The PGA Championship

The cut that stings

British Open champ Curtis, Love among those who got the weekend off after struggling at tough Oak Hill

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) -- Ben Curtis won the first major championship he ever played in. He won't win the second.

The British Open champion headed home Friday after shooting a 76 on Friday and missing the cut in the PGA Championship by three shots. It ended his major championship winning streak at one, but Curtis wasn't discouraged.

"Ah, 50 percent so I'll take it," he said.

Curtis began the day with a reasonable chance of playing on the weekend after an opening 75, but wayward drives and missed putts combined to end his chances.

He knew by the time he got to his back nine he would have to make some birdies to stay in the tournament, but it just didn't happen.

"Well, I didn't play very well this week. I haven't hit it very well and I didn't putt it very well, either," Curtis said. "I just kind of struggled a little bit. I just tried to stay patient, keep grinding away and thought things would turn around. But they never did."

It was a marked contrast to last month at the British Open, where Curtis shocked everyone by coming from behind in the final round to win the silver claret jug in his first attempt.

The PGA tour rookie then embarked on a whirlwind few weeks that included an appearance on the Letterman show and a meeting in the Oval Office with President Bush.

His eventful summer is far from over. Curtis will play in the NEC Invitational next week near his home in Ohio, and get married after Saturday's round.

"I'm really looking forward to that, get home and just relax for a few days, get ready for Firestone and the wedding," he said. "It'll be busy, but I'm looking forward to it."

Curtis wasn't the only one with a free weekend. Even though the cut was 8 over par, the highest since 9 over par 23 years ago at Firestone in Akron, some big names were making other plans.

David Duval didn't even wait to make it official. He left the course after making a triple bogey and double bogey in his first four holes, saying his back hurt. The day before, Duval had shot an 80.

Davis Love III came to Oak Hill believing he had a chance to win his second PGA Championship. He left bitterly disappointed after rounds of 74 and 75.

"If it gets any tougher, it is almost going to be unfair," said a dispirited Love, a four-time winner this year who leads the tour with $5.1 million in prize money.

Love won last week at the International, but couldn't keep the ball out of the rough on a course that was more suited to a U.S. Open than a PGA Championship.

"It can be had if you hit it in the fairway a bunch -- but if you don't, you are going to shoot a big number," he said.

Defending champion Rich Beem shot his way out of the tournament with an 82 in his opening round, then followed it with a 75 on Friday.

Also missing the cut were Sergio Garcia, Thomas Bjorn, Greg Norman and Colin Montgomerie. Tom Watson had played well in majors all year, but two consecutive 75s knocked him out.

"That's what golf does to you -- it lifts you up to the highest heights and will take you down to the lowest lows," Watson said.

Watson, 53, has tried 31 times to win the PGA Championship -- the only major keeping him from a career Grand Slam.

"When you hit two fairways on the front nine, you're supposed to shoot what I shot," he added. "You're not supposed to reward anybody hitting the ball in the rough in the PGA Championship. I don't have any problem with that at all."

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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