• Chris Wood's caddie Mark Crane relishing Ryder Cup
• Prestwick man 'excited and honoured' to be involved
• Expects a 'hostile' welcome from American crowd
RYDER CUP | MARK CRANE
When Chris Wood represents Europe in next month’s Ryder Cup, it won’t just be him making his debut in the biennial match with the USA – it will also be a maiden appearance for his Scottish caddie, Mark Crane.
Crane, 34, has been on the bag of Bristol man Wood for just over two years, following stints working for the likes of Paul Casey and Richie Ramsay, and although he expects a “hostile” welcome from the American fans for the Europeans, he insists he can’t wait to get over there.
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“It’s really exciting,” Crane told bunkered.co.uk. “We kind of knew that Chris was in because of how high up the qualifying list he was but until it’s there in black and white, it’s still in the back of your mind that something might go wrong. So, it was nice to get the official word yesterday.”
Crane, known on tour as ‘Punk’, added that he’s ‘excited and honoured’ to be getting the chance to caddie in the match for BMW PGA champion Wood, the current world No.27
“When you break it down, there’s 12 players, 12 caddies, the captain and the vice-captains going over there to represent the Continent, so it’s a big responsibility,” he said. “I’m sure it’ll be quite a hostile environment, playing the US in their own backyard, but these are the sorts of opportunities you live for. They’re why you get into the game in the first place.”
Just as Wood will be looking to some of the more senior players in Darren Clarke’s European team for advice, Crane admits he’ll be sounding out other caddies for the benefit of their experience, too.
“I’m good friends with Craig Connelly, above, Martin Kaymer’s caddie,” he said. “We’ve travelled quite a lot together and he’s a great guy – for a Celtic fan! We have good banter about football and so on and, in terms of caddying, he’s been there and done it. So, I’ll certainly ask him for some tips.
“Lee Westwood’s caddie, Billy Foster, has also been great. He’s told me that, whether your player is involved on the opening morning or not, to get down to the first tee to get a feel for it because it’s not like anything else that any of us will ever have experienced before.”
A few days in #Cornwall to process A) getting married and B) Ryder Cup qualification! Dream come true to represent Europe
— Chris Wood (@Chris3Wood) August 22, 2016
To that point, Crane believes that it will be more important than ever that he is able to harness the occasion and stay calm and collected, for Wood’s sake as much as his.
“Chris is the guy hitting the shots,” he added. “However, it’s going to be up to me to make sure that he is focused on the job in hand and doesn’t get distracted by everything else that’s going on. We’ll need to block everything out and just go through the same processes that got us here in the first place. Everything that we’ve been working on has got us to this point, so it’s important we keep doing what we’re good at.
"Chris and I work really well together; we both have a lot of respect for one another" - Mark Crane
"Yes, it’s the Ryder Cup and it’s a big deal but, essentially, the basics are the same. You’ve still got to pull the right club, you’ve still got to hit the right shot. The way that we get Chris into a position to pull the trigger doesn’t necessarily need to change. He just needs to remember that he’s there on merit, that he’s earned his place by going about his business in the way he’s chosen to.”
Crane and Wood have clearly developed a strong friendship in the time that they’ve worked together. For example, just last weekend, Crane was a guest at his boss’s wedding.
“We work really well together,” added Crane. “We both have a lot of respect for one another and we both want the same things – to win majors, to play in Ryder Cups, to get as high up the world rankings as we can.
“As a caddie, you’ve probably got a longer career than a player and there’s potential there to have success with different players. However, it would be nice to keep on sharing these moments with Chris. He’s very honest and, if ever any issues do arise, we deal with them quickly, calmly and sensibly. We’re a good team.”
"I think Chris and Sergio would make a great combination" - Mark Crane
As somebody who knows Wood’s game better than most, Crane reckons he could play with anybody on the European Ryder Cup team – but he thinks three guys would be a particularly good fit.
“I think Chris and Sergio would make a great combination,” he said. “Sergio has become ‘Mr Ryder Cup’ for Europe over the last decade or so and I know that he’s somebody Chris looks up to and enjoys being in the company of.
“Justin Rose, pictured above with Crane and Wood at The Masters, is in that bracket, too. Again, he’s somebody Chris has a lot of respect for. I suppose you could say he looks at him as a role model, being English and because of everything that he’s achieved.
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“Then there’s Martin Kaymer. I think he and Chris would do great together. They’re very similar in the way they carry themselves, both grounded and down-to-earth. I could see them being a tremendous partnership.”
For Crane, the Ryder Cup will be the undoubted high point of a steady upward trajectory that started back in 2004. He was working as a caddie at his home club, Prestwick, the host venue for that year’s Home Internationals when, by chance, he ended up caddying for Lloyd Saltman. The pair hit it off so well that Crane was asked to caddie more regularly for Lloyd on the amateur circuit.
Lloyd Saltman tees off during the 2007 Walker Cup as Mark Crane, GB&I captain Colin Dalgleish and US duo Billy Horschel and Rickie Fowler look on.
That included the 2005 Open Championship at St Andrews, where Saltman finished in a tie for 15th to take the 'low amateur' spoils. He also caddied for the East Lothian man in the 2007 Walker Cup at Royal County Down, above.
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Several alumni from that particular match will be at Hazeltine this year, including Rory McIlroy, Danny Willett, Dustin Johnson and, in all probability, Rickie Fowler. “It’s quite cool to think that we were all there representing our respective teams in 2007 and now, almost ten years later, we’re doing the same in the Ryder Cup,” added Crane.
He also had a successful spell with fellow Scot, Richie Ramsay, below, a former international teammate of Saltman, who won the US Amateur Championship at, as luck would have it, this year’s Ryder Cup host venue, Hazeltine.
“Richie was one of the first people to message me after we got confirmation that Chris was in the Ryder Cup team,” said Crane. “He’s a great guy and I owe him a huge debt of gratitude. He gave me an opportunity to come out on tour and, if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be where I am now.
"We'll be doing everything we can to bring that trophy back home" - Mark Crane
“I’ll definitely be picking his brains about Hazeltine over the next few weeks and I’m sure he’ll be able to give Chris and I some useful pointers. Chris, though, knows it reasonably well already, having played there in the 2009 PGA Championship. He says he’s still got his yardage book, so we’ll be studying that closely. We’ll be doing everything we can to play our part and, hopefully, bring that trophy back home.
“A lot of people have got Europe as underdogs this time around but that’s fine. We’ve been underdogs plenty times before and won. It’s matchplay golf, anything can happen. I just can’t wait to get going.”
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