By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
NORTON, Mass. -- Ben Crane made the briefest of appearances in the scorer's trailer late Saturday afternoon and then strode purposefully toward the locker room.
As disappointed as he was to miss the cut at the Deutsche Bank Championship, though, Crane stopped and signed every piece of paper, tournament program and pin flag thrust at him. By then, a handful of reporters had gathered around his golf bag, their questions at the ready.
Normally a missed cut would not have attracted so much attention. But this early exit -- assured when Crane missed a 9-footer to save par at the 18th hole -- had dropped him from 52nd to 70th in the projected FedExCup standings.
So now Crane, who shot 74-71, will have to wait until the tournament is over on Labor Day to see if he advances to next week's BMW Championship. He's on the FedExCup Playoffs bubble now with two rounds remaining at TPC Boston.
"I knew. I knew. I knew exactly where I stood," Crane said. "Just a disappointing way to finish.
“I know all things work for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose. So I know that we grow in the trials of life and I know that to some people missing the cut by a shot in a tournament like this may not mean a lot. But it means a lot to me. So it's very disappointing but I know I'll grow from it, too."
Crane had earned his last FedExCup points back in July at the John Deere Classic when he tied for 13th and left ranked 36th in the standings. But he didn't play the British Open and then had to withdraw during the second round of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational with a back injury.
Crane didn't play another round of golf until last Thursday at The Barclays, which is the first Playoffs event. He ended up missing the cut by one shot on the Black Courses at Bethpage State Park, a monster of a layout that had hosted two U.S. Opens.
"So it's an easy golf course to start with -- Bethpage and swinging about 75 percent," Crane said wryly. "Just one of those things where, hey, if I can play a couple of rounds and just kind of get the game in shape and maybe I can keep improving. And it was perfect just missing the cut by a shot, I was like, yeah, for not playing, that wasn't too bad.
"And then coming here I got off to a rough start yesterday and never really got it going in the right direction."
Crane actually was on the cut line Saturday when he came to the 15th hole, faced what he called an "impossible" bunker shot and ended up missing a 20-footer to save par. He gave himself a chance at No. 16 but misread the 7-footer for birdie, then converted from 6 at the 17th to get back to the magic 2 over.
Then came the bitter disappointment at the par-5 18th.
Crane said he probably could have hit a 5-wood or cut a 3-wood onto the green but he was worried about it bouncing over the new putting surface. So he decided to lay up, then hit a little behind the ball and his third shot came up short of the green.
Crane couldn't decide whether to putt or chip and ended up leaving himself a 9-footer to save par. The optimist in him thought the putt would hit the left edge and fall in. Instead, it lipped out and his bid was done.
"I don't know how the whole thing's going to shake out, but I've had a really disappointing last month being hurt and not being able to swing until Thursday really of Bethpage," Crane said. "It's hard, really, when you can't practice and come out and start the Playoffs. It's just a hard way to go and I put myself a little behind the eight-ball. …
"Thankfully golf and life are unpredictable because it causes us to grow, and I certainly never could have predicted this and I don't claim to understand it all. But I know that I will grow from it and I will come back with more perseverance and I know it will work out great."
AKRON, Ohio -- Ben Crane withdrew from the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational on Saturday with back pain.
Crane had just hit his second shot on the sixth hole and was even par for the day and 1 over for the tournament. He was playing with Kyle Stanley.
Toru Taniguchi withdrew after the second round with stomach issues.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
AKRON, Ohio -- Don't expect to see Phil Mickelson in a helmet and wetsuit any time soon. But he did invite Ben Crane into one of his patented practice round sessions on Wednesday.
Mickelson and Crane got the best of Dustin Johnson and Keegan Bradley, too. Then Crane, the original “Golf Boy,” rode the momentum into Thursday and shot 66 in the first round of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.
"They said don't run too far because we're going to play again next week," Crane said, smiling. "(Mickelson's caddy) Bones (Mackay) said, hey, it might be a little too early. I don't want you peaking before (next) Tuesday, so easy now."
Crane said he spent some time with Mickelson a few weeks ago, and that the big lefthander has been extremely helpful. Crane outlined what he and his mental coach have been working on, and Mickelson helped him refine and simplify things. Wednesday's practice round was an outgrowth of that skull session.
"He was calling himself the golf whisperer out there, helping me some with some shots and stuff," Crane said. "It was fun."
Crane had an adventurous round on Thursday that consisted of six birdies, one of which was a chip-in, and two bogeys. He only hit five fairways and eight greens but more than compensated with a red-hot putter that necessitated just 23 putts.
"I did not drive it in play today, but I putted awesome and chipped in and just took advantage of some opportunities, read some putts right, lipped a couple putts in," Crane said. "It was just one of those days where I just scored awesome. ...
"I love this golf course. I mean, it's just like right in front of you. It's hard. You've got to drive it in play except for days like today. But you can't do that all week, obviously, and survive. But this is just one of my favorite courses. ... It just never lets up. It's a great test of golf."
Crane came to Akron rested after a two-week break. He was first alternate for the British Open but elected not to take the charter to England from the John Deere Classic because the field was already over its limit of 156. Turns out, he would have gotten in had he been at Royal Lytham.
