Curtis regains grip on a trophy at Valero Texas Opentext sizeApril 22, 2012
Tim Price, Special to PGATOUR.COM
SAN ANTONIO -- Maybe when Ben Curtis flies back home to Ohio and his wife Candace and two children, the biggest feeling of gratification from winning the Valero Texas Open will come when he scans a PGA TOUR schedule and does something: Make plans.
Curtis, the 2003 British Open champ who last won in 2006, finally ended a winless stretch of 2,045 days. In doing so, he locked up a PGA TOUR card for the next two years and climbed to 28th in the FedExCup standings, which all but assures him a spot in the FedExCup Playoffs later this year.
"That's a long time," said Curtis after capping his final-round 72 with a birdie on the final hole to win by two over Matt Every and John Huh. "The last couple of years I felt like I was so close to playing so many good tournaments. I'd end up missing the cut by one or I'd have a bad round here or there or I haven't putted well. Finally, every part of the game came together."
After getting into only four events through the first 16 weeks of the season, Curtis can play almost any event he wants on TOUR for the first time since the years following that breakthrough win at Royal St. George's.
Asked where he would play next, he put that exemption status to work as quickly as he could.
"New Orleans, next week," he said.
Curtis was steady this week: He was second in the field in driving accuracy and second in greens in regulation (in windy conditions most of the week, no less).
Yet Every looked at enough close birdie putts over the final nine holes (he missed from 7 feet on No. 12, 9 feet on No. 14 and six 6 feet on No. 16), and Huh closed spectacularly with a 33 on the back.
Curtis couldn't rest until Every missed his long birdie putt on the final hole and Huh barely missed a chip from just off the back of the green.
With two putts to win, Curtis needed only one, rolling in a 12-foot birdie at the last as icing on the cake.
But it was Curtis' par save on the 17th that saved the tournament. After nearly skulling his wedge from 106 yards, he poured in a 23-footer for par.
FedExCup standings Ben Curtis moved from 200th to 28th in the FedExCup standings at the Valero Texas Open. Standings
Regardless of going more than 2,000 days without a win, though, Curtis is a veteran. And to see him hit one that thin, so much that it would not slow down on the upslope of the green and kept going past the fall line and off the green, caught even his competitors by surprise.
"I told myself, 'Wow, that's a pretty big mistake right there,''' Huh said. "But he made the putt, and that was a clutch putt right there."
Curtis' problem started when that wedge from the fairway had to be hit from on an old divot that had not fully grown back in. He thought he might hit it fat so he overcompensated but instead hit a near line-drive. His bum-and-run chip left him outside 20 feet from the other edge of the green.
"That was big," Curtis said. "That third shot (the bump-and-run chip) was probably the hardest shot I had all week, and it was the best putt I hit all week."
That Huh was even in a position to win was a story in itself.
While Every shot a course-record 63 on Thursday, it was Huh who almost called it quits during the first round when he triple bogeyed his third hole of the tournament. He was 9 over after eight holes and by the time he finished he was 14 shots behind Every's record-setting pace.
"I was actually going to withdraw," Huh said. "But I told myself 'Don't give up. You have a lot of golf.' My wrist was kind of hurt. I was really ready for this tournament, but unfortunately the number wasn't that good."
Huh played his final 64 holes in 16 under.
In the end, though, Huh ran out of holes, and Curtis walked away with the win.