Ben Crane is on quite a run. As I reported yesterday in, “Ben Crane: Showing Signs of Life,” he’s had quite a tough stretch with a chronic bad back, swing changes and not a lot to show for it.
But after two rounds in the FedEx St. Jude Classic, things seem to be looking up. Really looking up. He has a 6-shot lead, his back doesn’t hurt and his swing is finally becoming more reliable. With only 24 players having finished the second round due to two rain delays, the second of such consequence that they didn’t even try to restart, it’s too soon to start the celebration. But throw in the fact that he only had 12 putts on the four nines he’s played so far and it’s getting close.
With his characteristic sense of humor, he tried to capture the moment:
“I certainly didn’t expect to be here. When one of the guys asked me, ‘Did you see this coming?’ I was like wow, someone would have told me couple days ago I’d be standing in front of a bunch of cameras, what did I do?”
And in a rarity, he discussed the way in which his game has improved. It’s one thing to be able to draw and fade the ball at will, to move the ball away from or around trouble and to a target. It’s quite another to do so with precision:
“I certainly didn’t see this coming. But, you know, when you’re putting well, I started to feel like I was a little more in control of my ball. I just felt like I was tightening my draws and fades a little bit. I had access to some holes I haven’t this year and so, gosh, it’s been an incredible two days.”
As we struggle with frustration in our versions of the game, imagine the dismay, bordering on panic, of an elite player who has done what it takes to get to the highest levels of the game…and then finds himself totally befuddled, profoundly lost. What do you do?
“Yeah. Just — persevere. It’s been a really, really hard year, racking my brain, what’s going on, what’s going wrong and have I changed that much — you know, you start wondering am I going to get it back? So, this is super encouraging. My wife said last night, ‘Looks like you still got it’ (laughter).”
“Because you wonder. But, anyway, it’s been a fun start.”
God love the wives that keep us together with their love and encouragement.
One of the things that is a drag on the awareness required to patiently stay in the process of working on the swing is the ego. “I have no idea where this ball is going. What will people think?” Crane became aware of this in himself and talked about the only thing that will cure that human defect, faith:
“Well, you know, my identity can get wrapped up in golf sometimes. Certainly a lot of your friends know you as the golfer and that can be hard.”
“So what has really kept me through this time is my faith. Without my faith in Christ, I just — there’s no way I could get out of this. And so, He’s just given me a peace going through this that no matter what happens it’s okay. I know my identity is being a son of His and so really that’s the only thing.”
And so now we know that the “good-time Charley” of the Tour hurts and suffers just like anyone else, no matter what the facade may look like. It was very brave of him to share this with us:
“Just reminding myself of that every day because it’s been rough. I don’t know what’s going to happen this year and you start to kind play it out like wow, things keep going like this, you know, things are going to change.”
In addition to his perseverance and his faith, three people have made a big difference:
“I mean really, three things have kind of — besides my faith and the perseverance to get through these tough days — three things have really got me where I’m at today, playing really well again.”
“I got a tip from a guy named Terry Rawls who helped me get rid of the side bend in my back to take the stress off my back. I went and worked with Greg Rose and he basically told me what was wrong with my swing the last six months. And then Lanny Bassham, my mental coach, has helped me sort through some stuff I’ve really been struggling with in my mental game. It’s given me some things to do while I’m out on the course to get focused on the process, not the result.”.
This whole idea of focusing on the process and not the result keeps coming up among Tour players.
- Choose a target
- Imagine a shot to hit at that target
- Go through a well-practiced, well-timed pre-shot routine that puts you over the ball aligned and ready to hit that shot
- Confirm the target by focusing intently on it
- See the shot in your mind’s eye
- Hit that shot
The theory is that with this level of attention to detail that moves in a smooth flow to the swing, you’ve done everything you can to be prepared to execute the shot. The point is that even then, golf being a game of many variables, you will sometime still miss the shot. But until that happens, you have done everything you could that would make a difference. So accept the shot and move on to the next one.
There is tremendous freedom in knowing that on each and every shot, no matter the outcome, you have done everything you could to make it successful. It also has the advantage that it is so hard to do, it requires constant practice and attention, the latter taking your mind off the pressure of the moment and isolating it on the shot. Hence, the label, “process.”
Even then, there is still the emotional battle of making swing changes because they fundamentally change the way you play golf by definition. So even though you know better, there is sometimes the pull to revert to what used to work…just to see. (I can’t tell you how many times I’d be deep in practice, frustrated, and try an old swing to see if it was still there. It’s the reason to have a knowledgeable coach that you believe in.)
“Really, really tough, especially tough in the sense that when you’re not playing well, you know, and you’re talking with your wife and your caddy and you’re going, well, maybe it’s worth my back feeling really crappy and going back to a swing that I know.”
“So, I mean six months of trying to kind of sort it out and then trying to strip away everything you don’t need and keep what you do.”
“It sounds simple but that’s really just trying to make it as simple as possible with the change that I’ve made.”
Interestingly, this whole thing began with the “side bend” that Terry Rawls pointed out. It started with a simple fault that cascaded into a whole daisy chain of compensations. Yet another reason to work with a knowledgeable coach:
“I think I had the club face too closed [at address] and so I would side bend to kind of protect that and so that was a reaction of trying to save the shot from going left and I didn’t — I hated the draw swing. I like straight shots.”
“And so in order to hit it straight, I had to really do some things with my arms and hands and manipulate the club, side bend and all that to keep — hold the club face off [from closing].”
“Now that we’ve changed that, yeah, the things that used to protect me from trouble are now getting me in trouble. So the relearning is tough but I’m starting to understand it and my body feels great doing it. So, that’s why I’m hopeful going forward.”
And it is one thing to be able to make swing changes on the range, but quite another to take it to the course as a Tour pro:
“Well, I mean it’s fairly simple on the range, you know. It feels pretty good. It’s easy on my back.”
“But the hardest thing is that as a professional golfer when there’s trouble on one side of the golf course you know how to kind of protect against trouble left or right. You have certain things you do.”
“But now throw all those away the last, you know, 15 years, the things I’ve been doing to protect against trouble on one side of the golf course, those don’t exist anymore. They are actually the opposite.”
“And so that was really throwing me for a loop. I tried to protect on the golf course and I would hit it in trouble.”
“So, I’ve had to relearn, you know, safeties and how to create shots and stuff. That’s been challenging. Is this boring? It’s the truth.”
No Ben, it is not boring. It is fascinating to read. It’s a level of detail that we don’t often get, perhaps because fragile egos don’t want to admit how messed up they sometimes get, risking affecting their identities.
And because you’ve told us that you finally understand that you are not your golf game but a child of God, we know that you are telling us the truth.