For a guy who has missed essentially the last six months on the PGA Tour with chronic back problems, Ben Crane is making a fast recovery.
The 31-year-old pro from Texas posted his second straight 4-under 66 to move toward the top of the leaderboard at the Fry’s Electronic Open. He stands at 8-under 132 at the midpoint, three shots behind leader Ryan Moore.
Actually, a return to the desert might have been just what the doctor ordered for Crane, who played his first round since April at last week’s Fry’s.com Open in Las Vegas before moving a little farther south to Grayhawk Golf Club. For those who have forgotten, one of Crane’s first wins came in 2001 when he won the now-defunct Gila River Classic on the Nationwide Tour at Whirlwind Golf Club near Chandler.
“I was talking to my good buddy, Jonathan Byrd two weeks ago, and talking about coming back and he goes, 'You know, if I were you, I’d wait until they went out to the desert to play,’ ’’ Crane related. “I thought to myself, maybe he’s right. I do love playing in the desert for some reason.’’
Crane even had this interesting footnote regarding being back in the Scottsdale area. It seems the same caddie he used way back when he won the Gila River Classic, Craig Welty, has returned to his bag after his regular caddie went to work for Ryan Moore during Crane’s long absence.
A two-time winner on the PGA Tour, Crane has been plagued by a bad back throughout his career. But this latest ordeal was the worst yet, which is why he has played in only seven tournaments and currently ranks No. 189 on the money list.
“I went through a bunch of treatments — everything,’’ he said. “What worked? It’s a long story. But the answer is, I’m feeling great and I’m excited about it. That’s the best answer.’’
Mark Hensby, who has lived in Mesa for five years, had never played at Grayhawk before this week.
“I went to Geoff Ogilvy’s wedding here,’’ said Hensby, whose 61 in Round 2 vaulted him from a tie for 80th into a three-way tie for second. “So that’s the only time I’ve ever been here.’’
People might have believed that midway through Hensby’s first round, when he was 5-over after his first 10 holes. But the guy looks like he owns the place since that point, as he is 13 under — or a birdie every other hole!
Hensby is hoping for a big weekend, as he currently stands No. 151 on the money list. If he’s worried, he’s not showing it.
“In 2004 I made $2.7 million and in 2005 a lot of money, too,’’ he said. “It shows you how fickle this game is, as I was 27th in the world a year and a half ago, and now I’m like 400.’’
Michael Allen, the first-round leader from Scottsdale who struggled to a 71 in the second round, was asked why it’s so difficult to follow up a great round with another great round.
“I don’t really know,’’ said Allen, who is at 7 under and still in the chase. “I felt good today for the most part. I just made a lot of mistakes.
“I need to shoot more low rounds and I’ll get more evidence for you.’’
Even though the crowds have been small — 6,100 on Thursday and 7,900 on Friday — the tournament will make money for local charities.
That’s because Fry’s has guaranteed the Thunderbirds, the civic organization that runs the event, at least $500,000 for that very purpose.
ONE TOUGH HOLE
The par-4, 498-yard seventh hole has proven to be a real bear, and not just because Nick Watney made a quadruple-bogey 8 there on Thursday and Phil Mickelson got stung with a triple-bogey 7 on Friday.
The seventh, which was converted from a par 5 to a par 4 for the tournament, is playing to the highest average score — 4.349. On Friday, it yielded just six birdies.