What they said: Ben CraneMay 10, 2012
PGA TOUR staff
MORE INTERVIEWS: THE PLAYERS Championship transcript archive
Q. 5-under 67, nice start to the tournament. Just get your comments.
BEN CRANE: Course is in the best shape I've ever seen it. This is probably my favorite tournament, just love this golf course. I just feel like it really brings everyone together, and it's always a good shootout.
And 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 and was able to have a couple eagle putts, and yeah, things opened up early, was a couple under early, and that always makes you feel better. All in all, just really played well.
Q. What is it about this place for you??
BEN CRANE: For me, that I love, I don't know, there's no letup. It's just such a tough golf course. And you know, I've learned a lot, too, over the years. There's certain pins, like today there's a pin on No.3 that's in the back of the green there, and you just can't be long and you can't be left of that hole location. You can be 20 yards short and right, but you just can't be -- I think I just tried to manage -- almost not even where to go but where not to go, and I think that's really helped me over the years.
These greens are so pure that if you get the ball on line, you're going to make some putts, so I was able to do that today.
Q. Kevin just told us that you've got to grind over every shot, but if you're hitting it well it's the kind of golf course where you can really separate yourself.
BEN CRANE: It's true. The greens are pretty small, and if you are getting the ball in play off the tee and striking your irons well, you're going to have some really good opportunities to make some birdies. You can catch some of the collection areas that will pull the ball to the hole, depending on the hole location. It really is, this is a great golf course where it really separates the guys that are playing well and the guys who aren't.
Q. Is it a grind over every shot??
BEN CRANE: I can't think of a shot or a hole where I just go, oh, I can just relax here. It is a grind out there, especially with the finish. You can make up some ground the last few holes, but you can also lose a lot of ground. It's just -- I think we were talking about Hilton Head and this golf course are two of Pete's best, and it's arguably my favorite of the year.
Q. You've got to manage that mentally, right? You can't be grinding for five hours?
BEN CRANE: Yeah, you take some breaks between shots and talk with your caddie and talk about random things. So I got some family in town, so we'll interact with them a little bit.
Q. Seems like experience is stressed a lot in your buildup, your years of playing experience here. Compared to every other course on TOUR, how does this rank in needing experience to succeed??
BEN CRANE: I think it's right up there. I think Augusta National is the one where you need the most experience, but I would put this one right after that because there are just some places you cannot go. It looks so inviting sometimes, you've got a 9-iron in your hand, just to go right at it. But you've got to be careful where not to go.
Also there's some downgrain spots on some greens where, hey, if you're careless, you just land the ball five paces below the pin, but you might be landing in a downgrain area, so we've got those mapped and the ball can just carry over the green in a really difficult place to get the ball up-and-down from and those are just kind of momentum swings.
You just -- it takes some years to get your yardage book right the way you want it, and so I feel like we've been building on that for a while, and we've got some good nuggets over the years.
Q. Seems like you were talking about spots where you feel like typically on other courses you'd have a green light to just go for it. Is it difficult to throttle back when you sit there with a 9-iron or wedge in your hand??
BEN CRANE: No, because I think I've played here long enough that I know how penal it is if you do make the mistakes. For example, like No.9, a lot of times you have a wedge in there. A lot of pins are along the left side. If you miss the green left over there, it's just -- that's just a big momentum swing because you're not going to be able to get the ball close very often. There's just some very severe drop-offs and just some places you try to stay away from, and that's an example of one of them. Those are the things that you try to make your -- you shift your target over four or five feet just in that safety direction.
Q. How much do you anticipate the course changing between now and when you play tomorrow??
BEN CRANE: Well, quite a bit. The course is in perfect shape. It's already fairly firm. But I don't see any rain in the forecast between now and tomorrow afternoon. It's just going to get firmer and faster, and the greens will be -- Snedeker had a putt on 17 from the top to the front there, and I mean, he just touched it, and it went all the way down to the hole. Putts like that tomorrow are just going to be lightning, and you're just going to have to try to stay away from some of those high spots.