Curtis a confirmed fan of HK teenager Hak
Alvin Sally and Alex Jenkins
Ben Curtis lasted only nine holes yesterday in the company of Hong Kong prodigy Jason Hak Shun-yat, but that brief meeting was enough to leave the former British Open champion impressed with the teenager - enough for him to exchange e-mails.
'He is a good player, tall and strong and although I only saw him for nine holes, I think he has a great future ahead of him,' Curtis said after pulling out midway through the third round with a bad back.
'I exchanged e-mails with Jason. He has got a lot to learn, but how many kids at 15 would be out there playing on the weekend in a big tournament like this. It is a dream for him,' Curtis said.
'He is a great ball striker and obviously has talent, but it is not so much about that. It is all about learning to deal with the rigours of playing on tour. But he is young and I'm sure he will learn,' Curtis added.
The American, who won the British Open in 2003, the first player to win a major on his debut, suffered back spasms that forced him to drop out.
'I thought I was having a heart attack because the whole of my left side was hurting,' Curtis related. 'I was putting on my shoes in the morning and leaned over and my back kind of got stuck.'
Curtis, 32, rushed to find a doctor, who calmed him down and said it was nothing more than a bad back. A physiotherapist then said it was probably triggered by his act of bending down to ties his shoelaces.
With The Race to Dubai at the back of his mind - he was in 75th position and needed a good finish in Hong Kong to move into the top 60 - Curtis decided to risk it and go out and play.
'I thought it would get loose but I couldn't hit the ball. I was hacking it around. It is disappointing to have to give it up. This is a fun tournament and I like this course,' Curtis said.
Curtis made the cut with rounds of 65 and 72, but his nine holes yesterday were a complete disaster as he collected a double bogey and three bogeys to complete the front nine on four-over-par 38. He was unable to advance his tee shots much more than 200 yards.
'It is a pity. If I had played well this weekend, you never know, I might have made it to Dubai. But now it is an early vacation for me. I will be going home and getting some rest,' Curtis added.
Hak, the only local player to make the weekend action, carded a two-over-par 72 to fall into a share of 57th place. He knew golf was an individual sport, but he had no idea how individual until he was left in the company of a marker to record his scores.
'It wasn't that fun playing by myself - it's the first time that kind of thing has happened to me,' said Hak, who holds the record as the youngest ever player to make the halfway cut at a European Tour event after qualifying for the weekend play at Fanling last year.
'I didn't play bad out there. I didn't get off to a good start - with a double [bogey] at the second - but I came back with a couple of birdies. I just didn't make as many putts today.
'I felt sorry for him,' Hak said of Curtis. 'He just couldn't get a good swing and it was clear that something was wrong.'
Over and out
Troubled by back spasms, Ben Curtis could only complete the front nine, in four-over-par: 38