Crane takes lead in storm-hit St. Jude Classic
MEMPHIS, Tennessee (AP) — Ben Crane shot a 7-under 63 to take the lead in the suspended first round of the St. Jude Classic, taking advantage of the 3 1/2-hour delay on Thursday that left nearly perfect scoring conditions with no wind and rain-softened greens.
Crane had five of his seven birdies on his final nine, the last a few minutes before play was suspended because of darkness.
Phil Mickelson shot a 67, birdieing three of his final four holes in windy conditions before a thunderstorm softened up the TPC Southwind course.
It was his first round in the 60s since the third round at the Wells Fargo Championship. He hadn’t shot below 70 since. He missed the cut at The Players Championship and tied for 49th last week in the Memorial following a visit from FBI agents and lingering questions about an insider-trading investigation. Mickelson has not won in 19 events dating to the British Open and is among the players in Tennessee tuning up for Pinehurst.
“I did exactly what I need to do and some momentum that I need heading into the U.S. Open,” Mickelson said. “Tomorrow’s round, the same thing. Finish strong and play a good round.”
Sixty players were unable to finish the round.
Peter Malnati shot a 65, and Billy Horschel also was 5 under with two holes left to play. Retief Goosen and Joe Durant each had a 66, while Stuart Appleby, Zach Johnson and Jason Bohn were on the course at 4 under. Appleby had a hole-in-one on the 157-yard eighth hole, using a 7-iron. That was his 17th hole, and the last one he completed.
Crane needed only 24 putts for his best round of the season, including a 27-footer for birdie on his final hole at No. 9 with only a handful of people watching because officials closed the course to spectators because of the high winds with the storm.
“We caught a huge break being on this side of the wave,” Crane said. “You know this is ideal Memphis weather. It’s as good as it gets. It was calm, barely any wind. The greens softened up. We were able to attack some of the pins.”
Mickelelson, who tied for second at Southwind last year, said his focus on each shot was much better.
“I’ve been struggling with finishing the round strong,” Mickelson said. “I had a good round last week on Thursday and then played poorly. To birdie three of the last four made it a great round. That’s exactly what I need to do.”
Firm greens made it difficult to land balls close to the hole, but Goosen credited them with helping him roll in some of his birdie putts. He sunk a couple from 5 feet or closer, but also had a couple of birdie putts from 14 feet. Goosen also saved par on No. 7 with a 12-foot putt.
A seven-time winner on the PGA Tour, Goosen hasn’t won on tour since 2009. He has two top-10 finishes this year as he continues his comeback from back surgery in August 2012. He tied for third in Memphis in 2011 and said he really likes the course.