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Crane wins remarkable game of Hide and Sneak

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Ben Crane won a game I like to call Hide and Sneak.

It’s a very popular mind game played in professional golf.

It requires pros to hide their eyes from leaderboards while sneaking around them. The object is to keep their focus on the shot at hand in their bid to win.

It’s remarkable how many PGA Tour pros do not like to look at leaderboards. A lot of them leave the scoreboard watching up to their caddies, who are instructed only to alert the player to his standing if it requires the player to change strategy down the stretch. This avoids the Jesper Parnevik finish. Parnevik might have lost the British Open because he didn’t know where he stood on the leaderboard at the 72nd hole when Nick Price won in 1994 at Turnberry.

Is Hide and Sneak smart golf? Or is there some kind of weakness in trying to trick your mind to take the nerves out of the finish? Even the game’s best players will debate the point.

I’ve never seen Hide and Sneak more thoroughly played than Crane played it Sunday at the Farmers Insurance Open. Crane said he actually did not know he won the tournament when he putted out at the 72nd hole. He said he didn’t know until fellow competitor Ryuji Imada congratulated him for winning.

“I did not know that I had won when it was over,” Crane said. “I didn't know who was playing well. I didn't know what was really going on in front of me. I had no idea, really, what was going on.”

Anyone else out there astounded by that?

Tiger Woods always looks at leaderboards. So did Jack Nicklaus. But there are a lot of terrific players who would play it just like Crane did.

I once asked six-time major championship winner Nick Faldo what he did.

“I've done it looking and not looking,' Faldo said. “I think it all depends on your confidence at the time. If you're feeling confident, you look at the board.”

Paul Azinger, a 12-time PGA Tour winner, felt similarly when I asked him a few years back.

“If you are real secure, you want to know,” Azinger said. “If you are a little bit insecure, you want to stay wrapped up in your own little world. That can be effective in helping you plot your way around, but it can be dangerous, too, because at some point you have to know where you stand.

“I think the whole idea is getting comfortable [in contention]. That's the ultimate challenge. If you're comfortable knowing where you stand, you're going to have an advantage on somebody who isn't comfortable knowing where they stand.”

Parnevik will confirm that. He didn’t know he had a two-shot lead stepping to the 72nd hole at the ’94 British Open and blew his chance attacking the final pin. This was back before he had won a PGA Tour event.

“I was so caught up in the situation, birdie is all I could think about,' said Parnevik, a 5-time PGA Tour winner. 'I wasn't very experienced, but I learned.

“I think in the end, you really have to know where you stand, but if you know that knowing is going to mess you up, then it's better not to look at all.'