Ben Curtis, a young lion

Ben Curtis, a young lion

Ben Curtis doesn’t get the same respect that most major championship winners do. It might have something to do with the fact that he’s wearing Detroit Lions-logo gear this week.

"Yeah, I’ve heard a lot of comments," Curtis said Friday, sporting a black and Hawaiian-blue shirt and Lions-logo cap thanks to his endorsement deal with the National Football League. "They’re like, ‘No way he can win this week with the luck of the Lions.’" Curtis_300 The Lions have been hopeless, but Curtis isn’t. The 2003 British Open champion and former Kent State University star is a legit threat to take this week’s PGA Championship. This is his kind of course. He drives it straight, not long, has a great short game and makes a lot of pars. It was his scrambling skills that won him the British at Royal St. George’s, and it was par saves on the last three holes Friday afternoon that finished off the 67 that got him to 140, even par, going into the weekend. Even par is usually a good score at Oakland Hills.

Curtis tends to make birdies in bunches when they do come, hence his wins at two memorably but defunct tournaments, the ’06 Booz Allen Classic and ’84 Lumber Classic. He doesn’t contend on a regular basis, he isn’t consistent, and that, plus his lack of glamour power, is why he tends to be overlooked. Anybody remember him finishing second at this year’s Wachovia Championship? Didn’t think so. Did you notice he was seventh at Royal Birkdale in all that wind? Doubtful.

The 67 was a nice bounce-back from a bad finish Thursday, when he played the last eight holes in six over par. He’s not worried about winning another major. "I’ve proven myself out here, I don’t have to prove anything to anyone," he said. He’s not worried about making the Ryder Cup team, although he would love to. He’s 20th on the points list but he has more pressing issues at the moment, such as figuring out ways to make pars at Oakland Hills.

The winners at this course known as "The Monster" have usually been big hitters or great scramblers. Curtis is the latter. Don’t let the Lions wardrobe fool you. He can win this.
(Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

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