Good Guys Finish First

By Rex HoggardFebruary 1, 2010, 5:26 am

Farmers Insurance OpenSAN DIEGO – Seems about right that Ben Crane’s journey back to a PGA Tour winner’s circle began just up the San Diego Freeway in Oceanside.

Five years ago he limped into Greg Rose’s gym at the Titleist Performance Institute, hurting and hopeless, at least on the golf course, and looking for help. Rose gave him answers, mending Crane’s chronically ailing back and so much more.

“I wouldn’t be here talking to you without him,” Crane told a reporter at Torrey Pines. “He’s my best friend.”

Truth is, he’s a friend with benefits – trainer, swing coach, sounding board, mentor.

Ben and Cassidy Crane
Ben Crane gives daughter Cassidy a hug after his win. (Getty Images)
“Five years ago he came in thinking, ‘I don’t know if I can play because of my back,’” said Rose, who is scheduled to go on a skiing vacation with Crane after next week’s Northern Trust Open. “The first time we met he didn’t think I could help but he was desperate.”

At Torrey Pines, where words like cheater and slander were being hoisted about like flyers from the rough, the Tour’s preeminent nice guy prevailed over spotty putting and an eclectic field of young and old. In the end, Crane held off 21-year-old Rickie Fowler and 51-year-old Michael Allen and every demographic in between for his first Tour title since 2005.

Wasn’t easy. The South Course made sure of that.

With a three-stroke lead and a cast of crumbling characters ahead of him, Crane three-putted from 13 feet at the 13th to open the door for Michael Sim and Brandt Snedeker. A three-putt from 31 feet four holes later added even more drama, but ultimately Crane’s putter and psyche delivered.

“It was a grind,” said Crane, who holed a 2-footer for par at the last to hold off Snedeker, Sim and Marc Leishman by one stroke.

But then the Farmers Insurance Open was more than a schneid-beater for Crane, whose back troubles have paled to the scrutiny he’s received from Tour officials and some of his Tour brethren over his pace of play.

We don’t want to say Crane is slow, but when he began his final round Sunday at Torrey Pines the grooves in Phil Mickelson’s Ping Eye 2 wedge were not in dispute.

Crane is slow. So slow he’s spent the time since his high-profile run-in with Rory Sabbatini in 2005 at Booz Allen Classic trying to pick up the pace, not because he had to but because he didn’t want to be “that” guy.

“I need to play ready golf,” said Crane, who noted, only half jokingly, that his group spent much of Sunday waiting to tee off. “I’m too slow and in the past it’s bothered me.”

But on a cool SoCal Sunday he was faster than all comers – posting a final-round 70 for a 13-under 275 total. While further down the leaderboard, playing the role of hero and antagonist, was Mickelson, who seemed poised for a fast start to a year that desperately needs him.

Just four down when the final lap began, Lefty faded quickly with a trifecta of bogeys to begin his round. Mickelson met with Butch Harmon at dawn Sunday to fix a slightly misfiring swing, but after a series of missed putts it was clear he needed help from another member of “Team Phil” – Dave Stockton Sr.

The man who has made a career, and sometimes a mess, by playing like Palmer, began the year quoting Nicklaus and practicing like Hogan.

He called his opening 70 on the South Course “cautious,” and echoed the Golden Bear’s ability to lay in wait until the back nine on Sunday. Before his closing round he plowed through more range pellets than Vijay Singh in search of answers.

Fit and having more fun than should be allowed playing Tour golf, Phil 2K10 has the look of a man with a secret. Winged Foot never seemed so far away, at least until he faded on Sunday.

“I got off to a terrible start and then throughout the round didn’t get much out of it,” said Mickelson, who closed with 73 and finished 19th, extending his post-Rees Jones nip/tuck of the South Course to 11 starts without a title.

But then Mickelson’s on-course trauma seemed trite when compared to a series of off-course happenings that quickly slipped from curious to contentious when veteran Scott McCarron compared Mickelson’s use of grandfathered Pine Eye 2 wedges to cheating.

McCarron seemed to miss the mark, if not the point. The veteran clearly out-kicked his coverage on this one. He should have been more concerned with Mickelson’s driver, which left Lefty tied for 75th in driving accuracy (out of 78) for the week, than 1990s-era grooves.

Mickelson punched back at McCarron on Saturday, telling reporters he had been slandered and hinting there would be retribution, either from the Tour or elsewhere.

Others joined the fun. Joe Ogilvie, a member of the Tour’s Player Advisory Council, Tweeted late Saturday: “I had a dream today, Phil won the Farmers (Insurance Open) by getting up and in on 72nd, impossible short sided shot, thank god [sic] for 1980s era PING wedges!”

Commissioner Tim Finchem is scheduled for fire protection duty on Tuesday when he meets with players in Los Angeles, but, as Ernie Els sadly reasoned, that ship has sailed.

“It’s just not good,” said Els, who added a tie for fifth to his 2010 resume at Torrey Pines. “Players have come out blasting each other. We have to find a solution.”

John Daly added to the curious circumstances when he waffled more than a University of Florida coach. He followed rounds of 79-71 with what appeared to be an emotional letter of resignation, then retracted his post-round opinion before finally abusing his Twitter privileges in an attempt at damage control.

Torrey Pines marks the end of a difficult three months for golf during which the Tour has been dragged from the tabloids to the courthouse and back. From Doug Barron to Tiger Woods to GrooveGate, it has been the meanest of quarters.

That was until Sunday at Torrey Pines.

“The nicest guy on Tour by far,” Rose said of Crane. “He always wants to help someone else.”

And it seems he’s just in time.


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Snedeker starts slow in effort to snag Masters invite

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.

Rose (62) sets blistering pace in Indonesia

By Associated PressDecember 14, 2017, 3:06 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Justin Rose shot a 10-under 62 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, starting on the back nine at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, had five birdies to go out in 31, then birdied four of five holes midway through his final nine and another birdie on his last hole in the $750,000 tournament.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Gunn Charoenkul (64) was in second place and Kim Giwhan and Phachara Khongwatmai (both 65) were tied for third.

Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Ranked 51st in the world, the American is aiming for a strong finish in Jakarta to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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LaCava: Woods wouldn't talk after H.O.R.S.E. match

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 2:27 pm

The competitive streak within Tiger Woods knows no bounds - even on the basketball court, according to caddie Joe LaCava.

LaCava has been on Woods' bag since 2011, and he recently shared a story on "Inside the Ropes" on Sirius/XM PGA Tour Radio about a clash between the two men over a seemingly friendly game of H.O.R.S.E. Actually, it turned into nine straight games (and nine straight wins) for LaCava, who exploited a weakness in Woods' on-court strategy while leaning on a mid-length jumper of his own:

"The thing with him was if I missed a shot, which I missed plenty of shots, but if I missed the shot he'd go back down to the 3 (point line) because he liked to make the 3," LaCava said. "But it's harder obviously to make a 3, and I'd go right back to the baseline 12-footer, and he couldn't make it."

It's a short list of people who have beaten Woods nine times in any athletic pursuit, let alone in a row. But for LaCava, the fallout from his afternoon of on-court dominance was less than subtle.

"He did not talk to me the rest of the day," LaCava explained. "I didn't even get the old text, 'Dinner is ready,' because I stay across at the beach house. I didn't even get that text that night. I had to get take-out. He didn't announce he wasn't (talking), he just did it. I'm telling you, nine games in a row. Like I said, he's so competitive, even at something like that."