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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Ben Curtis

Aired July 23, 2003 - 20:56   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: An analyst for "USA Today" says if you had asked before the tournament, he would have made 26-year-old PGA Tour rookie Ben Curtis a 5 million to 1 shot to win the British Open. Well guess what? He won. Ben Curtis joins me now along with his fiance, Candace Fadey (ph).
Welcome to both of you. Congratulations.

BEN CURTIS, BRITISH OPEN CHAMPION: Oh, thank you.

ZAHN: You fooled a lot of people.

CURTIS: Oh, I know. I fooled myself too.

ZAHN: You fooled your daddy. Your dad, who happens to be your biggest fan , said if you had told me last Monday Ben would win the British Open, I would have said you had a drinking problem.

CURTIS: That's probably true. That's what my dad would say. You know, I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd win in the first week, you know, first try. And I -- you know, I'm truly honored to be on that list.

ZAHN: But you certainly are disciplined and you were one of the first professional golfers to show up at the tournament to take the practice round. There had to be some sort of serious thinking going on over there.

CURTIS: Well, yes. The reason why I went over there is just to get used to the style of golf. I never played that style -- the link style before, and to be able to go over there and play it early was, you know, one of the reasons why I won.

ZAHN: Now, I know you believe in your fiance, Candace, but as you were watching this tournament, did you think he was going to pull it off?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. I mean, I did toward, like, come Friday. You know, when he started playing better after Friday was when I felt oh, gosh. Here we go And then he told me Saturday night, I'm going to win this thing and then I knew.

ZAHN: Tell us a little bit about the golf gene in your family. It's been passed along from your grandfather.

CURTIS: Right, yes. 1973, he built a golf course in, you know, near Columbus, Ohio and it's a small town and a small public course and, you know, it was right there at my fingertips my whole life. I lived right behind the 18th green till I was 11 or 12 years old. So it's always been there for me and, you know, that's one of the reasons why I'm here today.

ZAHN: You love the game.

CURTIS: Oh, I do.

ZAHN: And why is it so many people have underestimated you?

CURTIS: The fact probably being that it's my first major and being a rookie on Tour and only being 26 years old may have a lot to do with it, you know, not much experience at that level. But, you know, for me I knew I could compete. You know, I didn't expect it that soon but I figured in a few years I'd, you know, settle down and get used to the situation and I figured I'd handle it well.

ZAHN: Be honest with us tonight. What kind of head games did you have going on those last couple of days of the tournament?

CURTIS: Especially Sunday. Saturday I was a little nervous on the first tee but once I got out there I was fine and even Sunday I was fine until, you know, I made the sixth birdie on 11 and then, you know, I kind of leader board all day and I saw those names right behind me and I'm like, Oh my, this is -- I mean, to be in the name with those guys...

ZAHN: Well that had to be shocking to see your name up there on that leaderboard.

CURTIS: Definitely. It wasn't really shocking but it was nerve- wracking to see my name and see Tiger Woods and, you know, Bjorn right there with me...

ZAHN: Vijay Singh.

CURTIS: Vijay Singh, it's just, like, wow, I mean...

ZAHN: Candace, very quickly, is it true that you're going to get married on a day that he's actually going to play in a tournament?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. We are.

ZAHN: You don't think you could have picked another day?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We tried. It was -- we planned it so far in advance. It was impossible that -- I mean, just, everything's happened so fast this year.

ZAHN: So who gets custody of this great trophy? Ben or you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ben.

ZAHN: Ben. Well, congratulations.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN; Why don't we take the opportunity to putt each other off the air here.

CURTIS: OK.

ZAHN: You know, former college golfer here.

CURTIS: Sounds good.

ZAHN: I'll even take my shoes off and give myself a little advantage here.

CURTIS: So who goes first?

ZAHN: All right. We're going to say -- Ben, I'll let you go first as we say good night and "LARRY KING LIVE" is next. Again, congratulations.

CURTIS: Thank you.

ZAHN: This is a tough hole, Ben.

CURTIS: I know.

ZAHN: Pressure's on. This ain't the British Open, but it's CNN and -- yes! He did it!

CURTIS: That's right.

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