With the singular focus of a driven and accomplished athlete, Ben Crane locked himself away last week to pursue perfection.
In the age of social distancing and sheltering in place, the five-time PGA Tour winner was safely tucked away in his Nashville, Tennessee, home with his family. But the competitor, the perfectionist, needed complete focus to accomplish his goals.
“I locked myself in the room, and it took me more than a few hours,” Crane admitted from isolation this week.
The 44-year-old wasn’t trying to perfect a new swing thought or implement a new grip during these unprecedented times. In fact, the father of four’s complete and undivided focus was on a TikTok dance routine he wanted to perform with his family.
Earlier this week, Crane released the dance video on social media, and while his pride was evident, he was also willing to be brutally honest.
“I probably got it right on the 10th take. We had some good ones before, but our little guy was just nudged out of the video, couple of times I messed up,” Crane said. “My daughters taught it to me. I told them to go very slowly and I will film you and you tell me what you’re doing and I’ll see you in a few hours.”
In the coronavirus world, this kind of happy distraction is commonplace even for PGA Tour players who, for the first time in their professional lives, have found themselves at home with hours and hours of disposable free time and no concrete date for a return to business.
Crane has made the best of unusual circumstances. Since joining the Tour in 2002, he has never enjoyed anything close to a true offseason. Other than an extended stay on the disabled list in ’07, this is as close to a normal life as he’s ever had with his family.
“It’s been the greatest gift to our family. We have so embraced it without a schedule,” Crane said. “We wrote down eight things that we wanted to do with our kids with however much time we’d have.”
That list has included daily family walks, “dance” time so dad could focus on his TikTok moves and, yes, sessions in the family’s golf studio.
“I’ve always wanted to teach them golf, so I have a studio in the house. I told them they could dance as much as they want, but when they are 40, their husband will thank me,” Crane said. “All I wanted was 10 minutes a day in the golf studio. Just checking the grip, going through the basics, and then we film and clock clubhead speed. Just 10 minutes.”
Ryan Palmer has enjoyed a similar domestication, with all Tour events either cancelled or postponed through the Charles Schwab Challenge in late May.
“Today I spent an hour doing seventh-grade math. ... I have to tell you I need a calculator a lot more than I did [when I was younger],” Palmer said with a laugh. “My wife and I did a 2,000-piece puzzle last night.”
For the likes of Palmer and Crane, the last two weeks have simply been an adjustment to something approaching a normal life, albeit one that demands social distancing. But there is still the call of their day job.
The Tour will start again at some point, and there is an ever-present challenge for players to stay sharp for whenever the grind resumes. But even that’s difficult.
“Without having that target and a goal in front of me to prepare for, it’s been difficult to focus. It’s taken me 10 days to grasp the magnitude of what we’re going through,” Graeme McDowell said.
McDowell has always practiced and trained with a purpose. You prepare for a junior events as an amateur and the majors as a pro. But without knowing when the next major is going to be played, that kind of focus is difficult to manufacture.
“Our employment and our professional lives will start up again at some point. It’s so difficult to think about those targets and goals when you don’t know when you’re going to tee it up again,” McDowell said.
McDowell is trying to stay in golf shape by playing regular games with members at Lake Nona in Central Florida; and Palmer – who is a member at Colonial Country Club, where the Tour, in theory, is scheduled to pick up its schedule in May – has created a routine that includes time in the gym and on the course. But, he admits: “It’s hard to get motivated.”
Compared to the complex and far-reaching problems the world is facing at the moment, a lack of motivation is hardly alarming, nor is it exclusive to professional golfers. It is, however, one of the primary challenges players face as golf finds its way in the age of the new coronavirus.
“The weird thing now is, it’s hard being a healthy scratch,” said Troy Merritt, who has been slowed by injury in recent years. “We’re not playing because we’re physically incapable. That is different. I’ve never liked being told that I can’t play. When you’re healthy you want to play.”
But playing Tour golf isn’t an option for the foreseeable future. Players, like everyone else, have come to terms with that, however begrudgingly. And some, like Crane, have decided to make the most of it.
“We haven’t been bored at all," Crane said. "I have loved it."