Ben Crane thought he might have to forego his challenge for the McGladrey Classic before a ball was struck, with his wife expecting their third child on Monday and the player suffering a sore hip which had shown little sign of easing.
But he’ll be glad he stayed around as he saw off Webb Simpson in a sudden-death playoff to claim his first win of the 2011 season at Sea Island, Georgia.
A win had looked highly unlikely for Crane, who had started the day five off the lead and was seven shots off the lead with just 11 holes left to play. But a run of four successive birdies from the eighth gave him the smallest of chances and despite a bogey at the 12th Crane carded a second run of four successive gains to strike the front and sign for a 7-under par 63.
Simpson couldn’t find a birdie over the closing holes to eventually sign for a four-under par 66 to see the tournament go to sudden-death – the 18th tournament in 2011 to be settled by a playoff. After both players parred the first extra hole, Crane sank a 5-footer for par on the second extra hole, the 17th.
Simpson had a putt to match Crane from just 3-feet, but the ball caught the right edge of the hole and span out, leaving Crane to pick up the $720,000 winners cheque.
Michael Thompson had matched the lead for much of the final round, before a bogey at the 12th hole halted him in his tracks, and he never fully recovered the momentum, missing from inside 5-feet at the 15th that would have given him the outright lead.
However, he was still sharing the lead coming to the last, but a wayward drive off the tee saw him with an unplayable shot and he was forced to take a penalty drop en-route to a last-hole bogey that would drop him from the play-off.
But he can take some small solace in knowing that his 3rd-place finish was enough to guarantee him his Tour card for next year. Also securing their playing privileges was Bud Cauley, who finished in a share of 15th place.
Former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, who won the Claret Jug at St. Andrews in 2010, posted his best finish on the PGA Tour in 2011 with a 4-under par 66 to close in fourth place, while former US Masters champion Trevor Immelman finished a further shot behind.
Another former US Masters champion, Argentinian Angel Cabrera was one of five players to share sixth place on 10-under par.
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