Crane rides hot putter to win Farmers Insurance Open

By Doug FergusonFebruary 1, 2010, 4:33 am
Farmers Insurance Open

SAN DIEGO – At the end of a week dominated by accusations and consternation over square grooves generating more spin, perhaps it was only fitting that the Farmers Insurance Open came down to a wedge.

Ben Crane had a one-shot lead and stood 82 yards from the 18th hole, the traditional Sunday placement at Torrey Pines just over the water and below a ridge. Michael Sim had 88 yards, effectively the same shot, needing a birdie for hopes of a playoff.

Both used the conforming V-shaped grooves. And both shots spun too much.

The advantage went to Crane, for his ball stopped against the collar of the green allowing him to putt. He didn’t do it very well, leaving himself 30 inches of bumpy green for par to capture his first victory in more than four years. He was surprised, only because he pledged not to keep score and didn’t realize he had won until he was congratulated.

“Did I win?” Crane said to Ryuji Imada, a reaction more common on the “Price is Right” than the PGA Tour.

Sim hit what he thought was the perfect shot until it spun off the green, forcing him to chip. He missed and made par, settling for a runner-up finish along with Brandt Snedeker and Marc Leishman.

“It would have been nice to have a putt at it for birdie,” Sim said. “But it wasn’t the case.”

Crane, the only player among the top eight not to make a birdie over the final seven holes, closed with a 2-under 70 for his third career victory, ending an 0-for-98 drought and sending him to the Masters. He finished at 13-under 275 and won $954,000.

So ended an unusual week in splendid weather along the Pacific coast, even if the two lead characters were out of the picture when the trophy – a bronze of a Torrey pine – was awarded.

Scott McCarron, who accused Phil Mickelson of “cheating” for using the Ping-Eye 2 wedge (which is approved for play), missed the cut. Mickelson started the final round four shots behind, and on the first hole faced a tough chip up the slope. He pulled his Ping wedge and watched it roll 30 feet by the cup, leading to the first of three straight bogeys to take himself out of the tournament.

The great wedge debate will move up the coast to Riviera at the Northern Trust Open, where PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem is to meet with players Tuesday and, if nothing else, tell them to stop the name-calling.

Plenty of drama remained at Torrey Pines for the final round.

Crane began the final round two shots out of the lead, which he erased in three holes. He stuffed a wedge (no spin on this shot) to within 3 feet on the second hole, then rammed in a 45-foot birdie on the third as Imada three-putted. Crane also birdied from 20 feet on the fifth, and built his lead to three shots with another putt over 45 feet on the 11th.

He never lost the lead – even if he never knew he had it – although he had plenty of challengers.

Robert Allenby made the first charge, continuing to show the form that has brought him four consecutive top 10s, two of those wins. He pulled within two shots after a two-putt birdie on the 13th, then ran into another issue with grooves. This time it was a 7-iron, and the more shallow shape led to a flyer that sailed the 14th green and went into a hazard.

Rattled, Allenby bogeyed the 15th, then hit a tee shot into the canyon and made triple bogey on the 17th.

In his previous tournament, Allenby was tied for the lead at the Sony Open when he caught another jumper from the rough, the ball raced through the green and he made par to lose by one.

“If you really look at it, it’s cost me two tournaments, definitely,” Allenby said. “I was in the groove and feeling ready to do it today, and it was such a shame that it happened.”

Rickie Fowler, the 21-year-old dressed like an orange popsicle, stayed in the hunt until he made double bogey on the 17th. Leishman (68) and Snedeker (69) were latecomers, with only Snedeker having a realistic chance until missing a 12-foot birdie on the last hole.

That left it to Crane and Sim.

For all the long putts Crane made, he let Sim back into the hunt my missing a 6-foot birdie on the 12th, a 4-foot par on the 13th and another par putt inside 3 feet on the 17th, courtesy of the ball setting slightly in an indentation.

That set the stage for the 18th.

Sim was some 250 yards away and chose to lay up, a smart decision. That’s the farthest he can hit a 3-wood, meaning he would have to catch it perfectly or his chances were over. Given the chilly conditions, the ball doesn’t fly quite as far.

Even that decision came with some comic relief.

CBS Sports analyst David Feherty told the booth that Sim had chose a 2-iron, which left Nick Faldo aghast that he would not be hitting a 3-wood. TV reporters get that information from the caddies, and Sim’s caddie held up two fingers – a 2-iron if he’s holding them up, a 7-iron if he’s holding them down.

Sim layed up with a 7-iron.

Then came the wedges that spun, the chip that came up short, Crane’s par putt and a victory that Crane didn’t know was his.

That put him back in the news, this time for the right reasons.

It was only seven weeks ago that a gossip magazine attributed quotes to Ben Crane saying Tiger Woods was a “phony and fake,” which Crane never said. In fact, he hadn’t given any interviews in months, and wasn’t even at the tournament where Life & Style said the interview took place. This attention was far better.

“To be in the news again? Yeah, my name keeps popping up,” Crane said. “It’s good to be (in the news) on a good note.”

Then he paused and smiled.

“And you can quote me on that.”

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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 12:55 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Friday, Day 2 (Times ET)

1:30-8:20AM (Watch): On a rainy Friday morning at Carnoustie, Rory McIlroy shot 69 to reach 4 under, while Zach Johnson fired a 67 for the early lead. Click here or on the image below to watch.

Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.

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Fleetwood, with his fancy umbrella, fires 65 on Day 2

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 12:34 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tommy Fleetwood looked like an Open rookie when he set out on Friday under gray skies and a cold, steady rain.

Because the Englishman doesn’t have an equipment sponsor he made a quick turn through the merchandise tent for an umbrella – but at least he didn’t have to pay for it.

“We stole it,” he laughed when asked about his Open-brand umbrella. “We got one given for free, actually. We didn't steal it. We don't always carry an umbrella. So it just so happens this week that we've got a nice Open Championship [umbrella]. It looked quite nice, the yellow and the course.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

It was Fleetwood’s only rookie move on Day 2 at Carnoustie, posting a flawless 65 to move into an early tie for second place at 5 under par.

Fleetwood holds the competitive course record at Carnoustie, a 9-under 63 he shot last fall during the European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship, but given Friday’s conditions and the difficulty of this course during The Open, his 65 on Friday might have been better.

“It's not a course record, but it's pretty good,” said Fleetwood, who was stroke behind leader Zach Johnson. “If you went out, you wouldn't really fancy being 6 under out there. So I think that's a good indication of how good it was.”

It was a dramatic turnaround for Fleetwood on Friday. He said he struggled with his ball-striking, specifically his tee shots, on Day 1, but he was able to turn things around with an hour-long session on the range following his opening round.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 10:15 am

Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.

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McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:53 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.

McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.

But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.

Said Harmon:

“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.

“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”

McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.

“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”

McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.