British Open plays out like Golden Tee
By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

Lugged The Cooler all the way to the British Open, and a Golden Tee 2003 video game broke out.

Seriously.

Golden Tee Golf
Before the 2003 British Open, the only conceivable possibility for Ben Curtis to be a champion was in an arcade game.
Study this leader-board, and tell me where you've seen it before:

CURTIS: -1
SINGH: EVEN
BJORN: EVEN
WOODS: PLUS 1
LOVE III: PLUS 1

That's right. You've seen it, or something like it, at your nearest Golden Tee video game, right next to the Pop-a-Shot and the ladies' restroom. Or on an EA Sports video game, any time it is played by a person with the surname "Curtis."

Say your name is Biff Curtis, you're at home with an afternoon bowl of Cocoa Puffs, you've fired up the Tiger Woods '03 EA Sports game, and here's your thought process:

OK, I want to play the British Open ... Against Tiger, Davis Love, Vijay Singh and Thomas Bjorn ... and, uh, let's make it at Royal St. George's."

That, dweller, is the only plausible explanation for gazing up at the big yellow scoreboard at St. George's on Sunday night, and seeing that absurd, outrageous, sweet, confounding and historic scoreboard.

Ben Curtis -- his name chiseled on a claret jug next to Nicklaus, Hogan, Watson, Ballesteros and Jones.

Ben Curtis -- the Hickory High of the Open Championship. (Only thing missing was Gene Hackman as Norman Dale on the bag.)

Ben Curtis -- you'd only believe it on a video game, and only then after several icy lagers, and scoops of over-salted and over-buttered popcorn from the popcorn machine next to the Golden Tee at the Champions Sports Bar in your local Marriott.

I still can't believe it. I stood greenside at the 18th at Royal St. George's and looked hard for the giant Golden Tee video machine to be propped up next to Sir Michael Bonallack of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club when he declared Ben Curtis "Champion Golfer for the Year."

To call this thing an upset is an insult to all upsets.

Chaminade of Hawaii beating Ralph Sampson's Virginia team? Ben Curtis' story makes that carry all the weight of a Bucks-Raptors NBA game in February.

Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson? Ben Curtis' story makes that carry all the weight of a bout between a pair of Mexican-American welterweights at the Country Club in San Fernando Valley.

Yes, dweller. It's Ben Curtis' world. We just live in it.

Sentences I thought I'd never type, under any circumstances, by the way.

On, then to the Weekend List of Five:

1. More Ben Curtis musings

What made this guy's story all the better was his posse. One of the all-time not-ready-to-win-a-major posses. He had with him his fiancee. Great. And two female American cousins, who had all the look of a couple of twenty-somethings looking to head to Europe for a boondoggle because their cousin, Ben Curtis, was playing the British Open.

Imagine their rap at the local pub, the two lasses, from Monday through Saturday.

Yes, we are American. Our cousin, Ben Curtis, is playing the Open ... yes, Ben Curtis ... C-u-r-t-I-s ... no, really, I swear, he is playing.

Then, imagine their triumphant strut back to the local tavern in Sandwich on Sunday night.

There must have been dancing on bar tables, booze flowing and general madness that bordered on scenes from "Roadhouse."

Tiger's posse: Swedish nanny girlfriend, fulltime celebrity caddie, handlers from Nike and IMG, and a four-man security team at all times.

Ben Curtis
Ben Curtis, 2003 British Open Champion, has earned the right to roam with a posse.
Ben Curtis' posse: His babe, and two cousins.

This guy rules.

2. The Slump

The Cooler is not in the business of propagating the Tiger Slump Theory. If they find his first tee shot, and he sinks a putt sometime on Sunday, he's got five wins and a major. Instead, he's got four wins and no majors -- yet.

But still, it would be criminal if we did not comment on the fact that Tiger Woods had a chance to win the British Open, an excellent chance, and he got clipped by Ben Curtis.

They started out tied on Sunday, Tiger shot 71, Curtis shot 69, and Curtis won the Claret Jug.

As we've said, awesome for Curtis. Tremendous.

And yet, somewhere over the Atlantic on the private jet home, did Tiger break the silence of the cabin by saying, incredulous: "Wait. I got hosed by Ben Curtis?"

This is roughly akin to Gilbert Gottfried stealing J. Lo away from Ben Affleck, or Keanu Reeves clipping Daniel Day-Lewis for a Best Actor award.

He must feel like the Division I basketball team that scheduled Athletes-in-Action for a pre-Thanksgiving exhibition, only to see AIA run his squad out of the gym.

