Ben Crane was on vacation with his family three years ago when it came to an abrupt end. His brother just happened to notice a crawler on television that said Phil Mickelson had withdrawn from the British Open, and Crane was next alternate to replace him.
There was one problem. This was on a Friday. Crane was in Idaho. The Open was at Turnberry.
”I went to a golf shop and bought every piece of warm clothing they had,” Crane said Monday. ”I went with my brother, and we had a great time.”
It’s a tougher call this year.
The alternate list for the British Open was established Monday by the most recent world ranking. Crane is at No. 54, making him the highest player not eligible, and therefore the first reserve. He is planning to go to Royal Lytham & St. Annes and take his chances of playing a major championship he loves.
But the alternate list won’t kick in until the field dips below 156 players.
Even with Mark O’Meara withdrawing Tuesday, there already are 156 players who are exempt or who have qualified for the British Open, which is supposed to have a 156-man field. Still on offer are two spots this weekend to the leading player from the top five, not already eligible, at the John Deere Classic and Scottish Open.
Royal & Ancient spokesman Malcolm Booth said an overbooked Open can happen. For example, there were four Presidents Cup team players who didn’t already qualify by being among the top 50 in the world. Three players got in only because they were among the top 20 in the FedEx Cup standings. Both those numbers are unusually high.
”We had this situation in 2008 at Royal Birkdale,” Booth said. ”By the time a couple of players dropped out, it just resolved itself.”
And that could be the case again.
Webb Simpson has not officially withdrawn, though he is not likely to play because his wife is expecting. There’s a chance Jason Day won’t travel to England because his wife his expecting their first child. By the time next week gets here, it’s possible the field will be down to 156 players.
Even if there were more than 156 players, that’s not a problem like it would be for other majors. Another tee time simply would be added. Daylight is not an issue at the British Open, where the final group typically tees off at 4:21 p.m.
Crane took his family vacation in Idaho last week. He headed for the John Deere Classic knowing he was the first reserve, just not certain how many spots he was away from getting in. If it works out for him, this might be the only thing that has gone right for Crane when it comes to the British Open this year.
He was at No. 50 going into the final week of qualifying. Just his luck, Nicolas Colsaerts won the World Match Play Championship that week in Spain, which bumped Crane to No. 51. Plus, he did not enter the British Open qualifier in the Dallas area.
The second alternate is Michael Thompson, who is not playing the John Deere. Thompson plans to monitor the size of the field and decide this weekend if he is close enough to getting in that it warrants the flight over to England.
MOTIVATED MAHAN: Hunter Mahan had a good time making the ”Golf Boys” video with Ben Crane, Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson, and it now has more than 5 million views on YouTube. But it also helped serve up some motivation for Mahan.
Early in the video, it is not difficult to detect a slight bulge in his belly. And it’s still a slightly sensitive subject.
”Two things,” Mahan protested when it was brought up last week. ”I’m fitter than I was back then. And the pants were about a 28-inch waist. And I am not a 28-inch waist. They got all the clothes from Goodwill. As soon as I put them on, I said, `Oh, boy.’ I better get this coat on top of me. I don’t want to be a fully Monty in front.”
He just looked fuller than he realized.
Mahan said some of his buddies in Dallas gave him some grief. Mahan was never out of shape, though seeing that video made him work even harder. A year later, whatever flab is now muscle. His waist is trimmer. His upper body is thicker. He is stronger, and he cares deeply about his fitness.
”Those are things that are good, because they motivate you,” he said. ”I’ve tried to make it a priority and get in the best shape I can. I eat right. You look at (Rory) McIlroy and what he’s done. In golf, it pays to be stronger. Over 30 tournaments a year, over 30 years of playing golf, it pays to take care of yourself. You see guys in their 40s, they start breaking down. They try to fix it, but it becomes difficult at that point.”
PGA FIELD: Most players keep an eye on the top 50 in the world ranking as a major championship approaches. For Jeff Overton, the trick is to stay in the top 100.
Overton, who has not qualified for a major this year, has a spot waiting for him at the PGA Championship, which will be played Aug. 9-12 at Kiawah Island. The final major offers an exemption to all members of the most recent Ryder Cup team, provided they remain within the top 100 in the world on July 29.
Even though he tied for 17th last week at The Greenbrier Classic, Overton dropped to No. 96. Unless the PGA of America gives him an exemption – as it did for Jerry Pate last year in Atlanta – Overton has three weeks to stay inside the top 100.
The other Ryder Cup players are in the same predicament – Ross Fisher at No. 113 and Edoardo Molinari at No. 158.
PLAYING THEIR OWN AGE: To get a sense of how young golf is getting, Andy Zhang and Beau Hossler will be playing in the U.S. Junior Amateur, which starts next week at The Golf Club of New England.
It was only last month that Zhang, 14, became the youngest player in U.S. Open history at The Olympic Club.
Hossler, a 17-year-old going into his senior year of high school, briefly had the lead on Saturday at the U.S. Open, and only a sloppy finish kept him from being low amateur. Two weeks later, Hossler made the 36-hole cut in the AT&T National at Congressional.
Now they are back to playing against guys their own age. And keep this in mind – while Hossler qualified for the U.S. Open last year, he didn’t even reach the semifinals of the U.S. Junior.
Jordan Spieth won the U.S. Junior last year. A sophomore at Texas, he is too old to compete and plans to try PGA Tour qualifying later this year.
DIVOTS: Geoff Ogilvy has vanished from the golf scene since the U.S. Open. His oldest daughter starts school in San Diego this autumn, meaning it no longer is practical for them to spend December in Australia with family. Instead, Ogilvy, his wife and three children have spent the last month in Melbourne, even though it’s winter Down Under. ”I’m as far away from the PGA Tour as you can get,” he said Tuesday. … The John Deere Classic has a $4.6 million purse. That’s the smallest among tournaments that offer full FedEx Cup points, and the prize money is less than two domestic tournaments that are part of the Fall Series. … Steve Stricker made his 300th career cut at The Greenbrier Classic.
STAT OF THE WEEK: The winners of The Greenbrier Classic have been ranked No. 159 (Stuart Appleby), No. 224 (Scott Stallings) and No. 218 (Ted Potter Jr.).
FINAL WORD: ”The more different guys that win them, the more guys who think they can win them.” – Geoff Ogilvy, on 15 different players winning the last 15 majors.