CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Ben Curtis was wrapping up the best final round in Wachovia Championship history, so after his par putt on the 15th, he allowed himself a peek at the leaderboard.
For all of his remarkable play Sunday, he still trailed leader Anthony Kim by a handful of strokes.
It was that kind of day for the PGA Tour’s 2003 rookie of the year, and seemingly everybody else at Quail Hollow Club resigned to playing for second place.
Curtis finished with a fourth-round-record 65 that moved him to 11-under 277 – and still five strokes behind Kim.
One reason for that: he began the day nine strokes behind the heavy-hitting 22-year-old.
“I was so far back … (that) it’s no easy accomplishment,” Curtis said. “Even shooting 10 under, it would be hard to catch him the way he’s playing. I was just trying to post a good number and just (get) in. … I didn’t want to kill myself and (was) lucky to escape with pars.”
The previous mark was shared by five players – Phil Mickelson, Chris DiMarco, Carlos Franc, Jim Furry and winner Vijay Singh – who each shot final-round 66s in 2005.
Curtis birdied the first four holes, eagled the par-5 10th and kept himself out of trouble by following each of his two bogeys with birdies. That helped him wrap up his best tournament of the year and sealed his first top-five finish since tying for eighth at last year’s British Open.
“I’ve been playing well this year. I’ve just had one bad round that kills me, puts me out of the tournament,” Curtis said. “But this week, I put four pretty good rounds together. … I got off to a good start today, and I just want to keep riding that wave and hopefully keep it going next week.”
STRONG START: Nobody has ever started a final round at Quail Hollow any better than Mathew Goggin.
The 33-year-old Australian opened with five consecutive birdies – the only player in tournament history to string together that many in a row during a Sunday round. He tied the Wachovia record set by Pat Bates in 2004 and matched last year by Henrik Stenson.
That strong start moved the nephew of Australian Football Hall of Famer Bill Goggin from even par to 5 under and temporarily sent him near the top 10. He had a total seven birdies during his 68, and he tied for 17th place – his fourth straight top-20 finish.
“I’ve been hitting the ball well, so I was feeling pretty confident. I wanted to go out and have an aggressive start. … We were playing a little bit more aggressive club-selections, taking the carries a bit tighter than the other days,” Goggin said. “If you hit the ball in the fairway, you can be more aggressive, and that was a key.”
FAST TRACK: Players looking for slow, soft greens didn’t get any help from the weather overnight.
Forecasters predicted thunderstorms Saturday, and the third round was played under ominous cloud cover that was expected to drop plenty of rain and loosen up the course.
Turns out, the area didn’t receive any rain, leaving the track fast and firm.
“The greens are as firm and tough as any greens (at) any major I’ve played,” Kim said. “Those would be the harder greens we play on, and I’d say the conditions were easily as tough.”
Robert Allenby tried to use the fast track to his advantage on the par-5 seventh hole. He expected to plop his 5-wood approach on the green and watch it take off – but was stunned when it stopped instead.
“I thought it would roll up the hill and roll all the way back down to the flag,” Allenby said. “Every other green was like cement.
“But the course was perfect,” he added. “I can honestly say that they did a fantastic job this week with the way they set the course up. It was tough today, but obviously, if you hit good shots and make some putts, you can shoot a good score.”
DIVOTS: Fred Couples (72) tied for eighth and claimed his third top-10 finish this year, the first time he’s done that since 2005. … Four players were bogey-free: Jason Bohn (71), Allenby (66), Rod Pampling (66) and David Toms (70). … Kim became the fifth straight player to turn a third-round lead into a victory, the first time that’s happened since 2006, when 10 straight won.