An all-timer, dwellers.

3. The lost ball

Of all the aspects that amaze about Tiger Woods' lost tee ball on the first hole of the championship, the one that fascinated me most was that his playing partner, Sergio Garcia, ostensibly, was helping him search.

Yeah. Right. And Saddam Hussein is currently helping the search for weapons of mass destruction.

As charades go, this scene was right up there with Bruno Kirby shouting out, "Baby fish mouth" in "When Harry Met Sally."

In fact, Sergio may damn well have found that ball, and then done what Judge Smails would have done to Al Cverik's ball in the rough -- driven it so far into the shaggy brush of Kent with his foot, its next stop was the core of the planet.

When the marshal eventually found Tiger's ball 30 minutes later, I wanted to do a quick forensics test to see if there was any Adidas golf shoe residue on that bad boy.

Considering Tiger missed the playoff at the Open by two shots, Ben Curtis might owe Sergio's foot 10 percent of that check.

Ben Curtis
The great Ben Curtis now has his name enshrined along with the British Open greats.
4. Wardrobe musings From Colonial HQ

The heat wave melted England. Stout, normally served at 68 degrees, skyrocketed into the 80s.

Many in the country went shirtless for the week, and I noticed that young English toughs, who often peroxide their hair, tend to look remarkably like Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers when they go shirtless.

My favorite development, though, takes place on the golf course.

Some of the stuffier clubs have a rule: No shorts.

Good enough rule, I'd say. A little decorum on the track is never a problem. Comically, though, some do show up to the golf course in shorts. The golf club has an answer for them, and the answer is brilliant:

Knee socks.

Golf clubs apparently keep them in stock, and when an offending golfer shows up, flaunting thigh, knee and shin skin, the head pro's response is simple. He reaches behind his desk, and tosses the offending golfer a pair of knee socks.

This makes for some sight. We saw one older gent strut by in some wool beauties, thick gray knee socks that looked stolen from the closet of the Swiss Miss girl's boyfriend. Curiously, this man was also wearing blue-lens shades, and became known in our group only as the Swiss Miss/X-Games Shades dude.

Perhaps my roomie Shuchie put it best when he jogged past the pure links course Royal Cinque Ports, observed some of the knee sock-wearers, and returned back from his run to say: "Dude, it looks like the '77 White Sox are out playing golf today."

5. White trash: not lust an American specialty

I had long operated under the belief that America did a few things better than any country on Earth: milkshakes, La-Z-Boys, air conditioning and white trash, among them.

Imagine my shock when I saw that England is throwing down the challenge on the white trash scale.

See, the sight of a T-shirt in this stiff and proper country is one thing. The sight of the tees I caught at a local petrol station were beyond belief. As I waited in line for a fill-up in my rented rig, I noted a beat-up Ford with about six 10-gallon gas tanks in its trunk. The owner of the rig was having the full-service attendant fill up each of the tanks, in what could only be interpreted as a Kacyzinski-type survivalist making his monthly trek down from the mountains for gas.

What put it over the top was the fact that the Ford driver wore a tanktop and shorts -- a rare sight in Albion. What put it more over the top was his tee. As he turned my way, I saw he was a bearded man, of questionable fitness, and his tank top read: BEAUTY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEER HOLDER.

Not bad, I thought. Quality white trash tee.

We had only scratched the surface, dwellers.

The driver in the car in front of me then emerged from his sled. This man's fitness was even more dubious than the Kaczynksi Survivalist who believed that perception and alcohol were the key factors in human attraction. This second gent probably went 5-8, 240, most of it lard. His T-shirt failed to meet its appointment with the waistline of his shorts, and the sight of his gut's hairy lard was the penalty.

I thought that was bad enough, until the man turned around.

His tee read simply: I LOVE EVERY BONE IN YOUR BODY -- ESPECIALLY MINE.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the prosecution rests.

Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle writes the "Weekend Water Cooler" every Monday for Page 2.





THE WATER COOLER

ALSO SEE:


Brian Murphy Archive

Murphy: Study hall open

Murphy: I love Wimbledon

Murphy: TigerSpeak 101

Murphy: On a hot streak

Murphy: Anti-rocket fuel

Murphy: Going, going ... boring

Murphy: Raising a Tiger

Murphy: Fandemonium

Murphy: Life imitating art

Murphy: Masters of our domain

Murphy: Somebody has to lose

Murphy: Welcome to Cooler Day!

Murphy: Spring is in the air

Murphy: Here's to Ew

Murphy: A barren wasteland

Murphy: Tiger gets his Phil





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