Crane reacts to holing a par putt on the 18th hole. ASSOCIATED PRESSAP
Test of Faith

Crane outlasts Simpson to claim fourth win

Two of golf’s slowest players (and most outspoken Christians) clashed in a play-off to decide the outcome of the McGladrey Classic, the penultimate tournament of the Fall Series.

Ben Crane knew he was going home Monday to be with his wife for the birth of their third child. He had no reason to believe he would be bringing the McGladrey Classic trophy with him.

Seven shots behind with 11 holes to play, Crane ran off seven birdies to close with a 7-under 63, and then he won the sudden-death playoff when Webb Simpson missed a short par putt on the second extra hole Sunday.

Crane nearly holed his approach on the 14th to start a string of four straight birdies. He had a long two-putt on the par-5 15th, followed by a pair of birdie putts from about 20 feet.

Simpson closed with a 66, despite not making a birdie over his last seven holes.

They finished at 15-under 265 and extended the PGA Tour’s record with the 18th playoff this year. It looked as if it might last more than two holes when Crane made a 5-foot comeback putt for par, and Simpson had a par putt just over 3 feet. But it caught the right lip and spun away, giving Crane his first win of the year.

Simpson was trying to become the only three-time winner on tour this season, which might have made him a favorite in the wide-open race for PGA Tour player of the year. The consolation could be the money, which is the reason Simpson came to Sea Island in the first place.

With his runner-up finish, Simpson moved to the top of the money list by $363,029 over Luke Donald, the No. 1 player in the world ranking. Both players have entered the season-ending tournament next week in Disney, though Donald’s task became a lot more difficult.

At the very least, Donald would have to finish no worse than a two-way for second to have any chance to move past Simpson and resume his bid to become the first player to win money titles on the PGA Tour and European Tour. Donald already has a comfortable lead in Europe.

“Finishing second is going to make it a lot harder for Luke,” Simpson said. “But I’m sure he’s going to play well. He’s played well most every week this year. I still wouldn’t be surprised if I have a little work to do next week.”

Crane was playing his final PGA Tour event of the year. His wife, Heather, is home in the Dallas area and they arranged for the birth to be on Monday. He had an evening flight out of Jacksonville, Fla., but those plans changed quickly.

Michael Thompson, the 54-hole lead, ran off three straight birdies on the front nine to build a three-shot lead. Crane, who teed off nearly an hour earlier, was making only pars and trailed by as many as seven shots.

Then came two bursts of four straight birdies, the first one starting on the eighth hole. When his 20-foot birdie dropped on the 17th, Crane excitedly pumped his fist, knowing that he suddenly had a chance at a most unlikely win.

Thompson also missed a 5-foot birdie putt on the 15th that would have given him the outright lead, and then his nerves started to show with errant tee shots. He got away with one on the 16th, but not on the final hole, when his tee shot went into the hazard and cost him a penalty drop.

The small consolation for the 25-year-old rookie, who closed with a 69, was a third-place finish that assures him keeping his card for next year.

Also locking up his card was Bud Cauley, the 21-year-old who left Alabama after his junior season to turn pro. Cauley shot 67 and tied for 15th to earn $64,000, and now is the equivalent of No. 112 on the money list.

He is only the sixth player to go from college and earn his tour card without having to through Q-school, and Cauley joins Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson as the only players to accomplish that feat in eight starts or fewer.

“It’s very exciting for me,” Cauley said. “I can’t wait to come out here and play all year out here.”

A pair of major champions had their best finish of the year. Louis Oosthuizen, who won at St. Andrews last summer, was one shot out of the lead until a bogey on the 18th. He closed with a 66 to finish fourth. Former Masters champion Trevor Immelman, slowed the last two years by a wrist injury that eventually required surgery, had a 69 and finished finish.

It was Immelman’s first top 10 since 2008.

Crane won for the fourth time in his career, and heads home to Dallas with a bigger celebration that he had planned.

– Doug Ferguson, AP

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Associated Foreign Press