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Ben Curtis looking to reverse fortunes

Ben Curtis says he's upset about how he played last week defending hisOpen title.

``There's really not a lot of emotion,'' he said on the eve of Thursday's Irish Open at Baltray, a links on the east coast of Ireland. ``But I'm just kind of disappointed I haven't played well the last three weeks.''

After coming from obscurity to win a year ago, Curtis missed the cut of Friday at Royal Troon with rounds of 75-74. He also missed the cut the week before in the Scottish Open.

The Open title on Sunday went to another little-known American, Todd Hamilton, who beat Ernie Els in a four-hole playoff.

``Last week I just didn't hit the shots I needed to hit from fairways and off the tee,'' Curtis said. ``I was hitting the ball a little bit too high and especially on a links course you have to keep the ball down. I've working on that and trying to hit the ball more solidly, too.

``Coming down the last few holes I didn't get away with anything because I wasn't hitting the ball solid. That's what I need to do.''

Curtis' victory a year ago in the Open rocketed him from 396th to 35th in the world rankings. On Sunday, Hamilton went from 56th to 16th. This is his first year on the U.S. Tour after 12 in Japan.

``Obviously he played great,'' Curtis said. ``To win, the guy's really tough. He's gone through a lot the last 10 of 12 years. But I don't look at it that he's come out of nowhere. He's won on our tour. He's won 13 or 14 times around the world. It's hard to say he came out of nowhere.''

Curtis called Baltray, otherwise known as County Louth, ``a great golf course. If the wind blows and it keeps up, it will be a good test of golf.''

Irishman Padraig Harrington and Northern Irishman Darren Clarke, who have been playing the course since they were teenagers, say the par 3s are the key.

Clarke, tied for 11th at Troon after a closing 68, said of the par 3s: ``If you miss them on the wrong side it is bogey or double, so look toward the winner as the guy who plays them well.''

Harrington, who missed the halfway cut at Troon, called the 173-yard fifth ``one of the best holes in the world.''

``It is not a beast of a hole but just a superb golf hole.''

Three leading players: Thomas Bjorn, Phillip Price and Nick Faldo have withdrawn for various reasons.

Australian Nick Flanagan, the U.S. Amateur champion, plays his first event as a professional and plans to play some on both tours.

``The goal is just to get a tour card anywhere, but to get a tour card here is where I'd like it the most. This would be my choice at this time,'' he said.

``Eventually I'd like to get over to the States, but I'd like to play in Europe for a couple of years. The courses are a lot different. You get to play different golf every week,'' Flanagan said.

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