McGladrey win caps wild week for Ben Crane
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Ben Crane quoted his favorite movie, “Dumb and Dumber,” in describing his improbable comeback victory Sunday at the McGladrey Classic. He was six shots off the lead when he made the turn at Sea Island’s Seaside Course, but birdied Nos. 10, 11 and 14-17 to shoot 63. He was preparing for a 20-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole when he thought two birdies in the final three holes might give him a chance to win. He made that putt, then holed an 18-footer for birdie at the 17th.
“So you’re saying there’s a chance!” he joked in his post-victory press conference, quoting the Jim Carrey classic.
Crane birdied eight of his final 11 holes to tie Webb Simpson at 15-under 265. Crane won his fourth PGA Tour title when Simpson missed a 3-foot par putt on the second playoff hole. Simpson took over the lead on the PGA Tour money list, though.
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1. Woulda, coulda, shoulda: Crane almost didn’t play the McGladrey Classic. His wife, Heather, is pregnant with the couple’s third child and scheduled to have a C-section the day after the tournament. He was scheduled to be on a 7 p.m. flight from Jacksonville to Dallas on Sunday night, but the tournament arranged for a private jet to fly him home.
The day before the tournament, Crane almost withdrew because of pain in his left hip. He’s having a hip scan on Wednesday to make sure he doesn’t have a torn labrum.
His victory came after a valuable lesson. This season has paled in comparison to 2010, when he won the Farmers Insurance Open and CIMB Asia Pacific Classic Malaysia. He entered the McGladrey with just three top 10s in 22 starts. Jonathan Byrd, Crane’s friend and fellow PGA Tour player, asked Crane a couple weeks ago if the struggles were wearing on him.
“I think he expected me to say I was really struggling because the golf wasn’t all that good, and I just said, ‘You know, I’m doing great, because the rough season of golf has brought me closer to God,’ ” Crane said. “Golf was becoming too important to me. ... These last few weeks I’ve just said, you know what, golf is not everything.”
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2. All about the money: Simpson’s runner-up finish allowed him to take over the No. 1 position on the money list. He has two victories and three second-place finishes this season. This was his second playoff loss of the year.
The runner-up finish pushed Simpson to $6,200,243. He’s $363,029 ahead of Luke Donald.
The putter was the problem this week, and not just in the playoff. Simpson missed just three fairways and three greens in the final two rounds, but had 65 putts. He said his short par putt on the second playoff hole was sent offline by a ball mark.
Simpson entered the Tour Championship at No. 1 in the FedEx Cup standings, but his 22nd-place finish in the 30-man field allowed Bill Haas to win the $10 million bonus. Donald will have to finish first or second at Disney to have any chance of winning the money title.
Both players are in the Children’s Miracle Network Classic field.
“It’s going to be fun,” Simpson said.
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3. Rookie mistakes: The tournament’s final pairing reminded us how hard it is to earn that first PGA Tour title. Rookies Michael Thompson and Billy Horschel both fell short after playing in the final group for two consecutive days.
Thompson, who started the day one shot ahead of Horschel, had a three-shot lead at the turn. A 2-over 37 on the back, including a bogey on No. 18, left him one shot shy of the playoff, though. Thompson shouted, “No!” as soon as his tee shot on the final hole left the clubface. It sailed right into a hazard. He hit his next shot to 20 feet, but missed the par putt.
The runner-up finish ensured Thompson another season on the PGA Tour. He started the week 116th on the money list, but moved up 22 spots with his $272,000 check. Thompson, the 2010 Hooters Tour player of the year, earned his card through last year’s Q-School.
“I’m where Webb Simpson was a couple years ago, and look where he is now,” Thompson said.
Horschel birdied two of his first three holes Sunday, but things quickly went downhill. A shanked wedge shot into the hazard on the fifth hole resulted in triple bogey. He double-bogeyed the final hole for a 75.
“I didn’t know where the ball was going,” Horschel said. “I didn’t have my good stuff. It’s a very frustrating day for me because I’m playing well, I had a chance to win and even if I don’t win, maybe I get close to securing my card. I’m very, very frustrated. There’s no words that can be written down in the newspaper that would be PG-rated.”
Horschel, who’s finished 30th or better in his past five starts, is 137th on the money list.
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4. Chase for the card: This week’s Children’s Miracle Network Classic is the final full-field event of the year. The focus will be on both the top and the bottom of the money list. The Donald-Simpson duel will draw plenty of attention, as will those players trying to retain playing privileges for 2012. The top 125 retain full PGA Tour membership for next season. Here’s how the money list looks entering the final event:
120. Roland Thatcher, $666,371
121. Tiger Woods, $660,238 (lifetime PGA Tour member)
122. Stuart Appleby, $657,150 (fully exempt through 2010 Greenbrier Classic win)
123. D.J. Trahan, $655,596
124. Bobby Gates, $654,166
125. James Driscoll, $645,835
126. Bill Lunde, $639,548 (fully exempt through 2010 Turning Stone Championship win)
127. Billy Mayfair, $633,468
128. Angel Cabrera, $628,079 (fully exempt through 2007 U.S. Open and 2009 Masters wins)
129. Matt Jones, $602,392
130. Steve Flesch, $594,622
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5. This Bud’s on Tour: Bud Cauley made the most of his final PGA Tour start of 2011. He shot a final-round 66 and finished 15th to all but ensure that he’ll earn his PGA Tour card. His $64,000 check pushed his earnings to $735,150, equivalent to No. 112 on the PGA Tour money list. The top 125 at season’s end earn membership for the following season.
Cauley finished two shots outside of the top 10, which would have earned him a start at the season-ending Children’s Miracle Network Classic. Instead, Cauley will play his hometown Nationwide Tour stop, the Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open.