If history holds true to form, Ben Curtis could be on the threshold of his best season on the PGA Tour.
Usually a slow starter, the Ostrander native had made nine of 10 cuts before spending the past two weeks playing in England, which included an appearance in the BMW PGA Championship. He managed only two top-25 finishes but was in contention for the first time at THE PLAYERS Championship on Sunday before a 2-over-par final-round 74 dropped him to a tie for 22nd.
"He's making cuts, and that's the big thing," Curtis' father, Bob, said. "He's never played all that well early, and especially on the West Coast. The courses out there are different than he's used to and the grain on the greens is different. He's just never played enough out there to get used to it. He made cuts this year, though, and that's a good sign."
Curtis, a 1996 Buckeye Valley High School graduate who won a pair of Division II individual state championships and once was the nation's No. 1 amateur, tied for 66th in his season debut at the FBR Open in early February in Arizona. He also stayed through the weekend at both events he played later that month in California, which included a tie for 25th with a 7-under 277 total at the Northern Trust Open.
Curtis took Luke Donald to a 19th hole before losing his opening match at the WGC-Accenture Match-Play Championship, which last year moved to the Jack Nicklaus-designed Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Marana, Ariz.
He tied for 28th at the WGC-CA Championship once the PGA Tour's season made its way to Florida but then missed his only cut at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in late March.
"I think by then he was wearing down a little after playing so much," his father said.
Curtis has played in no fewer than 20 events since joining the PGA Tour in 2003 and stunning the world by winning the first major championship he entered, the British Open. He subsequently made the biggest jump in the history of the Official World Golf Rankings, which date to 1986, by surging from 396th to 35th. He was named Rookie of the Year that season as well.
His other two PGA Tour victories came during the second half of a season, too. In 2006, he won the Booz Allen Classic in late June and followed that up with a first-place effort at the 84 Lumber Classic in mid-September.
But Curtis enjoyed his best season a year ago when he made 18 of 22 cuts and posted a career-high five top-10 finishes, two of which came in the final two majors. He tied for seventh in July at the British Open, marking his third top-10 in that tournament in six appearances, and tied for second at the PGA Championship in August. That enabled Curtis to finish a career-best 17th on the money list with a $2,615,798 in earnings. He also qualified for the Ryder Cup for the first time and posted a 1-1-1 record to help the United States defeat England for the first time since 1999.
Four of his top-10s came after the Memorial Tournament, which this season is the 24th of 41 official events. That included a fifth-place showing in late September at the season-ending TOUR Championship.
He went on to tie for ninth at the OMEGA Mission Hills World Cup and finish seventh at the Chevron World Challenge, both of which are unofficial events and came after the conclusion of the PGA Tour Playoffs for the FedEx Cup. He tied for fourth at The Barclays, which was the first of four playoff events, and placed ninth overall in the FedEx standings with 110,702 points after finishing 114th the previous season.
"I feel like I'm getting my game together," he said during last year's Memorial. "I'm expecting a better second half."
Curtis opened and closed last year's Memorial with rounds 76 and finished in a tie for 66th at 7-over 295 in his sixth appearance. He carded a 4-under 68 to share the first-round lead with eventual-champion Ernie Els in 2004 but for the most part has struggled at Muirfield Village Golf Club, which is only about a 20-minute drive from his boyhood home.
Curtis, who turned 32 two days ago, has made three cuts and tied for eighth in 2004 but enters this year's tournament having broken 70 only once in his last 16 Memorial rounds.
Still, nine of his 13 career top-10s have come after the Memorial, so better days might lie ahead regardless of his play.
"There's always a lot going on when you're playing in your hometown tournament. Family and friends are lining up to see you, and I think there's just a lot of added pressure," his father said. "The good thing is that he always seems to step up his game once he leaves here."
•COFFMAN GRAD JOINS FIELD -- The only other Memorial participant this year with local connections is Chris Wilson, a 2003 Dublin Coffman graduate who was awarded a sponsor's exemption and will be making his PGA Tour debut.
Wilson has been playing on the NGA Hooters Tour and last year won his first professional tournament.
He won the 99th Ohio Amateur Championship in 2005, and a year later he was medalist at the Big Ten tournament to lead Northwestern to the team championship.
"This has been a dream of mine since I was a kid," Wilson said.
"Growing up as kids in Dublin we went to every Memorial. We would count down the days and even miss school sometimes just to watch some golf."
Ostrander native Ben Curtis is coming off his best season on the PGA Tour, finishing 17th in money earned ($2,615,798) and also qualifying for the Ryder Cup. In all, Curtis made the cut in 18 of the 22 tournaments he played last season.
Name: Ben Clifford Curtis
Family: Wife, Candace; son, Liam, and daughter, Addison
Special interests: Family, all sports
PGA Tour wins: Three, including the 2003 British Open
Memorial history: Has made the cut in last three appearances and in four of six overall. Best finish was a tie for eighth in 2004, but he has broke 70 only once in last Memorial 16 rounds.
Of note: Is coming off best season of his career in terms of cuts made (81.8 percent, 18 of 22), top-10 finishes (five) and money ranking (17th, $2,615,798). He also qualified for the Ryder Cup for the first time.