Crane charge thwarts Simpson

Ben Crane came from eight shots back to beat late-season US golden boy Webb Simpson at the McGladrey Classic on Sunday.

American Ben Crane came from a stunning eight shots back to beat late-season US golden boy Webb Simpson in a closing-stretch thriller at the McGladrey Classic on Sunday.

But Simpson, despite his disappointment, had more than enough compensation to keep smiling.

His second place did exactly what he hoped it would when he entered this Fall Series event.

It lifted him $363,029 above World No 1 Luke Donald and put him in first place in the US Money List race heading into next week’s, season-ending show-down with Donald at Disney World.

Donald, who has a big lead on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai money list, had not originally put the Disney event on his schedule, but when he saw how well Simpson was performing at the McGladrey, he changed his mind and entered in order to extend his bid to win the Money List titles on both sides of the Atlantic this year.

Overnight leader and PGA Tour rookie Michael Thompson, who had led by three shots with nine holes to play in Georgia on Sunday, bogeyed the last for a 69 and had to settle for third place at 14-under.

South African Louis Oosthuizen, who romped to a seven-stroke victory in last year’s British Open, was a stroke behind Thompson after closing with a 66 and compatriot Trevor Immelman, a former Masters champion, a further shot back in lone 5th place aftrer adding a 66 to his stunning third round 62

Crane came storming through in the final, breezy round at Sea Island’s Seaside Course in Georgia with a stunning eight-birdie 63 to match Simpson’s 15-under par 265 total for 72 holes and then went on to win the play-off at the second extra hole.

Crane narrowly missed a 22-foot birdie putt at the second extra hole, the par-three 17th, but moments later wrapped up his victory with a tap-in after Simpson, one of the new generation who have been using belly and broomstick putters to great effect this season, had inexplicably lipped out with his par putt from inside four feet.

Earlier he had closed with a more than solid four-under 66 that, but for Crane’s final round heroics, would have been enough to have given him his third US PGA Tour title in just six starts.

“It’s unfortunate the way it ended, but it was a good week overall,” said Simpson, who trailed Donald by $68,971 in the money list race at the start of the week,

“I learned a lot. I’m just really happy for my good friend Ben. He played so well all day.”

Crane, who in the past has had a reputation for being one of the US Tour’s slowest players, certainly got himself into top gear on Sunday, especially over the last 11 holes when he made up a seven shot deficit as he raced to victory.

Wielding a red-hot putter with great enthusiasm, the 35-year-old birdied the eighth and ninth to reach the turn in two-under 33 and then went on a thrilling birdie bltz that saw him pick further shots at the 10th, 11th, 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th, where, after sinking a 20-footer, he jumped high and punched the sky after finally drawing level with Simpson at the top of the leaderboard.

“I was just riding a hot putter, making putts there at 10, 11, and then making birdies at 14 and 15,” said Crane. “I looked up on the 16th green and I’m like, ‘Wow, I’m two back.’

“I had an opportunity to make birdie there and ran one in. The adrenalin really went through me here on the 17th green in regulation when I made it in for birdie. It was a fun day.”

Crane, whose wife Heather is expecting their third child on Monday and who couldn’t wipe the smile off his face after his unexpected come-back victory, added:”This week I had a great sense of perspective and peace out there.

“The hole opened up for me and it was a great day,” he said. “I’m just thrilled.”

265 Ben Crane 65 70 67 63 (Crane won at the second play-off hole), Webb Simpson 63 67 69 66
266 Michael Thompson 65 65 67 69
267 Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa) 65 67 69 66
268 Trevor Immelman (Rsa) 66 71 62 69
270 Scott McCarron 64 70 68 68, Jeff Overton 66 69 66 69, Angel Cabrera (Arg) 65 70 68 67, Nick O’Hern (Aus) 65 67 69 69, Kevin Streelman 66 70 66 68
271 Bryce Molder 67 68 68 68, Kris Blanks 67 68 66 70, Jim Furyk 67 68 69 67, D.J. Trahan 65 71 68 67