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Ben Curtis hopes Royal Liverpool plays as tough as it can. (Photo: Getty Images)
Ben Curtis hopes Royal Liverpool plays as tough as it can. (Photo: Getty Images)

Curtis recalls happy memories of his 2003 Open victory

Royal Liverpool reminds Ben Curtis a lot of Royal St. George's, where his victory in the 2003 Open was one of the biggest surprises in recent major history. But while he's looking back, he's also looking forward and hoping the wind picks up.

HOYLAKE, England (PA) -- Former Open champion Ben Curtis hopes memories of his surprise win at Royal St. George's three years ago can inspire him at Hoylake this week.

The 29-year-old from Ohio sprang a major shock at Sandwich in 2003 when, in his Open debut, he posted the early clubhouse lead and then benefited from Thomas Bjorn's collapse over the closing three holes.

Having spent the last two years in Scotland, the Open returns to England -- and Royal Liverpool after an absence of 39 years -- and Curtis can see similarities with the Kent course on which he won his first professional title.

"It is very similar to St. George's. It is very dry and dusty and has the same type of feel as Sandwich," said the American, who played Hoylake for the first time on Monday. "In the last couple of years in Scotland, it has been a lot wetter and cooler whereas here it is dry and warm.

"It is firm and bouncy, but the wind has not really picked up so it is not as firm as you would think because it looks like the ball should roll for hours," he added. "Everyone talks about Royal St. George's and how the weather was nice and should have been ideal scoring, but the course played tough.

"This course has still got a little catch to it so it should be a good test," he explained. "Some of the greens are a little slow but hopefully it will stay like this all week and it will play as tough as it can get. I think by Thursday it will be similar to Royal St. George's."

The hot and dry conditions have lessened the impact of the rough, which should make the course play a little easier, and unless the wind picks up scoring could be low.

Curtis admitted he would like to see the slight breeze currently blowing across the Wirral peninsular pick up a touch, for no other reason than he has practiced for it.

"I would like to see the wind blow a little bit," said Curtis, who won his second career title in a rain-delayed Booz Allen Classic last month. "It was funny because last week all I hit for three days were little low shots and you come here and you want to get it up in the air. That is kind of weird.

"Obviously it will change by Thursday, but I like the course. It is a good test," he added. "You have to drive it straight and the bunkers are well placed. It is hard to hit short of them and hard to hit over them.

"The rough is playable, which is nice, and although it is hard to control your shot you can advance it to the green," he said. "I don't think the winning total is going to be super-low. Ten- or 12-under maybe."

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