MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Ben Crane estimates he slept less than three hours in a night spent praying and thanking God that his game finally has come back around.
Then he played 30 holes Sunday in winning the St. Jude Classic for his first PGA Tour title since 2011, setting off a celebration that included hugging his caddie and high-fiving a reporter. Crane also choked back some tears as he looked at text messages filling his phone.
“Oh my gosh, it just keeps going,” Crane said, looking at his phone. “How many can a phone hold? This is so much fun”
Crane closed with a 3-over 73 for a one-stroke victory, going wire to wire for his fifth career victory. Rain delays forced him into the marathon session Sunday at TPC Southwind, finishing 12 holes in the morning in a third-round 69 to take a three-shot lead into the final round.
He two-putted for bogey on the final hole to finish at 10-under 270, days after failing to qualify for the U.S. Open. That marked a low point for the 38-year-old player who spent the past six months reworking his swing to protect his back wondering if his career was over. He spent time with a coach picturing the right way to hit shots.
Everything clicked Thursday with an opening 63.
“I did not expect the hole to open up like that and just start making putts from everywhere,” Crane said. “Just hit a lot of quality shots and obviously built a nice lead to start out with.”
Troy Merritt was second after a 71. Webb Simpson (65), Matt Every (70) and Carl Pettersson (69) were 8 under, and Ian Poulter had a 64 to tie for sixth at 7 under.
Merritt credited the best finish of his career to an improved short game.
“Ben played great,” Merritt said. “Hats off to him. Well deserved. He’s been struggling for a little while. Very happy for Ben.”