SOUTHPORT, England—For Ben Curtis, the Open Championship is feast or famine.
Five years ago at Royal St. George’s, Curtis became the first man since Tom Watson to lift the Claret Jug on his debut, as some of the game’s biggest names stumbled down the stretch. He promptly missed the cut in his next three appearances before tying for 8th last year at Carnoustie thanks to a final-round 65. This year at Birkdale, Curtis is again lurking ominously near the lead and waiting for others to fall.
In Saturday’s third round, Curtis shot an even-par 70, which included holing a 9-iron for eagle on the third hole. He estimated his round to be about a half-dozen strokes under the realistic par in trying conditions.
"Par out there today is anywhere mid to high 70s," Curtis said. "Starting the day I thought if I shot even par I might be in the lead."
Curtis began and finished Saturday at 7-over-par for the tournament, eight strokes back of the early third-round leader K.J. Choi. He played with Phil Mickelson, who slumped to a 76 and a 13-over total. For a time Curtis had the round of the day going, standing 3-under through 10 holes. Three consecutive bogeys from 11-13 brought him back to earth. His 70 equals the best round thus far in the third round, a score also carded by Davis Love III and Henrik Stenson.
"I’m just going to let the guys play and see how I stand," he said. "Most likely I’ll be in the top 5 or 10 anyway, so it’s going to be fun out there tomorrow and see what can happen."(Photo: Peter Morrison/AP)