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Ben Crane beats bad weather for Memphis lead

(Reuters) - American Ben Crane took a huge second round lead on Friday at the weather-plagued FedEx St. Jude Classic, which may not be completed until Monday, potentially delaying the arrival of several dozen players for the U.S. Open.

Only 32 players completed Friday's round before storms early in the afternoon dumped more than one inch of rain and flooded parts of the course, while strong winds knocked down some temporary fencing.

Officials scheduled the second round to resume at 7 a.m. local time on Saturday with Phil Mickelson among dozens of players who did not even start the round.

With a 50 percent chance of more storms on Saturday, there is a good chance the event will not finish on time on Sunday.

Forty-one players at the Memphis tournament are in the field for next week's major championship at Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina.

It would not be the first time a late Memphis finish spilled over into a U.S. Open week at Pinehurst. In 1999, 54 players, not all of whom were in the Open, had to complete the final round on Monday.

Crane did not make the U.S. Open field, but he is delighted to be playing, and playing well, after overcoming a worrying back injury last year.

He was the first to admit he was on the favorable end of the draw this week, playing in calm weather late Thursday and again early Friday, but that did not detract from the quality of his performance.

“It was a dream round of golf,” he told Golf Channel after following an opening 63 with a 65.

He posted a 12-under 128 halfway total, while compatriots Davis Love III (70) and Billy Horschel (68) at five-under were best of the others who finished.

Swede Carl Pettersson (17 holes) and American Jason Bohn (16 holes) were six-under, but were unable to finish the round.

Crane, a four-time PGA Tour winner, was forced to pull out of a tournament last August due to back pain.

“I just really didn't see any hope,” he said. “I didn't understand why my back was hurting so bad. Found out it was my golf swing.”

Crane rehabilitated his body quicker than his game, leaving him languishing 150th on the tour’s points list.

But it has all come together and despite a bogey at the final hole, his first blemish all week, Crane was delighted with his performance.

“I’m just so thrilled to be playing well,” he said.

“I just kept making putts and giving myself opportunities, and then you don’t feel like you have to hit it so close.

“It’s certainly the way you want to play golf. The greens are so pure and the hole just opened up.

“We had ideal scoring conditions. The wind laid down for us after the storm yesterday and the greens softened up a bit. Today it was calm this morning.”

(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, editing by Gene Cherry)

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