As Ben Curtis learned the hard way, even former major champions have a difficult time maintaining PGA Tour status when their game goes south.
The first three sub-125 finishes on the money list after winning the 2003 British Open didn’t matter because his triumph at Royal St. Georges brought with it a five-year tour exemption. But with that exemption exhausted, his 149th-place finish on last year’s money list left Curtis without full privileges, the primary reason he had played in only three of the first 17 events on this season’s schedule.
Not a problem anymore, after he held on for a two-shot victory at the Valero Texas Open, his first since 2006 and fourth overall. It was why, if you were tuned in to the broadcast, Curtis had trouble getting any words out while being interviewed by David Feherty.
The CBS funnyman occasionally leaves his interview subjects speechless; this time he had nothing to do with it. Curtis, like many tour winners, was emotional because the tireless work required to get him back to where he felt he belongs had finally paid off. It also means he’s fully exempt through the 2014 season.
Bubba Watson will make his first start since winning the Masters at this week’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans. It’s been a hectic post-Augusta stretch for Watson - who went on a media blitz immediately following his victory - especially with a newly adopted son at home to care for. Give Watson credit for being honest and making the right decision this week, though. He said he wouldn’t be playing in New Orleans if not for the fact that’s he’s the defending champion. “It was an obligation that I should be here,’’ Watson said. “I think I should be honored that I won here before, and I should be here.’’ . . . Maybe Watson, who leads the PGA Tour in driving distance (313.1-yard average), would be better suited for this week’s Nationwide Tour event. The South Georgia Classic will be played at Kinderlou Forest Golf Club, which will measure 7,781 yards. That’s no misprint, and it’s nearly 200 yards longer than the biggest course on the PGA Tour this year (Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, PGA Championship, 7,606 yards).
Werenski, Jackets win
Richy Werenski, a sophomore from South Hadley, helped Georgia Tech to its fourth consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference championship, the Yellow Jackets winning the team title by seven shots in Uwharrie Point, N.C. Werenski was the individual leader after two rounds, but shot a final-round 76 to fall back to a tie for seventh at 5-under 211. Junior Luke Feehan (76-69-72, tie for 21st) was the top individual for Boston College, which finished 11th . . . The Ivy League championships start Friday in New Jersey: the men’s tournament is in Atlantic City, the women in Absecon, N.J. . . . The Byron Nelson Award, which goes to a graduating senior and takes into account academics, golf, character, and integrity, was shared by Georgia Tech’s James White and Dylan Frittelli of Texas. Dartmouth’s Peter Williamson of Hanover, N.H., was one of five finalists . . . Chelso Barrett of Keene, N.H., tied for 37th in the Sage Valley Junior Invitational in Graniteville, S.C.
A reminder that Annika Sorenstam will participate in the grand opening of the Callaway Performance Center at the Golf & Ski Warehouse in Hudson, N.H., on Friday. Sorenstam, who retired from competitive golf in 2008 after a Hall of Fame career that included 72 victories on the LPGA Tour and 10 major championships, will conduct an exhibition at 2:30 p.m., then will participate in an autograph session. The event is free and open to the public . . . The US Golf Association must have all entry forms for this year’s US Women’s Open by 5 p.m. on May 2. Applications are found at www.usga.org, and can only be submitted online. The entrant’s handicap index can’t exceed 4.4, and there is one local qualifying site: Longmeadow Country Club on May 21. The US Women’s Open is July 5-8 at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis. . . . Tickets are still available for the May 7 Francis Ouimet Scholarship Fund’s annual banquet at the Boston Marriott Copley Place. Mark O’Meara, who will receive the Francis Ouimet Award for lifelong contributions to golf, will be the featured speaker. For information, visit www.ouimet.org or call 774-430-9090 . . . Interested in watching some PGA Tour golf? The two tournaments that come to New England both have ongoing ticket specials. Through Monday, the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Conn., is offering a 60th anniversary package. For $60, you can select two one-day tickets, and also receive a parking pass and a $20 food and beverage voucher. The tournament is June 21-24, and tickets are available at www.travelerschampionship.com. The Deutsche Bank Championship, the second of four FedEx Cup events always held at TPC Boston in Norton over Labor Day weekend, is offering up to 20 percent off Champions Club and grounds tickets through May 8. MasterCard must be used for the deal, which can be found at www.dbchampionship.com/presale by typing in the promotion code MCDBC.
Save the date
The Swing for ALS tournament is scheduled for June 11 at Granite Links, with proceeds going to the Massachusetts chapter of the ALS Association. Sports celebrities will be involved, and the event will include auction prizes and dinner. Sponsorships - and dinner-only options - are also available. To register, visit www.als-ma.org . . . John Havlicek, Jim Rice, Mike Eruzione, Jim Lonborg, and Scott Zolak are among the celebrities expected to participate in the Caron Wood Charity Golf Classic, an event hosted by Cape Cod-based pros Jason Caron and Carri Wood. The pretournament gala is June 24 at the Sea Crest Beach Hotel, with the tournament June 25 at the Golf Club of Cape Cod. Sponsorships are available for the tournament, which has raised money for Cape Cod Junior Golf, the Jimmy Fund, and the Hole in the Wall Gang. For details, visit www.caronwoodcharitygolfclassic.com . . . Since April is National Poetry Month, may we suggest “Golf Course of Rhymes,’’ a book of golf poetry by Lexington resident Leon White. The book is available at www.amazon.com.