In a wild weather delayed week, Ben Crane finished off a 30-hole Sunday by winning the FedEx St. Jude Classic. Crane’s three-over 73 was good enough for a one-stroke victory over Troy Merritt.
Crane’s final round was the opposite of his first three. He had 15 birdies and two bogeys through 54 holes compared to zero birdies and three bogeys over the last 18 holes.
During the final round, bogeys on six and nine cut his three-stroke lead to one-stroke over Merritt, who failed to put together a final round charge. Merritt’s chances faded after a bogey on fifteen, which gave Crane a two-shot cushion heading into the final four holes.
A turning point came on the par-4 thirteenth for Crane. He made a twenty-foot par save to avoid falling into a tie with Merritt. Crane was able to keep it together down the stretch, and the two-stroke lead proved crucial when he missed the green on the last and made bogey for the win.
During the post-round interview, Crane said he was having doubts if golf would be in his future much longer, “This has been a really tough year…it really came down to life issues of, ok, I had to finally become ok with golf not being in the picture. It just felt like things were going in that direction, and so I just got to the place where I said, ‘Lord, if it’s not golf, I’ll love you, but if it is, that would be really fun, but I’ll know you will provide something else that would be just as meaningful.’” Crane added, “So, I love the game, but the game is hard and sometimes the harder you try, the harder the game gets. But I just really simplified everything at Byron Nelson week, and just got a little momentum going. Finished 37th place, but that felt like just a huge lift to me.”
Crane unexpectedly got things going after withdrawing from the second round of U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying on Monday, “Went to the U.S. Open qualifier after two weeks off…I thought, ‘Oh my game’s really ready,’ and I played terrible, and it was just kind of a wake-up call.”
The wake-up call precipitated a seven-under 63 on Thursday, and a five-under 65 on Friday for a four-stroke lead heading into the weekend, “I did not expect the hole to open up like that, and just start making putts from everywhere.”
Today’s 30-hole finale was all about simplification for Crane, “I had every thought going through my head. I had the thought of, ‘Hey, let’s just try to build this lead… hey, let’s just try to hang on to this lead.’ You have every thought, but at the end of the day, all you can do is just buckle down on this shot, and do your best, and then add them up.”
The score added up to a one-stroke victory for Crane, the fifth of his career and his first since the 2011 McGladrey Classic.
1. Ben Crane (-10)
2. Troy Merritt (-9)
T3. Webb Simpson (-8)
T3. Matt Every (-8)
T3. Carl Pettersson (-8)
T6. Ian Poulter (-7)
T6. James Hahn (-7)
T6. Billy Horschel (-7)
T6. Brian Harman (-7)
T6. Andrew Svoboda (-7)
Phil Mickelson missed out on his first top-10 of the season by one-stroke. He finished T11 at six-under.
–Bernie D’Amato (@bdamato711)