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Instant fame for Curtis' caddie

7/20/2003

SANDWICH, England -- Andrew Sutton was chatting with
reporters after the British Open's final round when his cell phone
rang.

''Hey, mate, can I call you back?'' he said. ''I'm doing a
couple of interviews. I'm a celebrity now.''

Sutton was the fill-in caddie for Ben Curtis, an unknown
American who pulled off one of the most improbable victories in
golf history by winning Sunday at Royal St. George's.

The two only hooked up a week earlier. Curtis wanted a looper
who was familiar with the links layout. Sutton was available since
his boss, European tour player John Bickerton, didn't qualify for
the British.

Through a friend, Sutton got word that Curtis was looking for a
caddie. The reaction: ''Ben who?''

But the partnership worked out better than either could have
expected. Curtis, ranked No. 396 in the world, defeated Thomas
Bjorn and Vijay Singh by one stroke.

''I'm sure he was tight, but you couldn't tell he was tight,''
Sutton said. ''Some guys talk about every shot, every blade of
grass, say things like, 'Can you believe the ball bounced like
that?' Not Ben. He just accepts it. That's the attitude you've got
to have. He's got a big future.''

Curtis, a rookie on the PGA Tour, didn't bring his regular
caddie because he wanted someone with local knowledge. Sutton, who
has caddied in three victories on the European tour, lives less
than an hour away and is a member at nearby Littleton golf club.

''Where I play golf very poorly, I might add,'' he said, joking.
''I hit it low and left. I'm a good putter, though.''

Even so, Curtis didn't rely on Sutton's advice very often,
asking him to read about two putts all week.

The 26-year-old Ohio native was doing just fine on his own,
stringing together three straight birdies to reach 5 under with
seven holes to play. At that point, Sutton began to believe that he
had a winner on his hands.

''I was thinking, 'Maybe he's destined,''' Curtis said. ''But I
also knew there were some tough holes coming up. I knew we would
dump a couple coming in. We dumped more than I thought.''

Curtis staggered home with bogeys on four of the last seven
holes, but a collection of stars couldn't take advantage. Tiger
Woods and Davis Love III finished two strokes back.

Now Curtis returns to the United States as a major champion,
while Sutton plans to go back to his regular job.

Will the two stay in touch?

''Yeah,'' the caddie replied with a wink, ''until I get my
check.''

Watson's run
Tom Watson won five British Opens. None was more
memorable than his 1977 duel with Jack Nicklaus at Turnberry.

Watson and Nicklaus will relive that moment this week when they
play in the Senior British Open at Turnberry. Despite a closing
round 69 Sunday at Royal St. George's, Watson is not that confident
in his game.

''I always fight my swing when I play this golf course,'' he
said. ''I come off this golf course feeling I can't play a lick.
Always do. It just beats me to death. It's pretty much the only one
that does that to me.''

Watson has already played a combined five majors on the PGA Tour
and the Champions Tour, and he thrilled fans with his opening-round
tie for the lead in the U.S. Open.

''Next week will be six and maybe the PGA will be seven and the
Tradition will be eight,'' he said.

''But I knew what I was getting into this year. It's been good
for my golf game as it's kept me focused. My swing is not too good
right now, even though I played pretty good today.''

Lefty's still struggling
Ben Curtis won a major in his first
try. Phil Mickelson is still searching after 45.

Lefty's final-round 78 gave him a 13-over total of 297 and a
share of 59th place at the British Open. He was never a factor on
the weekend, though he still had hope going into Sunday.

''I thought if I got off to a good start today I might have had
a chance of making a run, especially if the wind picked up in the
afternoon,'' Mickelson said.

''And I got off to an OK start, birdieing the second hole. But I
turned in 1 under, which wasn't quite good enough.''

A triple-bogey 7 at the 10th, where he lost a ball, drained his
confidence. He finished with two double bogeys.

''The triple at 10, it kind of took some of the fight out of
me,'' he said.

Woosie's take
Ian Woosnam, whose Open chances two years ago
were wrecked by having too many clubs in his bag, said Mark Roe's
blunder in signing the wrong card will live with him for years.

Roe was disqualified Saturday, after a 67 put him within two
shots of the lead.

Roe and Jesper Parnevik, who was out of contention at 15 over,
forgot to swap scorecards before the start of the round and
inadvertently signed for the wrong ones.

The Welshman led the Open after a birdie at the first hole of
the final round at Royal Lytham in 2001. But when he went to the
next tee, it was discovered his caddie had accidentally left two
drivers in his bag, so he had 15 clubs instead of the maximum 14.

Woosnam never recovered from the two-shot penalty, finishing
tied for third behind David Duval.

Woosnam said he felt for Roe.

''It's such a disappointment,'' he said. ''The guys are so
careful it's amazing no one spotted it. Why could they not have
swapped the little labels? It's the best round he has played in a
long time in the biggest tournament in the world and for such a
silly thing he has got disqualified. I don't think any player would
have said, 'Disqualify them.'''

Tidbits
Ben Curtis is the first player to win the British Open
on his first try since Tom Watson at Carnoustie in 1975. ... By
tying for fourth, Tiger Woods returned to the top of the PGA Tour
money list. He's won the title four years in a row.