FORT WAYNE – When Ben Curtis won the British Open in 2003, he certainly didn't think that 11 years later he would have to prove he still belonged on the PGA Tour.
“After I won, obviously the goal was to win more of those,” said Curtis, 37, who will compete at the Hotel Fitness Championship beginning today at Sycamore Hills Golf Club.
“Realistically, I had a few chances at a couple other majors. Overall, it's something to be very proud of. It's nothing that can ever be taken away. Once I got into 2006, when I won a couple more titles, it took some pressure off and relaxed me a little bit and wasn't so intense.”
But it will be intense this week in the first of four tournaments within the Web.com Tour's Finals, through which 25 of 50 PGA Tour cards for next season will be determined.
The Hotel Fitness Championship, which was won last year by another major winner, Trevor Immelman, is open to players in the top 75 on the Web.com Tour and Nos. 126 to 200 in the FedExCup rankings.
Curtis is No. 131.
“More than anything, (being here is) just to have fun and not focus in on the consequences of the four tournaments,” Curtis said. “I have some sort of status (for next season). I'm not completely shut out of the tour, but it would be nice to fare well here and improve my standing.”
There are three major champions here – Curtis, Immelman, who won the Masters in 2008, and Y.E. Yang, who won the PGA Championship in 2009 – and the Web.Com Tour stars are highlighted by Carlos Ortiz (three victories and $515,403 in earnings this year), Andrew Putnam ($320,438), Zach Sucher ($294,166) and Adam Hadwin ($293,667).
“This will be a good test of golf,” said Curtis, who hadn't played Jack Nicklaus-designed Sycamore Hills before this week.
“Obviously, the course is in great shape. They had 10 inches of rain over the weekend, but you can hardly tell. The greens are great. They're rolling really good. But the key is you have to stay out of the rough. It's really nasty, especially off the tee. A couple lengths on a couple holes, with no roll in the fairway because of the rain, it's going to play difficult.”
Immelman won last year by shooting 20-under over four days.
But having big names in the field doesn't seem to faze the up-and-coming golfers like Ortiz.
“It's more a battle against yourself and the golf course,” Ortiz said. “If you play good, you're going to have a good chance. You cannot control what other people do. Just worry about yourself and play good.”
Curtis just hopes his game returns to the level it was at when he won a major.
“I've been struggling around the greens this year,” he said. “I've putted OK, but the chipping and things like that have been putting pressure on the rest of my game.”
Notes: The pro-am, which benefited the Evans Scholars and Mad Anthonys Children's Hope House, had two sessions. The winning team in the morning, shooting a 51, consisted of professional Troy Matteson, James Khan, Patrick Dye, Chip Case and Roly Perez.
The afternoon tournament was won with a 49 by Johnson Wagner, Mark Hesterman, Jeremy Senk, Kevin Dawson and Scott Federoff.