An eagle putt by Ben Curtis at the 15th hole that missed by just a few inches might have made his day more exciting, but the Kent resident was encouraged by his tie for sixth in the Memorial Tournament, his best finish in 12 appearances.
The former Kent State All-America and 2003 British Open champion got to 10-under par on Sunday, but a bogey at 18 left him at 9-under 279. It earned him $215,450, nearly surpassing his season earnings of $241,759 coming in.
Curtis had missed the cut in his last four events, with his previous best finish a tie for 12th at the Shell Houston Open. It was his first top 10 since he tied for second at the 2012 Players Championship.
“It’s nice,” Curtis said afterward. “I had a decent finish in Houston and felt like I was going to get some momentum going, then had a bad three weeks, really a couple bad rounds more than anything. I had a couple decent rounds in there – second round at Charlotte and the first round at New Orleans (both rounds of 70). It was just a matter of time, getting somewhere comfortable, getting good thoughts in my head with the swing. I obviously had it going this week.
“I shot myself in the foot on Thursdays in three or four tournaments. When you need to shoot 6- or 8-under on these courses it’s hard to do, especially around here.”
At Muirfield, Curtis tied for 11th in fairways hit (75 percent, 42 of 56), tied for seventh in greens in regulation (69.4 percent, 50 of 72) and was 10th in strokes gained putting (1.82).
Asked what was going, Curtis said, “Everything really. I hit a few miscues off the tee, a few missed iron shots. I missed a few putts, but I also holed quite a few. Just nice getting on greens that seemed like if you hit it on the right line it was going to go in.”
Curtis’ previous best at Muirfield Village Golf Club was a tie for eighth in 2004.
Curtis, 36, grew up in nearby Ostrander and attended the tournament and played Muirfield in his younger days.
“Any time you can play good in front of your home crowd, a course and a tournament you grew up watching and paying as a kid, it’s so much fun. It’s hard to describe. You try to treat each tournament the same, but obviously it’s a little different,” he said.
Curtis said he never really felt he’d make a run at the top of the leaderboard, even though he had two eagle putts, one with a chance at No. 15.
“Kevin Na shot a great round, he was at 13-under, even making that eagle it would have been tough to get there with those finishing holes,” he said.
Curtis will play this week in Memphis, but will not try to qualify for the U.S. Open.
“It’s a vacation week,” he said of the U.S. Open, which will be played in two weeks at Pinehurst No. 2. “I saw some of the yardages, I’ll be glad I’m sitting home on the couch.”
He will also return to the British Open, this year played at Royal Liverpool. He’s been reunited with caddie Andy Sutton, who caddied for him during his British Open victory.
Despite his struggles of late, which dropped his world ranking to 406 last week, Curtis said he hadn’t lost faith in his game.
“I always believe that it’s there,” he said. “You’re always one or two shots away from being really good. Just one little swing thought or one putt, just getting a few to go in early instead of waiting until Friday afternoon with three holes to go knowing that you’re missing the cut.”