Crane wins McGladrey, Simpson now leads money list
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga.—With the McGladrey Classic trophy in hand, Ben Crane headed home to Dallas for the birth of his third child.
Webb Simpson, with his second playoff loss of the year, headed to
Both players had reason to take victories, large and small, away from Sea Island.
Crane's win was a surprise in so many ways. For starters, he wasn't even sure he should be at this Fall Series event. His wife, Heather, is due next week, but they decided to have a Caesarean section at noon on Monday. Crane felt relatively certain from doctors' reports that she would not go into labor. That turned out to be the least of his worries.
On the Wednesday before his pro-am time, he thought about pulling out because of a sore left hip. Then, he was five shots behind going into the final round Sunday, and seven shots behind with 11 holes remaining.
"We kind of figured something like an 8 under or 7 under might have an outside chance," said Crane, who closed with a 7-under 63. "But we talk like that, as golfers, all the time. And it's ridiculous! Because it doesn't happen, you know?"
He ran off four straight birdies around the turn. Then, starting with a 7-iron that he nearly holed from the 14th fairway, Crane ran off four more birdies. Only when he got to the 16th green did he see a leaderboard that showed him two shots behind, allowing him to dream. Two more birdies and he might have a chance.
He made 20-foot birdie putts on the next two holes.
In the playoff, Crane hit a 6-iron to 6 feet on the 18th only to miss the putt. On the second extra hole, the par-3 17th, he was so aggressive with his 20-foot birdie putt that he left himself 5 feet coming back for par. And with Simpson a little more than 3 feet away, Crane looked as though he might throw all that hard work away.
And then came another surprise.
Crane made his putt, and Simpson shockingly missed his putt of just over 3 feet for a three-putt bogey. It was a wild day, an unpredictable finish, yet Crane managed to capture it all when he walked into the media center and saw the trophy on a table.
"What the heck am I doing here?" he said.
Simpson has come to expect great things the way his season has gone since August -- his first PGA Tour win in Greensboro, a playoff win at the
He certainly didn't expect to miss such a short putt.
"As soon as I hit it, I looked up expecting it to be going in, and saw it catching the right lip," said Simpson, who didn't make a birdie over the last nine holes he played, including the playoffs. He closed with a 66. "It was unfortunate to end that way."
But it didn't take much to brighten his hopes, especially with a $432,000 check as the runner-up.
The main reason Simpson came to Sea Island was a chance at the money title. He trailed Luke Donald by $68,971 after the Tour Championship, and decided to give it his best shot.
He wound up taking a lead of $363,029 to the final tournament of the season this week at Disney. Donald, who is trying to become the first player to win the money titles on the European and PGA Tours, suddenly has a tough task.
Donald would have to finish at least in a two-way tie for second at Disney -- and that's assuming Simpson doesn't make a dime. Even if Donald wins Disney, Simpson could still win the money title by finishing second.
"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."
There was still a small measure of disappointment. Simpson, who takes such pride in his putting, missed a short birdie putt on the back nine and failed to take advantage of the par-5 15th.
He had a chance to become the first three-time winner on the PGA Tour this year, which likely would have made him a favorite in an otherwise wide-open race for player of the year. Perhaps winning the money title could help, although Simpson had bigger plans when he left Sunday night.
"Winning would take care of a lot," he said.
They finished at 15-under 265, one shot ahead of Michael Thompson, the 25-year-old rookie who built a three-shot lead on the front nine. Thompson didn't make another birdie, and fell out of the playoff with a tee shot into the hazard on the 18th hole that led to bogey.
The small consolation was a third-place finish that assures him of 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 go 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."