Crane plans trip to British Open, and hopes numbers get him into field

Ben Crane
Getty Images
Ben Crane is the first alternate into the British Open, but a couple of hurdles stand in the way of his getting into the field.
By
Doug Ferguson
Associated Press

Series: European Tour

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- 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 His brother just happened to notice a crawler on television that said Phil Mickelson had withdrawn from the British Open, and Crane was next alternate to replace him.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 FedExCup 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Webb Simpson has not officially withdrawn, though he is not likely to play because his wife is expecting.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 Volvo 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.