USA, made the golfing world sit up and takenote by winning in Kent, England.
To call the player dubbed a 750-1 shot by the bookies an unknown was one of the great journalistic understatements of all-time. It washis first Open Championship indeed his first Major and he arrived on his flight to London standing an unimpressive 396th in the Official World Rankings, without even a top 10 in a tournament, let alone a victory to his name.
Curtis only booked his spot in the 132nd Open by finishing 13th in the Western Open, a US PGA Tour event, a couple of weeks earlier. Interestingly, the qualifying rules have since changed making it much harder for run-of-the-mill tour players like Curtis to get into the Open. He did not even bring his regular caddie, presumably because the weeks likely outcome with no experience of playing links golf was a minimum prize cheque of a couple of grand justfor pegging it up, let alone 8,450 for making the cut and playing all four rounds.
The economics for a player battling to keep his playing card Stateside meant it was best to make it a cheap week especially after bringing fianc Candace Beatty over for some sightseeing. So much so that the couple stayed in a littlebed and breakfast, but come Sunday and immediately 700,000 richer, he could afford the most expensive hotel suite in the world as he was instantly on his way to becoming a multi-millionaire, as befits modern day Major champions.
They reckon winning the Open or the US equivalent today, as Ulsterman Graeme McDowell did last summer, is now worth a minimum of at least 1million a year for the next 10 years, givenan above-average playing record.But it was a chance phone call shortly before arriving in London that determined Curtis fateand subsequent place in golfing history.
Managed by the late Mark McCormacks IMG agency, a call by Ben to one of the golf management team secured the services of Maidstone-based caddie Andy Sutton, who normally worked for John Bickerton.The Yorkshireman had failed to qualify to play at Royal St Georges, leaving Sutton free for the week to pick up a bag on a course he knew like the back of his hand. I first became aware of Suttons influence on the Saturday morning when walking around the tented village with a good friend and fellow journalist whogot me playing golf some 14 years earlier.While visiting the English Golf Unions stand we bumped into David Basham, then president of the Surrey Golf Union, whom I worked with closely inmy role as editor of a series of magazines covering amateur golf in the south.
Conversation quickly turned to whether Tigerwas going to mount a weekend charge to reclaim the Claret Jug he won so magnificently at St Andrews three years earlier or whether Vijay Singh or Davis Love III could deny him, or if Denmarks Thomas Bjorn, who famously beat Tiger in Dubai a couple of years earlier, would break his duck in the Majors.I spoke to the caddie who is with that young American chap. er, Curtis? said David, grasping for the unlikely heros name. He told me he has been telling his player where to hit every shot to, because he has never played on a links course like this before.He says he has been doing exactly as hes told perfectly, and can putt like stink.
The caddie reckons if Curtis carries on doing what he has done for the first > two days, he really thinks he can win it!I thought of those words early on the Sunday morning when a cursory check of the latest odds before the start of the final round still had Curtis down as an unlikely 50-1 shot, despite being just a couple of shots behind overnight leader Bjorn.My money stayed firmly in my pocket as thegolf bookies, like their horse racing counterparts, rarely get it wrong.The rest is now history, although not before Curtis had taken the lead with six holes to play as his putter remained hot, only for the increasingly nervous rookie then to drop four shots in as many holes.He arrived at the 18th surrounded by thousands of spectators, where his clumsy chip well past the hole looked set to cost him another shot and any chance of grabbing the famous Claret Jug fromthe chasing pack, including a prowling Tiger,who had not been at his best.
The worlds assembled golf journalists could not quite believe what they were witnessing as Bjorn imploded in the bunker by the 16th green, taking an ugly five after getting stuck in the sand twice, before dropping another shot on the 17th.That opened the door for Curtis crowning as King of the Dunes, courtesy of his fateful 11-foot clutch putt for par on the 18th green.It left 111 US-based writers all scratching their heads when asked by their British counterparts: so who is this Curtis guy then? They clearly had no idea, even though he had briefly been the worlds number one amateur player just three years earlier.
During a visit to Royal St Georges in early March to check out the course with that same journalist friend of mine, my playing partner turned to me on the infamous 16th green and said: You know Andy, I have been to every day of the Open since the early 1980s, and 2003 was the only time I never saw the winner hit a single shot all week!It was truly inlike any other Open in 2003, and if the renewal throws up half the drama this year, then we are in for another super Sandwich showdown.
Where are they now?
was going through something of a slump while recovering from knee surgery at start of 2003. Lost ball in deep rough on very first hole. Steward Terry Bennett trod on it some 30 minutes later and pocketed 7,500 by selling it to The Sun. Won six Majors since July 2003, but none since June 2008. Earned $57,206,955 in prize money in last eight years, becoming first sportsman to earn $1billion. Had various affairs which resulted in painful multi-million dollar divorce from Elin Nordegren last year after spell in rehab for sex addiction. Serious slump in form but the 34-year-old, who last claimed Claret Jug at Hoylake in 2006, has been making significant swing changes after last years traumas. Needs to bounce back quickly if he is to make it four Open titles in 15 years.
Mark Roe and Jesper Parnevik
Both disqualified in 2003 for signing wrong scorecards. Roe signed Parneviks card after the Swede shot 81 while the Surrey-based player had actually shot a four-under par 67, which would have left him just two shots behind Bjorn going into last round. Retired from Tour in 2006 with three victories to his name, he is now a golf analyst for Sky Sports and short game coach to Ryder Cup players Ross Fisher and Italys Francesco Molinari. Parnevik, 46, had a serious back injury in 2010 and a hip op in 2009. Has now gone 10 years without adding to five tour wins.
Sir Nick Faldo and Fanny Suneson
Englands most successful golfer with six Majors, including three Claret Jugs. Played in 2003 as past champion, finishing eighth. Designs golf courses around globe and is TV favourite. Has only missed one Open since retiring from playing full-time in 2004; still holds record for winning most points for Europe in biennial match against America. Suneson was on bag for two of Faldos three Open wins. Now carrying for fellow Swede Henrik Stenson.
in two Ryder Cups having failed to qualify as player since last appearance at Belfry in 2002. Returned to winners circle in Qatar in February after five-year absence with 11th European Tour victory.
by US talk host David Letterman and US President George W Bush on his return to America, Curtis found it hard to adapt in first couple of seasons after shock win. Married fianc a month after Open triumph in middle of a tournament! Recently split with caddie Andy Sutton. Now aged 34, and with career earnings topping $9.7million, is approaching prime age for pro golfers. As a past winner, entitled to play in Open until he is 65, so Curtis should have several more happy returns to Sandwich.
(10-17 July) Before 30 June: 220, from July 1: 240
Before 30 June (after July 1), Sun 10 July 12.50 (15)
Mon 11 July 22.50 (25) Tue 12 July 27.50 (30)
Wed 13 July 35 (40) Thu 14 July-Sun 17 July 55 (60)
OAPs tickets 10-40 in advance, 10-45 after 1 July
16-21 year olds 5-22.50 in advance, 5-25 after 1 July
Under 16s admitted free with adult.
Reserved seat by 18th green (valid all four days of championship) 240 extra
International Marquee 40 per day plus entrance ticket
Car parking for week: 50
To book tickets 01334 460000.
For full details of corporate hospitality packages for a handful of people to very large groups 0844 371 0883 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For all supporting website links visit: kent.greatbritishlife.co.uk and go to Links.