"It's just like when we've got a putt and it's either a ball out on left edge, you make your best decision," Crane said. "You go, well, my gut tells me it's left edge so I'm going to go with it. And sometimes it breaks a little more than you think, and you go, I guess it was a ball out. That was definitely a ball out, and I played it left edge on the British there."
Crane has no regrets, though. Crane took his family to Black Butte in central Oregon. Several times he stayed on the range until dark watching his wife Heather, who is learning to play golf, hit balls.
"We just had an awesome time," Crane said. "... I just did what I thought was right, and at the end of the day, I'm like, I wish I would have gotten in, but I got two weeks off. And one week off by the time you unpack, you pack again. But two weeks off before a lot of big tournaments coming up, I thought this is awesome.
“Maybe this is a blessing in disguise."
Troy Matteson has taken sole possession of the first-round lead at the John Deere Classic from Ricky Barnes while Ben Crane has tied the first-round pacesetter.
A birdie at the fifth hole, Mattesson's 14th of the day, lifted him to 8 under and one in front of Barnes. Crane has had a similarly productive day -- making birdies in bunches, twice getting two straight and making three in a row as he made the turn.
Crane’s best finish this year is solo second at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, one of three top-10s in his first four starts to the season. He is coming off a tie for 22nd at the AT&T National in his last start.
Harris English rolled in a putt of 32 feet, 4 inches for birdie at the fifth hole in Friday's second round.
WATCH MORE LONG PUTTS
FORT WORTH, Texas – Three Golf Boys have won PGA TOUR events in 2012. Ben Crane has not.
“Well,” Rickie Fowler said with a grin, “he is a bit slower than the rest of us.”
Crane won The McGladrey Classic in his final start of the 2011 season, but his best finish this year is a solo second at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
As a result …
“Ben doesn’t talk to us anymore,” Mahan said. “He’s pretty upset at us.”
Perhaps this week he’ll join his fellow Golf Boys in the 2012 winner’s circle. His track record at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial is pretty good – three top-5 finishes in his last five starts here, although he missed the cut last year.
Said Fowler: “I definitely want to see Ben get out there and get a win to complete the four wins for all of us.”
Overall, though, it’s been a productive 12 months on TOUR for the Golf Boys. Starting with Colonial last year, they’ve accumulated five wins and 16 other top-10s.
“It’s pretty crazy to think four guys who did something kind of silly and all played well since then,” Mahan said. “Pretty random, I would say, if anything. But it’s been fun. It’s a good motivator for all of us, I think.”
Following his opening-round 67, Ben Crane reflects on his play in the 2012 PLAYERS Championship with Doug Bellfrom SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio.
By Bill Cooney, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — To say the least, Ben Crane enjoys a good challenge. So it’s no surprise that THE PLAYERS Championship brings out his best.
Crane was at it again on Thursday at TPC Sawgrass, carding a 5-under 67 to put him right in the mix after his opening round.
“This is probably my favorite tournament; just love this golf course,” said Crane, who has finished in the top 6 at THE PLAYERS in three of the past four years. “… There's no letup. It's just such a tough golf course.”
Crane, a four-time winner on the PGA TOUR, is off to a hot start in 2012, having already posted three top-10 finishes. He's coming off a tie for 21st at the Wells Fargo Championship -- which included a 64 in the second round. Crane ranks 22nd in the FedExCup standings.
But in terms of the Golf Boys, Crane ranks last in those standings. Hunter Mahan, the only two-time winner thus far on TOUR, leads in FedExCup points; Masters winner Bubba Watson is second; and last week’s winner, Rickie Fowler, ranks 15th.
Of that foursome, Crane’s the only one yet to reach the winner’s circle this season … although that could certainly change if he continues to play the rest of the week like he did on Thursday.
Crane, 36, birdied all four par 5s in his first round while adding birdies on the 471-yard fifth and the 358-yard 12th — when he stuck his approach to within 2 feet. His only stumble came on the 10th hole, when he couldn’t get up-and-down from the greenside bunker.
The impressive start at THE PLAYERS is nothing new to Crane. In seven tournaments here, Crane has broken par six times in the first round. In fact he’s shot in the 60s four times in Round 1, which has certainly served as a boon to his success.
“Today I just really managed my game really well, kept the ball out of the rough and had some great opportunities on the par 5s,” Crane said. “Was able to have a couple eagle putts, and yeah, things opened up early. … All in all, just really played well.”
The pairings have been unveiled for this week’s PGA TOUR Matchups Game on Facebook. You can check out the Matchups for the THE PLAYERS Championship below, or on the PGA TOUR’s Facebook page.
Participants have until 6 a.m. ET Thursday to make their picks. Log on to the PGA TOUR Facebook page and click the Matchups link to make your picks for this week, or to sign up.
|Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson||In dozens of starts, have just one PLAYERS win each|
|Rory McIlroy vs. Rickie Fowler||Rematch of last week's epic playoff at Wells Fargo|
|K.J. Choi vs. Sergio Garcia||Two former champs each won title in a playoff|
|Hunter Mahan vs. Ben Crane||Close friends both have game for TPC Sawgrass|
|Vijay Singh vs. Davis Love III||Love III has two titles here. Singh looking for first.|