MEMPHIS: Ben Crane fought to a three-over 73 in the final round of the St. Jude Classic but emerged from a marathon on Sunday (Monday in Manila) with his first US PGA Tour title since 2011.
Crane’s 10-under total of 270 gave him a one-stroke victory over fellow American Troy Merritt, who closed with a one-over 71 at TPC Southwind.
“What a battle,” said Crane, who became the first player since 2005 to win a US PGA Tour title without notching a birdie in the final round.
“All those putts that were going in the last couple days, today it was a little tougher to come by. I hit a lot of good putts, but the course is playing a little tougher.”
Crane had completed a one-under 69 earlier Sunday to take a three-stroke lead into the final round, after weather delays on Thursday, Friday and Saturday had left the $5.8 million tournament behind schedule.
Former US Open champion Webb Simpson carded a fourth-round 66 to join Matt Every and Carl Pettersson on 272. Every posted a 70 and Sweden’s Pettersson a 69.
England’s Ian Poulter posted the low score of the final round with a six-under 64 that included seven birdies to join a group sharing sixth on 273 alongside James Hahn, Andrew Svoboda, Brian harman and Billy Horschel.
Crane, who notched the fifth PGA title of his career, played 30 holes on Sunday, wrapping up the last 12 holes of his third round.
He’d led since the first round, but the long day appeared to be taking a toll as bogeys at the sixth and ninth opened the door for his pursuers.
But Crane kept them at bay, draining a 19-foot putt to save par at the 13th after a poor tee shot.
Merritt’s bogey at 15 gave Crane a two-shot cushion, Crane giving one back at the final hole where he made a bogey from a greenside bunker.
The tournament was the tour’s last stop before the US Open Championship starts at Pinehurst on Thursday.
Despite his difficulties in the final round, Crane was more than happy—and not a little surprised—to find himself back in the winner’s circle.
“It’s been a battle this year,” he said. “I changed a lot of stuff and I didn’t think I’d get it back. This is a big surprise.”
Five-time major champion Phil Mickelson, seeking to build momentum heading into the second major of the year, settled for a two-over fourth-round 72 that left him tied for 11th on 274.
The 43-year-old American left-hander, a five-time major champion, can complete a career grand slam with a US Open triumph.
But Mickelson, who remains without a top-10 finish in 14 starts this season, has a history of heartache at the event, having finished second a record six times, the first of those coming at Pinehurst in 1999.