- The Washington Times - Monday, July 11, 2011

SANDWICH, England — Ben Curtis never gets too worked up about anything.

In 2003, when he pulled off one of the most stunning wins in golf history, Curtis didn’t comprehend the significance until he returned to the U.S.

“We came down the escalator in baggage claim and there were thousands of people down there,” Curtis recalled Monday. “That’s when it really hit that this was a lot bigger deal than I thought it was.”

And now that he’s back at the scene of his improbable British Open triumph, how’s he feeling?

Same as always.

“I just got here and got acclimated a little bit with the course and the grounds again,” Curtis said, looking and sounding as if he might doze off any second. “I’m sure on Thursday I’ll be a bit more excited and a bit more fired up and ready to go.”

Lately, Curtis hasn’t had much reason to get excited about his game.

He’s missed more cuts than he’s made this season, so naturally he hopes that being back at Royal St. George’s will give him a bit of a spark.

“It definitely gives you a little bit of confidence because you know you’ve done it before, and there’s no reason why you can’t do it again,” Curtis said. “I just hope this is my week. But I’m not going to think about holding that trophy yet. Hopefully when the last putt is holed on Sunday, it will be coming my way.”

Then again, the 34-year-old never has put much stock in karma. He certainly doesn’t think he’s got some sort of special edge just because he claimed the claret jug eight years ago at this course on the English coast.

Curtis didn’t even bother trying to follow the identical routine that worked so well in ‘03. Back then, he stayed at a place that wasn’t much bigger than the podium he was sitting on for his interview in the media center. This time, he bashfully admitted to doling out more than $10,000 for a home that could accommodate all his family and friends for the week.

“I’m not a big believer that you have to do the same thing every time you come back,” Curtis said. “I’m just trying to keep it relaxed and enjoyable for everybody so when I get back to the house, it’s not about the golf. It’s just about being together.”

While Curtis has put together a solid career — he’s won two more times on the PGA Tour and played on the American team that won the 2008 Ryder Cup — but he’s still known mainly as the guy who won a major championship on his very first try.

That week, he arrived at Royal St. George’s ranked No. 396 in the world, barely known in golf. But something clicked over those four days, giving hope to everyone who supposedly doesn’t have a chance.

Kyle Stanley was the last guy to qualify for this British Open, earning his spot with a runner-up finish Sunday at the John Deere Classic. This will be his first major championship as a professional, and he doesn’t have much experience at links golf.

There’s no reason for him to feel he can actually win.

Then he thinks of what Curtis did.

“This game is a lot of instinct, a lot of feel,” Stanley said, looking a bit bleary-eyed after an overnight flight from the States. “You never know when it’s going to be your week.”

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