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May 10 2012

9:58 PM

No surprise: Crane starts strong

Crane interview after Round1 of THE PLAYERS

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.”

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