Curtis takes to European Tour to find form

Former British Open champion Ben Curtis is just happy to be

playing in the weekend in Dubai after poor form last season cost

him his U.S. PGA Tour card.

The American missed the cut in more than half of the U.S. PGA

events he played in 2011 and he hasn’t had a win since 2006.

With two years left on his 10-year European Tour exemption after

winning the 2003 British Open, Curtis has started this year by

playing the tour’s desert swing that concludes with the Dubai

Desert Classic this weekend.

After finishing 48th in Abu Dhabi and 47th in Qatar, Curtis has

improved this week. He made five birdies on his way to a 5-under 67

on Friday to reach 7 under for the tournament. He is six shots

behind clubhouse leader Rory McIlroy in 11th.

”My thinking is play wherever I can and got to play good,”

said Curtis, who expects to play 15 to 20 times in the United

States this year. ”I’m trying to take it one week at a time and

play solid and not focusing on what everyone else is doing. Just

trying to play good golf for myself and hopefully that will lead to

good results.”

Curtis is one several Americans using the European Tour in an

attempt to revive their careers.

Most are counting on invites to tournaments such as two-time

major champion John Daly, who was 1 under overall in Dubai after

finishing ninth in Qatar. Nicholas Thompson, at 4 under, received

an invitation to Dubai after his sister Lexi Thompson won the Dubai

Ladies Masters in December.

Curtis caught the golfing public’s imagination with his

out-of-nowhere British Open victory, and visited President George

W. Bush in the White House. Great things were expected from Curtis,

but after two wins in 2006 he has done little since. His ranking

has fallen to 304th.

Last year was by far his worst. He failed to make the cut in 13

of 23 events, and his best finish was a tie for 12th at the

Northern Trust Open.

”It was a tough year. I didn’t play well plain and simple,”

Curtis said. ”I missed a lot of cuts by one or two shots. It is

the difference from keeping your card and not keeping your card. If

I made some cuts, you never know what would happen on the weekend.

Play well, make a couple of birdies and finish in the top 20. That

is what you need to do.”

Curtis admits he ”was frustrated” that he lost his card but

said he just has to put that behind him and do what he can to

regain it. He insisted his game was showing signs of improvement,

though he has to do a better job of closing out tournaments. He

shot 74 in the final round in Abu Dhabi and 73 in Qatar.

”I’m hitting the ball better than I did last year and overall

putting a little bit better … making a few birdies,” he said.

”Now, it seems to be turning in the right direction. It’s hard to

tell after three weeks. You have to get some good results and

finishing in the middle of the pack doesn’t really do it.”

Follow Michael Casey on Twitter at

https://twitter.com/mcasey1