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Ben Crane keeps himself in the dark about his upcoming playing partners, lest he be paired with someone he once idolized and stay up all night anticipating the matchup.
At the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines on Sunday, he told caddie Joel Stock not to tell him how he stood on the leader board. So when Crane tapped in for par and a two-under-par 70 and a 13-under total, edging three men by a stroke, not only was there no fist pump, but also playing partner Ryuji Imada had to tell Crane that he'd won.
Yet while Crane, 33, may go out of his way to cultivate a quiet mind, he keeps unwittingly finding himself in the middle of a firestorm.
There was the incident at the Booz Allen Classic in 2005, when Rory Sabbatini left Crane fumbling around on the 17th hole. That dustup became a referendum on slow play.
"That was a great thing for me," Crane said after leading the Farmers field in greens hit in regulation (63 of 72) to break a five-year winless drought. "I realized, Wow, this is a big deal: I'm too slow."
Then in December, Crane learned that he had been quoted by the tabloid Life & Style ripping Tiger Woods as a phony. Crane says he has never commented to any member of the media about Woods.
A born plodder, Crane has finished in the top 75 on the money list in seven of the last eight seasons. He was limited to nine starts with lower back pain in '07, a condition he now says was largely stress-induced, and dropped to 180th. He gets treatment for his back before and after every round.
With his victory at Torrey, he became the third consecutive winner to earn an exemption to the Masters, joining Ryan Palmer (Sony) and Bill Haas (Hope). But Crane's third career Tour victory didn't come easily, as he pulled a 30-inch par putt on 17, reducing his lead to a shot. He got a reprieve, however, when the third player in his group, Michael Sim, laid up on 18 rather than go for the green in two from 245 yards. Sim, 25, failed to birdie the hole when his wedge spun off the front of the green. He admitted later, "I think I could have got there."
The Australian tied for second with countryman Marc Leishman and the mop-topped Brandt Snedeker, each of whom also failed to birdie 18. Their lack of heroics made one long for the way a certain someone played the finishing hole at the 2008 U.S. Open.