Ben Crane wins St. Jude Classic for 5th PGA title
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- With four PGA Tour titles on his resume, Ben Crane knew what it would take to win again.
So he made a list of six items to keep him on track before finishing off a wire-to-wire victory at the St. Jude Classic for his fifth career win and first since 2011.
"You forget how hard it is," Crane said. "You forget how much practice went in. You start to think you deserve things sometimes."
Crane closed by two-putting for bogey and a 3-over 73 that gave him a one-stroke victory Sunday. Rain delays forced Crane into the marathon session at TPC Southwind after a nearly sleepless night, finishing 12 holes in the morning in a third-round 69 to take a three-shot lead into the final round.
"This win's different, different for me," said Crane, who celebrated by hugging caddie Joe Stock, his former Oregon teammate. "I want to treat it differently. I really want to enjoy it, and I don't want to act like there's five more behind it. I do want to celebrate it with my friends and my wife and my kids, who probably watched me play on TV today for the first time and kind of recognize what was going on."
Crane finished at 10-under 270, days after failing to qualify for the U.S. Open. That marked a low point after the 38-year-old spent the past six months reworking his swing to protect his back, while wondering if his career was over. He spent time with a coach picturing the right way to hit shots.
Everything clicked Thursday with an opening 63.
"I did not expect the hole to open up like that and just start making putts from everywhere," Crane said.
Troy Merritt had his career-best finish at second after a 71. Webb Simpson (65), Matt Every (70) and Carl Pettersson (69) were 8 under, and Ian Poulter had a 64 to tie for sixth at 7 under.
"Ben played great," Merritt said. "Hats off to him. Well deserved. He's been struggling for a little while. Very happy for Ben."
Phil Mickelson, among those tuning up for the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, left winless in his 20th event since the British Open. He tied for 11th at 6 under after a 72.
Mickelson had consecutive birdies to go 8 under only to bogey the next two, including hitting into the water in front of the green on the par-3 14th. He still finished much better than his tie for 49th at Memorial last week after an early visit from FBI agents and lingering questions about an insider-trading investigation.
"The way I drove the ball last two rounds I had an opportunity to shoot really low," Mickelson said. "My iron play was poor, and my putting was pathetic. I'll have to make some changes and to get ready for next week. But the game is not far off because I'm driving the ball very well and putting it in play."
Wind, thunderstorms, lightning and fog delayed play each of the first three days. Players started the final round almost immediately after concluding the third and finished without single delay Sunday.
Crane had three bogeys in the final round, one more than through his first 54 holes. He became the first winner on tour without a birdie in his final round since Justin Leonard did it at Southwind in 2005.
He cruised along before two-putting for bogey on No. 6, dropping his lead to two strokes over Brian Harman and Merritt. Crane bogeyed No. 9 after hitting his tee shot into the rough. He couldn't clear the rough with his next shot, and his third bounced to the rough behind the green.
Merritt was closest, within a stroke for six holes before sending his tee shot on the par-4 15th into the rough. He couldn't roll the ball in from 15 feet to save par.
Crane strung together eight straight pars before going to the par-4 No. 18 with a two-stroke lead needing to avoid the water down the left side of the fairway. He did, though he did find the greenside bunker. Crane two-putted from 12 feet for the win. He earned $1,044,000.
Divots: Crane is the eighth player in this event's history to win after having at least a share of the lead after every round. Lee Westwood was the last in 2010. ... Crane also won the 2010 CIMB Classic before it became an official tour event.
Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.