LA QUINTA, Calif. – Ben Crane didn’t get off to the most auspicious of starts when he found the fairway bunker and a greenside bunker on the 10th hole at the Palmer Course en route to a bogey.
Turns out, that was a momentary setback as Crane rolled in a 26-footer for eagle at No. 11 and birdied three of his next four holes to take a two-stroke lead at 11 under. Overnight leaders Camilo Villegas and David Toms are among four players tied for second, along with Kevin Chappell and Ted Potter Jr.
Exacting a measure of revenge after his adventure in the sand on the first hole, Crane holed a bunker shot for birdie on the par-3 12th. He added birdie putts of 4 and 8 feet on the 14th and 15th holes.
Crane tied for ninth in his season’s debut at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. The four-time PGA TOUR champion’s last victory came at The McGladrey Classic last summer, coming from five strokes off the pace in the final round to win -- the day before his third child was born.
KAPALUA, Hawaii – Through the first two rounds, no player in the 27-man field had been able to birdie the opening hole at the Plantation Course.
But Ben Crane finally broke though in Sunday’s third round with the week’s first birdie at the par-4 , 520-yard hole.
Crane hit a 368-yard drive that left him 152 yards from the pin. His approach shot landed inside 18 feet and he rolled in the putt.
Crane followed that with another birdie at the second hole, but has dropped a stroke at the fourth. He’s now 4 under for the tournament.
The opening hole has played as the second hardest of the week, with the par-4 13th ranked as the toughest.
Ben Crane received some good news earlier this week when two different doctors told him there was no tear in the labrum in his left hip.
Crane had tweeted on Dec. 6 that he was going to try and play with the injury in 2012 in hopes of making the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup. He said he expected to have surgery next September -- which put his title defense at The McGladrey Classic, played the week of Oct. 15, in jeopardy.
Recent visits to different doctors revealed a different diagnosis, though, and Crane expects to play a full PGA TOUR schedule, as a result. Here is how he shared the news on Twitter.
@bencranegolf Great news!!! 2nd and 3rd opinion; no tear in Labrum and expect to play full schedule for 2012!!! Praise God!! #ilikeplayinggolfwmyfriends
Crane, who made a series of highly entertaining fitness videos in which he performs wearing a red wetsuit and helmet, couldn't resist a plug.
@bencranegolf As far as health and fitness: Never underestimate the power of the snake shaker.
Ben Crane announced on his Twitter feed Monday that he has a torn labrum in his left hip but that he was "going to try and play" through September before he undergoes surgery.
By putting off his surgery until September, Crane would at least give himself a chance to make the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup. He added that the recovery process is three months, which means he would likely miss a few golf tournaments.
Should he follow that timetable, Crane might be unable to defend his title at The McGladrey Classic, which is scheduled for the week of Oct. 15 next year. Crane's win at The McGladrey was the fourth of his career and gave him a win in each of his last two PGA TOUR seasons.
During The McGladrey,, Crane was suffering from a sore hip that nearly forced him to pull out of the event. Instead, he stayed in the tournament and ended up winning.
During the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic Malaysia, defending champion Ben Crane celebrates Deepavali, the Indian holiday celebration of the festival of lights in downtown Kuala Lumpur.
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
Ben Crane is never going to be included in a discussion about long bombers on the PGA TOUR.
For the season, Crane is 145th in driving distance at 284.9 yards a pop. But he’s found a little more lately
thanks to a new shaft from Titleist, with winning results.
Crane won last week at The McGladrey Classic with his always-solid putter leading the way (his Strokes-Gained Putting figure was 2.023, second-best in the field), but he also was 21st in driving (288.0-yard average), a ranking not often associated with the Oregonian.
Crane’s history of back injuries hasn’t helped his distance, but work with the Titleist Performance Institute has helped him to regain some ball speed. And during a recent fitting session with Larry Bobka, Titleist’s VP of Club Promotion, Ben put a new, lighter Bassara W 50 for Titleist shaft in his 910D2 driver.
Validation came instantly – his first top 10 since April, a T10 at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. In the firm-and-fast Las Vegas desert he averaged 313.1 off the tee, tied for 21st in the field. Then last week, with the eye-catching red shaft, he won at Sea Island.
Titleist said the Bassara W, developed by Mitsubishi Rayon and weighing in at 53 grams, is one of the lightest shafts to ever win on TOUR.
"We built this particular driver configuration based on a conversation with (TPI co-founder) Greg Rose and Ben's desire for more distance," Bobka said in the Titleist blog. "Being a straight hitter with a delicate back, Ben needed a driver that created what I call 'easy distance.' "
Crane took loft off his previous driver configuration, going to 7.5 degrees, which combined with the longer (46 inch) and lighter shaft created better launch conditions and more distance.
NEW OLD PUTTER: Trevor Immelman finished fifth at The McGladrey, leading the field in putts per round (27.5 average) and putts per GIR (1.667) with a belly version of the Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball. It was his third different Odyssey model in as many weeks, though he also won with the same model at the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open in Germany in 2004.
RUNNING AWAY: Fred Couples won the Champions Tour’s AT&T Championship by seven shots, the largest margin on Tour this year. He wore his familiar Ecco Golf Street Premier hybrid shoes – without socks.
RUNNING AWAY II: Last week’s Nationwide Tour event also featured a seven-shot rout, by Jason Kokrak at the Miccosukee Championship. He plays the Srixon Z-Star XV ball, and in moving up to fourth on the money list gives Srixon two top representatives of the Z-Star. Nationwide money leader J.J. Killeen also plays it.
NEW CLASSIC: Cleveland Golf has released an updated version of its popular 588 wedges, and David Toms was spotted with them in the bag at The McGladrey. Read more here.
WINNER’S BAG: Crane at The McGladrey
Driver: Titleist 910D2 (7.5°) with a Mitsubishi Rayon Bassara W 50 shaft
Fairway woods: TaylorMade V Steel (15°) Titleist 910F (17°) with Mitsubishi Diamana Blue Board 93 shafts
Hybrid: Titleist 910H (21°) with a UST Mamiya ProForce AXIVCore 100 shaft
Irons: Titleist AP2 (5-PW) with True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 shafts
Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design (51°), Spin Milled C-C (55°, 59°) with True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 shafts
Putter: Odyssey White Hot #5
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x