Curtis in front; Booz Allen postponed

POTOMAC, Md. -- When Ben Curtis won the 2003 British Open,

he didn't know the title was his until caddie Andy Sutton walked

out of an equipment trailer by the practice range and said, "Ben,

you're the Open champion." His final round over, Curtis had been

warming up for possible playoff.

This time, Curtis can sense the victory coming a day before it


Curtis was routing the field Sunday at the Booz Allen Classic

when play was halted due to approaching thunderstorms. He'll resume

Monday at 8 a.m. on the 12th hole with a score of 23 under, on pace

for a tournament record and eight shots clear of Padraig


"Hopefully, for me, it's a step in the right direction,"

Curtis said, "where I can dote on it and get a few more wins."

Curtis has led after every round, carding 62, 65 and 67 on the

TPC at Avenel. His worst shot Sunday was his last, when he hit his

4-iron approach at No. 12 in a creek, putting him in position for

what appears will be only his second bogey of the tournament.

Even there, Curtis didn't seem overly concerned about his

plight, saying that "it shouldn't be too difficult of a chip" to

finish the hole and move on.

"I've still got to play my game," Curtis said. "I don't want

to go to sleep tonight, 'Oh, you've got it won,' because I've still

got 6{ holes to go. It's not going to be easy, but I have to go to

bed confident and know that I can do it."

Curtis said he "tossed and turned" a little Saturday night,

knowing that he might finally put to rest those who felt his

victory at Royal St. George's three years ago was a fluke. There

was more time to think after he woke up -- because play was delayed

for six hours by rain.

But he wasn't fazed a bit. He started the day with a five-shot

lead over Brett Quigley, but Quigley landed his opening drive

against a tree and had to play his second shot left-handed. He

bogeyed the hole to put Curtis ahead by six, and the lead grew to

seven when Curtis sank an 8-foot birdie putt at No. 2.

Curtis cruised from there. No one got closer than six shots the

rest of the day. He put dismissed any notion that he might fall

back to the rest of the field when he put his approach with 6

inches for a birdie at the sixth hole. He also made a 25-foot

birdie putt on the difficult No. 9 green.

"I just got in a comfortable zone and was swinging pretty

good," Curtis said.

Curtis is set to surpass the tournament's record winning score

of 21 under, but the low scores this week are skewed somewhat

because the players have been allowed to lift, clean and place

their shots on the fairways during the last three rounds. Storms

and threats of storms prompted the ruling, but it was really only

needed on Sunday, when the heavy rains finally came.

Officials had hoped to beat the bad weather by sending the first

group off at 7 a.m. -- the same tactic had worked on Saturday -- but

incessant downpours made morning play impossible. The start was

postponed nine times before the sun finally made an appearance,

allowing volunteers to squeegee the greens and teeboxes and prepare

the course as best they could.

The first drive at the first hole at 1 p.m. was made from a

front teebox because the back two were waterlogged -- one of them

still had a sizable puddle. Moving the tee forward subtracted some

30 yards from the hole, but the players lost most of that yardage

because their drives weren't bouncing high or rolling far on the

wet fairways.

The rain was another thumb in the eye for a tournament that next

year will be demoted or eliminated. The PGA Tour wants to move the

Booz Allen to the fall in 2007, but it won't be played at all if a

new title sponsor can't be found. The galleries were already thin

Thursday and Friday because the sport's top names took the week off

following the U.S. Open, and the weather delay meant that only the

truly devoted were on hand to witness the start of play Sunday.

Fans who show up Monday will get in free.

"It's sad to see a tournament leave, but that's the way it

goes," said Curtis, who will no doubt be one of Avenel's biggest

fans if he pockets the $900,000 winner's check on Monday. "I wish

I could do something about it, but that's something the tour deals


The Monday finish has forced a change in Monday's British

Open qualifying at nearby Congressional Country Club. The

qualifying will start in the afternoon instead of the morning and

will be 18 holes instead of 36. ... Twenty-six players managed to

finish their rounds Sunday, while 46 have to return Monday. One

player, Bernhard Langer, withdrew with a neck injury. ... The

Monday finish will be the first this year on the PGA Tour, but it's

the third in six years at the Booz Allen. The tournament hasn't

been played without a weather delay since 1999. ... The

tournament's record winning score of 21-under 263 was set by Jeff

Sluman and Billy Andrade in 1991 and matched by Adam Scott in 2004.

Sluman won the title in '91 in a playoff. ... The lowest winning

score on the PGA Tour this year is 28-under 260 by Phil Mickelson

at the BellSouth Classic, where he won by 13 strokes.