Crane your necks to back Sawgrass specialist

sawgrass1The Players Championship is known as golf’s fifth major and one of the rank outsiders for this year’s tournament boasts some of the best TPC Sawgrass numbers among the elite field.

Ben Crane is the golfer to whom one is referring as it would seem that the 38-year-old American’s all-round game improves out of sight whenever he plays at TPC Sawgrass. Crane’s figures in The Players Championship are remarkable for a golfer ranked 257th in the world who has not ended a year ranked higher than 34th on the official global chart.

Crane debuted in The Players Championship of 2003 and he did not show immediate signs of being a TPC Sawgrass specialist. Crane missed the cut in his first attempt at The Players Championship and he just scraped through to the weekend 12 months later. But Crane has performed well in The Players Championship in six of his other seven appearances, only finishing lower than 45th when he was poor two years ago.

Sixth in 2008, ninth in 2009 and fourth in 2010, Crane made The Players Championship top 10 again last year, shooting rounds of 69, 71, 72 and 69 to finish eighth alongside half a dozen golfers, including Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood, and half a dozen strokes behind Tiger Woods.

Crane has missed the cut on each of his last three PGA Tour starts, failing to qualify for the weekend rounds of the RBC Heritage, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and the Wells Fargo Championships. And one has to go back to the FedEx St Jude Classic in June 2013 for the last time that Crane had a top-20 finish on the PGA Tour. Normally a total absence of decent recent form would be sufficient to negate a bet but Crane has a history of playing terribly before The Players Championship and still featuring on the leaderboard at TPC Sawgrass. Believe it or not, the worse that Crane has played immediately prior to The Players Championship, the better that he has played at TPC Sawgrass. It really is true.

Lovers of long shots will nibble at Crane’s odds of 201.00 with Youwin that he wins The Players Championship at the 10th time of asking. Crane has won four PGA Tour events, the latest of which was the McGladrey Classic three years ago, so he does know what it takes to get over the line. However, more conservative punters will avail themselves of odds of 8.50 with Bet365 that Crane makes the top 20 for the fifth time out of 10. For the record, Crane averages 71.56 shots per round in The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, which is better than title favourite McIlroy (72.50 across his four appearances) and second favourite Adam Scott (71.64 in spite of being the 2004 champion).

If one wants to back a shorter priced golfer to win The Players ChampionshipLuke-Donald-smile then one’s suggestion would be Luke Donald at odds of 26.00 with Coral. Donald has a reputation for not producing the goods in the really big events – he is yet to win a major even though he has been ranked at number one for 56 weeks during his career – but one is getting good odds about a golfer in form who loves the state of Florida.

Donald has The Players Championship form figures of 19th, sixth and fourth in the last three years, he was second to Fred Funk in 2005 and three of his five PGA Tour victories have occurred in Florida. Furthermore, Donald’s last PGA Tour start saw him finish second in the RBC Heritage, plus he has the type of golf game required for TPC Sawgrass.

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