(Reuters) - Ben Crane’s 2012 PGA Tour campaign has been marred by a back injury in recent months but the American has only good feelings ahead of his title defense at this week’s McGladrey Classic at St. Simons Island, Georgia.
Twelve months ago, he clinched his fourth PGA Tour title with a stunning playoff victory over fellow American Webb Simpson on the Seaside Course.
The following day, he and his wife Heather celebrated the birth of their third child, daughter Saylor Mackenzie.
”It’s just fun to be back,“ Crane told reporters on Wednesday while preparing for Thursday’s opening round. ”This has obviously turned into a really special place.
“The birth of my daughter just a day away, turned out to be just hours after I left here, was something I’ll never forget. Actually today is her first birthday, so that’s kind of cool.”
The manner of Crane’s triumph last year will not be forgotten by those who watched it unfold. Wielding a red-hot putter, he came from seven shots behind with 11 holes remaining in the final round before sealing victory over his good friend Simpson at the second extra hole.
“Certainly playing the back nine today I was kind of reminiscing about the last time I was here,” Crane smiled.
“Everything just starts to flow together, and you just kind of get in that real comfortable place,” he said of his storming finish at the Seaside Course last year.
“It’s a sweet feeling and something that is very elusive because it’s just hard to get back to that place.”
A lingering back injury forced Crane to withdraw from the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship in August but he is now enjoying good health.
“I‘m just excited to be playing again,” the 36-year-old said. “I haven’t played a lot lately, so I‘m just excited to be out there. And it felt good today. I have a little inflammation around my disk. There’s nothing really wrong.”
Also playing this week is PGA Tour rookie Jonas Blixt of Sweden who clinched his first title on the U.S. circuit with a one-shot victory at the Frys.com Open in San Martin, California on Sunday.
Asked what a repeat win this week would mean to him, Blixt replied: ”That would be delightful.
“You don’t go to a tournament unless you think you can win or you want to win, so I come here. I have pretty good confidence in my game right now.”
However, the 28-year-old Swede has been taken aback by all the media commitments that have come his way following his PGA Tour breakthrough.
“I will see what my body does and how I respond to it, there’s a lot of new things that have happened the last few days ... a lot of responsibilities you have to do,” Blixt said.
“I’d like to kind of sneak under the radar a little bit. I kind of enjoy being by myself and practicing a little bit and stuff like that. I‘m not really used to having a camera in my face as much as I’ve been having the last few days.”
Also competing this week in the third of four events in the PGA Tour’s Fall Series are United States Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III, two of his team members in Jim Furyk and Zach Johnson and former world number one Vijay Singh.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue