Former British Open champion Ben Curtis was just happy to be playing in Dubai a week ago after poor form last season cost him his PGA Tour card.
The American missed the cut in more than half of the PGA Tour events he played in 2011 and he hasn’t had a win since 2006.
Earlier this month, PGA Tour officials extended their contract with the Mayakoba Classic through the 2018 season.
With two years left on his 10-year European Tour exemption after winning the 2003 British Open, Curtis started this year by playing the European Tour’s Desert Swing, which concluded with the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
After finishing 48th in Abu Dhabi and 47th in Qatar, Curtis improved in Dubai, finishing tied for 13th place.
“My thinking is play wherever I can and got to play good,” said Curtis, who makes his 2012 PGA Tour debut this week at the Mayakoba Golf Classic and expects to play 15 to 20 times in the United States this year. “I’m trying to take it one week at a time and play solid, and not focusing on what everyone else is doing. Just trying to play good golf for myself and hopefully that will lead to good results.”
Curtis is one several Americans using the European Tour in an attempt to revive their careers.
Most are counting on invites to tournaments such as two-time major champion John Daly, who tied for 37th in Dubai after finishing ninth in Qatar. Nicholas Thompson, who tied for 20th, received an invitation to Dubai after his sister Lexi Thompson won the Dubai Ladies Masters in December.
Curtis caught the golfing public’s imagination with his out-of-nowhere British Open victory, and visited President George W. Bush in the White House. Great things were expected from Curtis, but after two wins in 2006 he has done little since. His ranking has fallen to 304th.
Last year was by far his worst. He failed to make the cut in 13 of 23 events, and his best finish was a tie for 12th at the Northern Trust Open.
“It was a tough year. I didn’t play well, plain and simple,” Curtis said. “I missed a lot of cuts by one or two shots. It is the difference from keeping your card and not keeping your card. If I made some cuts, you never know what would happen on the weekend. Play well, make a couple of birdies and finish in the top 20. That is what you need to do.”
Curtis admits he “was frustrated” that he lost his card, but said he just has to put that behind him and do what he can to regain it. He insisted his game was showing signs of improvement, though he has to do a better job of closing out tournaments. He shot 74 in the final round in Abu Dhabi and 73 in Qatar before another 73 to close out in Dubai.
“I’m hitting the ball better than I did last year and overall putting a little bit better … making a few birdies,” he said. “Now, it seems to be turning in the right direction. It’s hard to tell after three weeks. You have to get some good results and finishing in the middle of the pack doesn’t really do it.”