PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The Players Championship is the most wonderful time of the year for Ben Crane.
'This is probably my favorite tournament, just love this golf course,' he said.
His enthusiasm for the PGA Tour's crown jewel showed on Thursday, as Crane fired a first-round 67 to get into contention at 5 under.
'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. Things opened up early, was a couple under early, and that always makes you feel better. All in all, just really played well.'
Crane birdied all four par-5 holes in the round, added two others and dropped just one stroke to sign for one of the cleanest cards of the day. Even still, his round was far from being stress-free.
'I can't think of a shot or a hole where I just go, 'oh, I can just relax here,'' he said. '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.'
Crane's performance Thursday is the 11th consecutive round of par or better at TPC Sawgrass dating back to the second round of the '09 tournament.
From 2008 to 2010, Crane finished T-6, T-5 and T-4 in this event. He is in position to do better this year.
Learning from cruel lessons in past experiences, Crane has compiled a bank of knowledge he trusts around this course.
'It takes some years to get your yardage book right the way you want it,' he said. 'I feel like we've been building on that for a while, and we've got some good nuggets over the years.'