HOYLAKE, England – How’s this for a proposition: Pay roughly $20,000 for airfare from Portland, Ore., to London, spend about four hours in a car, get very little sleep, and then hope and pray that you might get into the 143rd Open Championship at Royal Liverpool. There are no guarantees.
That’s what Ben Crane is facing. He’s in the process of doing the hard part, which is getting here. Having flown overnight Tuesday from Oregon to New York, he took to the skies once more for England early Wednesday, en route to the Open as the No. 1 alternate in the 156-man field.
The good news? This mad dash to the Open is really nothing new. Crane, who captured the FedEx St. Jude Classic last month, seems to live on the bubble when the calendar turns to July and Open season.
Five years ago, he cut short a family vacation in Idaho to travel to Turnberry when Phil Mickelson’s withdrawal led to an opening in the field. And two years ago at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, Crane again advanced to No. 1 alternate, but he didn’t move there until late, and when Robert Karlsson withdrew the day before the tournament to open up a spot, Crane was back home in Oregon, not able to get to England in time.
“It’s crazy, crazy, crazy,” said Tommy Limbaugh, his longtime manager at 4U Management. “This stuff all happens so fast. A few days ago, he was Reserve (Alternate) No. 9. And now he’s in the air and on his way.”
When Mark Calcavecchia (travel issues) withdrew on Tuesday, Canadian David Hearn got into the field; that moved Seung-yul Noh to first reserve, and Crane to No. 2. (“At that point,” said Limbaugh, “we knew we had to get things going.”)
The R&A, which was keeping Limbaugh informed, told him it was having difficulty reaching Noh, who was at home in Korea, sleeping. And when contact finally was made, Noh informed tournament officials he would not be traveling to the Open.
So Crane moved up to first alternate. Since there were no Wednesday night flights available into Manchester, a car service was being scheduled to take him from London to the Hoylake area, where he expected to arrive sometime around 1 a.m. Thursday. There won’t be much sleep – he’ll need to be available near the first tee when the opening three-ball goes off Thursday at 6:25 a.m.
Crane, a five-time winner on the PGA Tour, has missed the cut in four of his five Open starts. His best finish? A tie for 11th, which was at Royal Liverpool in 2006.
From his plane in New York shortly before embarking for London, Crane told Limbaugh that he was “excited” and that he was “imprinting” all the shots he’d need to be playing at Hoylake in his head, seeing that he won’t see the course for a practice round. That’s if he plays at all.
But at least he’s giving it his best shot.