Even without birdies, Crane wins FedEx St. Jude

By Associated PressJune 8, 2014, 8:49 pm

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Ben Crane estimates he slept less than three hours in a night spent praying and thanking God that his game finally has come back around.

Then he played 30 holes Sunday in winning the St. Jude Classic for his first PGA Tour title since 2011, setting off a celebration that included hugging his caddie and high-fiving a reporter. Crane also choked back some tears as he looked at text messages filling his phone.

''Oh my gosh, it just keeps going,'' Crane said, looking at his phone. ''How many can a phone hold? This is so much fun.''

Crane closed with a 3-over 73 for a one-stroke victory, going wire to wire for his fifth career win. Rain delays forced him into the marathon session Sunday at TPC Southwind, finishing 12 holes in the morning in a third-round 69 to take a three-shot lead into the final round.

He two-putted for bogey on the final hole to finish at 10-under 270, days after failing to qualify for the U.S. Open. That marked a low point for the 38-year-old player who spent the past six months reworking his swing to protect his back wondering if his career was over. He spent time with a coach picturing the right way to hit shots.


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Everything clicked Thursday with an opening 63.

''I did not expect the hole to open up like that and just start making putts from everywhere,'' Crane said. ''Just hit a lot of quality shots and obviously built a nice lead to start out with.''

Troy Merritt was second after a 71. Webb Simpson (65), Matt Every (70) and Carl Pettersson (69) were 8 under, and Ian Poulter had a 64 to tie for sixth at 7 under.

Merritt credited the best finish of his career to an improved short game.

''Ben played great,'' Merritt said. ''Hats off to him. Well deserved. He's been struggling for a little while. Very happy for Ben.''

Phil Mickelson, among those tuning up for the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, left winless in his 20th event since the British Open. He tied for 11th at 6 under after a 72.

Consecutive birdies on Nos. 11 and 12 put Mickelson at 8 under. But he bogeyed the next two, including the par-3 14th where he hit a 7-iron into the water in front of the green. He still finished much better than his tie for 49th at Memorial last week after an early visit from FBI agents and lingering questions about an insider-trading investigation.

''The way I drove the ball last two rounds I had an opportunity to shoot really low,'' Mickelson said. ''My iron play was poor, and my putting was pathetic. I'll have to make some changes and to get ready for next week. But the game is not far off because I'm driving the ball very well and putting it in play.''

Wind, thunderstorms, lightning and fog delayed play each of the first three days. With more storms forecast, players started the final round almost immediately after concluding the third. They finished without a single delay Sunday as the sun even came out as this tournament finished its 57th year without being shortened because of weather.

Crane had three bogeys in the final round, one more than he had through 54 holes. He became the first winner on Tour without a birdie in his final round since Justin Leonard did it at Southwind in 2005.

He cruised along before two-putting for bogey on No. 6, dropping his lead to two strokes over Brian Harman and Merritt. Crane bogeyed No. 9 after hitting his tee shot into the rough. He couldn't clear the rough with his next shot, and his third bounced to the rough behind the green.

Crane said he only glanced at the leaderboard a couple times.

''I just knew I was leading, and I knew Phil Mickelson was out there too,'' Crane said. ''And Phil's a good friend, and he kind of gave me that, 'I'm coming after you.'''

Merritt was the closest, within a stroke for six holes before putting his tee shot on the par-4 15th into the rough. He couldn't roll the ball in from 15 feet to save par.

Crane strung together eight straight pars before going to the par-4 No. 18 with a two-stroke lead needing to avoid the water down the left side of the fairway. He did, though he did find the greenside bunker. Crane two-putted from 12 feet for the win. He earned $1,044,000.

Divots: Crane is the eighth player in this event's history to win after having at least a share of the lead after every round. Lee Westwood was the last in 2010. ... Crane also won the 2010 CIMB Classic before it became an official Tour event.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.