Curtis clinches a spot on his first Ryder Cup team

Ben Curtis, PGA Championship
Fred Vuich/SI
Ben Curtis notched top 10s at the British Open and the PGA to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Ben Curtis will have to ditch the NFL apparel next month for the Stars & Stripes. A runner-up finish in the PGA Championship on Sunday earned him his first trip to the Ryder Cup.

"I love Ben Curtis a lot, and I love the fact he's made the team,'' U.S. captain Paul Azinger said.

Curtis lost out on a chance to win another major when he bogeyed two of the last four holes at Oakland Hills, but only later did he realize the consolation prize. His tie for second moved him from No. 20 to No. 7 in the standings, earning him one of the eight automatic spots in the qualifying that ended with the PGA Championship.

"It's almost a victory in itself,'' said Curtis, who wears apparel of NFL teams when he plays on the PGA Tour.

Three of the eight Americans who qualified will be Ryder Cup rookies - Anthony Kim (No. 5), Curtis and Boo Weekley, who closed with a 66 to finish tied for 20th to secure the final spot.

Justin Leonard finished sixth and will play in the Ryder Cup for the first time since he holed that 45-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole at Brookline to cap off the largest rally in history in 1999. That also was the last time the Americans won.

Phil Mickelson tied for seventh and was atop the points list - Tiger Woods clinched the No. 1 spot in June after winning the U.S. Open, but is out the rest of the year after reconstructive surgery on his left knee.

The rest of the U.S. qualifiers were Stewart Cink, Kenny Perry and Jim Furyk.

Azinger will announce his four captain's picks on Sept. 2. Europe still has three tournaments left before 10 players qualify, and captain Nick Faldo will have two picks after that.

The Ryder Cup will be played Sept. 19-21 at Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky.

Steve Stricker was at No. 8 in the standings going into the week, but he was hurt by a 77 in the third round. Stricker closed with a 69, but any chance of overtaking Weekley unfolded before his eyes.

"I just wanted to shoot something good and see what happened,'' Stricker said. "I thought maybe I could catch Boo, but he was playing right in front of me, so I knew by the last few holes that wasn't going to happen.''

Curtis won the British Open in 2003 - his first major - but did not make the Presidents Cup team. He didn't figure to be on this Ryder Cup team until he was runner-up at the Wachovia Championship in early May, then tied for seventh in the British Open.

And then came his week at Oakland Hills, where he took the 54-hole lead by one shot and was still tied for the lead with four holes to play until a bogey from the rough on the 15th.

"He deserves to be on the team, doesn't he?'' Stricker said. "He's stood up to the challenge all week.''

Weekley matched Harrington for the best score of the final round and will bring his homespun speech to the U.S. team room. He did not stop for questions after his round so he could get to the airport.

"Got to run,'' he said.

Brandt Snedeker, who was in 15th place, needed to finish at least seventh to have a chance. He was at 4 over for the tournament through six holes, but a double bogey on No. 7 sent him to a 73.

"It's going to come down to how I play the next three events,'' said Snedeker, who defends his title next week in Greensboro. "Hopefully, I can play well and get on his radar. I'm disappointed, because I had a chance to take care of my own business this week, and now it is out of my control. I've got to play well.''

Sergio Garcia secured his spot on his fifth straight team for Europe with a runner-up finish, while Justin Rose stayed in the mix with a 71 in the final round to tie for ninth.

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