AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Ben Crane won the St. Jude Classic in June, his first victory in three years and the fifth of his PGA Tour career.
For all he knows, Crane might never win again. Or maybe this would be the start of more victories.
Winning on the PGA Tour is harder than ever, so Crane responded in a most appropriate way.
He threw himself a party.
“We were going to celebrate,” he said. “We invited over 70 of our closest friends. We strung up lights. We brought in all these food trucks. We had great wine, beer. We had a DJ. We danced all night. The kids danced all night.”
Crane and his wife, Heather, shared a short story about their lives, the work that goes into it and the rewards of the time and toil invested.
“You never know if you’re going to be led out of this game,” he said. “I think people sometimes have no idea that, yes, I’m a PGA Tour golfer, but we struggle. Life still hurts. You work your butt off and sometimes you don’t get rewarded.”
Crane thought about something he read in Hank Haney’s book about Tiger Woods, how Woods won a tournament and his wife planned to celebrate. The message from Woods, according to the book, was that there was no need for a party because he’s supposed to win.
“I’m not Tiger Woods,” Crane said. “I’m not supposed to win. And when I do, we’re going to go for it!”
PGA CHAMPIONSHIP FIELD: The PGA Championship announced its field on Tuesday, which included those who qualified on PGA points (PGA Tour money earned in the past 12 months) and what it refers to as “special invitations.” Translation: Anyone ranked in the top 100 on the world.
Whatever it’s called, it works.
The 156-man field at Valhalla next week will include the top 100 players from the world ranking, barring anyone having to withdraw. It goes even deeper than that. One of the special invitations went to Kevin Chappell, who is No. 104 in the world.
The highest-ranked player not currently in the PGA Championship field is Jerry Kelly at No. 109. Kelly is the first alternate and most likely to get in because the PGA sets aside two spots for winners of the Bridgestone Invitational and Barracuda Championship in Reno, Nevada, if they are not already eligible. Pat Perez is the second alternate.
There were a few mysteries in the special invitations.
Stewart Cink received one of the spots, even though he is No. 149 in the world and was 21 spots behind Kelly in the PGA points list. Another invitation went to Robert Karlsson of Sweden, who is No. 115 in the world but has been making a rapid climb in the world ranking this year. Karlsson was outside the top 200 just over a month ago.
Of the 41 players who received special invitations, Cink, Chappell and David Hearn of Canada were the only ones who play exclusively on the PGA Tour. The other two Americans who received invitations are on the Champions Tour – Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson and Kenny Perry, who grew up in Kentucky and lost in a playoff at Valhalla in the 1996 PGA Championship.
LPGA TO FLORIDA: The LPGA Tour is starting the 2015 season in Florida for the first time in more than a decade.
The tour announced Tuesday that the Coates Golf Championship will be played Jan. 28-31 at Golden Ocala Golf and Equestrian Club. The Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic will be held the following week.
The Coates Golf Championship will feature a 120-player field over 72 holes for a $1.5 million purse. The tournament will start on Wednesday and end on Saturday, one day before the Super Bowl.
The last time the LPGA season opened in Florida was in 2001 in Orlando.
“Playing back-to-back events in Florida and The Bahamas in the East Coast time zone will be a great way for our fans to watch our first two events of the year live on Golf Channel,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said.
RORY BURNOUT: Not even Rory McIlroy was immune to burnout, though only briefly.
McIlroy spoke Tuesday about the time he won the Mullingar Scratch Cup when he was 16 and drove home with his dad feeling indifferent about it.
“It was like a three-hour drive,” McIlroy said. “And I said to him, `I don’t like this anymore. I don’t enjoy it. I just won, and I don’t know, I’m not happy. I’m not excited.’ I went back home and didn’t play golf for about three days.”
He then discovered he did like playing – and winning.
“Just an impulsive teenager going through hormonal issues,” McIlroy said.
It was during that brief burnout that he realized the unconditional support of his parents. He said they told him that day that they only wanted him to be happy and to enjoy whatever he was doing.
“Probably on the inside they were saying, `What’s he thinking? What’s he doing?'” McIlroy said with a grin. “There was no panic. It was just me being a grumpy teenager.”
SHANGHAI OR MISSISSIPPI: The start of the new season coincides with the end of a long year. So while it’s a perk to play in PGA Tour events with a limited field and no cut, it’s a long way to go – the CIMB Classic in Malaysia and the HSBC Champions in Shanghai.
“It’s such a long way to go, and it’s such a long season,” Bill Haas said. “I might change things up this year.”
Haas went to Malaysia and Shanghai last year. He wouldn’t mind staying home those weeks, but that would mean missing two tournaments. Haas was reminded recently that if he were to qualify for the HSBC Champions, he could not stay home and play the Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson, Mississippi, where he is a past champion.
That policy has been around as long as the World Golf Championships – if a player if eligible for a WGC, he cannot play the opposite-field event. And it holds true when the WGC is halfway around the world.
DIVOTS: Padraig Harrington fell out of the top 250 in the world ranking (No. 254) for the first time since May 5, 1996. … Tim Clark now has won the national open in four countries – South Africa, Scotland, Australia and Canada. … Matteo Manassero of Italy has taken up special temporary membership for the rest of the season, which could mean only one event – the PGA Championship. … Bernhard Langer was the only player to finish in the top 10 at all five Champions Tour majors this year.
STAT OF THE WEEK: There are 17 major champions at Firestone. There are 15 major champions at the opposite-field event in Reno, Nevada.
FINAL WORD: “I’m really not a feel-sorry-for-myself type of person. I get to do what I love to do for a living. I play a game. I get to make a pretty darn good living doing it. So for me to feel bad for myself, I would venture that close to 100 percent of the world is not going to feel too bad for me. And I don’t think they should.” – Jim Furyk.