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Crane has front-row seat to Walker's Pro-Am win


HOUSTON -- Astros owner Jim Crane nearly had a front-row seat to golf's biggest collapse of the year. Instead, he saw PGA pro Jimmy Walker sink a putt on the 18th hole to win the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in California.

Crane, an avid golfer and owner of the Floridian Golf Club in southeast Florida, played alongside Walker, who drained a 5-foot par putt on the 18th at Pebble Beach for a 2-over 74 on Sunday to win his third tournament in eight tries.

Walker, who's from Texas, had a six-shot lead starting the final round, only to see it dwindle to one entering 18. He needed to par the final hole and got it done with Crane standing only feet away on the green wearing a blue Astros cap.

"Jimmy played great all week," Crane said Monday. "He had little trouble getting it in, but he made that last putt. Those guys are under a lot of pressure. I was walking with him the whole time. It was a lot of fun to watch. I'm glad he got it done.

"He had a great week and is a great player. He's already won three times. It's a once-in-a-lifetime deal, and I've been having some once-in-a-lifetime golf events the last couple of years, with the president and now this. It was a lot of fun.

Crane played a round with President Obama and Tiger Woods at the Floridian last February, only weeks after he hosted a benefit tournament in which he played nine holes with Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Crane teamed with PGA professional Kevin Streelman to finish tied for third place last year at Pebble Beach.

Crane and Walker, who were introduced through famed golf coach Butch Harmon, weren't in contention this year, but watching Walker win was just as satisfying.

"I was just hitting my shots and trying to get out of the way," Crane said. "Really after the first nine, we didn't have a chance to win [the Pro-Am], so I was trying to stay out of his way and encourage him to keep his rhythm and keep his pace and keep him loose. As we were walking down the fairway, we were talking a lot, and I tried to tell him to stay in his routine.

"He's a very impressive guy. His swing is really solid. I think he'll win a lot more."

Crane was named the best CEO golfer in the country by Golf Digest in 2006. He's won multiple club championships and has a house on Pebble Beach, overlooking the golf course.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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