American Ben Crane posted 10-under-par 270 to defeat American Troy Merritt by one shot Sunday on a soggy TPC Southwind course in Memphis. Webb Simpson, Matt Every and Carl Pettersson tied for another shot further back. Crane’s win was his fifth on TOUR and first since The McGladrey in 2011.
Ben Crane entered Sunday with a three-shot lead over journeyman Troy Merritt and hung on to win on Sunday as he limped home in 73. No birdies were circled on his card and his three bogeys were one more than he had made in the first 54 holes. Crane holed a huge 18-foot-par putt on No. 13 that stopped the bleeding and changed the momentum and got him back on track. His two-shot lead on the 18th tee made for a comfortable finish even though he did make bogey.
After opening with 63-65 Crane entered the weekend with a four-shot lead. As weather played havoc with tee times and completion of rounds, Crane kept his nerve and his cool in his Saturday/Sunday 69 to take a three-shot lead into the final round. Crane used his solid short game and hot putter to outlast the field. He only made five bogeys on the week and was first in strokes gained-putting. He was also T5 in pars made as his ball-striking didn’t give him too many looks. The putter was the story as at one point he was 28-28 of putts inside FIFTEEN FEET for the week. That’s hot, period.
It’s not a surprise that Crane wasn’t mentioned heading into this week as he has struggled on TOUR recently. He MC in five of his last seven events and has exactly one top 25/top 10 in 16 previous events this season. Heck, he has only two finishes inside of the top 40 this season. He did show signs of life in Dallas a few weeks ago as he carded his first two rounds in the 60s in NINE events dating back to March 2 at the Honda. After back problems late last summer, he’s changed his swing to alleviate the stresses on the back and this could have been part of his slow start.
Crane had flashed some form in Memphis in prior years as he played the weekend on all six of his loops around the redesigned TPC Southwind since 2004. In three of last four starts, he’s found himself in the top 18 (T14, T12 and T18 last year). Crane reminds all of us that there are more than one way to cash a check in Memphis as it doesn’t always have to be premium ball-strikers. He will be added to the “horses-for-courses” for the FESJC.
For season-long investors his struggles paid off today as he’s now doubled his 2013 dollars. Crane now has five wins on TOUR and he’s 2-0 with the 54-hole lead (U.S. Bank Championship, 2005). Moving forward, Crane will jump from No. 275 in the OWGR to around No. 100 but only the top 60 in the OWGR play next week at Pinehurst.
With his victory, Crane collects $1,044,000, 500 FedExCup points and is fully exempt through 2015-16.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won 22 of 30 events in 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every, Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes, Brendon Todd and Ben Crane have won for the USA.
Adam Scott, Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have cashed five victories. Matsuyama joins Seung-yul Noh as the Asian representatives and Martin Kaymer is flying the flag for Europe with his victory.
S.Y. Noh, Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley Matt Jones, Brendon Todd and Matsuyama are the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had nine in 30 events so far in 2014. #onpace Troy Merritt gave it a go this week but came in solo second.
Only 17 of the 38, 54-hole leaders went on to win last year in full-field, stroke play events. I’m always trying to figure out if this is a trend or not. In 2013-14, 16 of 29 leaders have gone on to win as Ben Crane is now 2-0 with the 54-hold lead.
Make it 54 of 58 winners at this event that are born in the U.S.A. That song, by the way, Born in the U.S.A. turns 30 this year. If you didn’t think you were old…
Speaking of old, since the turn of the century only Dustin Johnson, Notah Begay and Harris English have been players in their 20s to win on this track.
There has never been a back-to-back champion since the redesign. Harris English tried but finished 73-68 to MC.
Crane becomes just the fifth player to go wire-to-wire. He’s the second player in the last five years to accomplish this as Brian Gay turned the trick in 2009.
Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed and Bubba Watson remain the only players on TOUR with multiple wins this season. Reed didn’t live to see the weekend to add to his total.
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. He has been joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia, Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson (35), joined them at Riviera. Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30) and Matt Jones (33), all first-timers, flew the flag before Watson picked up victory No. 2 of the year at Augusta. Since the first major, Matt Kuchar (37), J.B. Holmes (32), Adam Scott (33) and now Crane, 38, add to the prime-timers trophy case.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) Seung-Yul Noh (22), Martin Kaymer (29), Brendon Todd, 28 and now Matsuyama (22), are the twenty-somethings who have made large noise this year.
Australian John Senden, 42, won at Tampa Bay for the only W for the “Old Guys” this season. Phil Mickelson is 40-something. He was T11.