Crenshaw's triumph of the heart

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Tim Glover on how fate defied form and settled the Masters

Harvey Penick had been Ben Crenshaw's coach for 37 years and it seemed inevitable that the Texan would take a sentimental journey in the 59th Masters. "I believe in fate," Crenshaw said, proudly displaying his Green Jacket on Sunday evening. "Fate dictated another championship."

From the age of six Crenshaw had come under the guidance of Penick at the Austin Country Club and the University of Texas. Penick died, aged 90, a week ago and last Wednesday Crenshaw left Augusta National to serve as a pall-bearer at the funeral. "I had a 15th club in my bag. It was Harvey Penick," he said.

When Crenshaw arrived in Georgia he was complaining of a toe injury and had just missed the half-way cut in New Orleans. "I don't know where I got some confidence from just a few practice days," Crenshaw said. "I don't know how it happened. When you're 43 you don't know how many chances you're going to get."

Crenshaw, who won the Masters in 1984, certainly played some inspired golf, perhaps the best of his career, and he won in style on Sunday. His aggregate of 274 was the third lowest in the history of the tournament, three shots off the record shared by Jack Nicklaus and Ray Floyd. He is also the oldest winner since Nicklaus, who was 46 when he won in another emotional affair in 1986.

Crenshaw began the final round as joint leader at 10 under par and he finished at 14 under, a stroke in front of Davis Love III and three in front of Greg Norman and Jay Haas. Love, the last man to qualify for the Masters after winning in New Orleans, was the leader in the clubhouse following a 66 that contained seven birdies. Crenshaw responded with a birdie at the 16th where he hit a peach of a tee shot to within about six feet of the flag and another at 17 where he rolled in a curling 12- footer.

"It was just meant to be that Ben would play well," Love said. "He felt that. Ben was driven. All I could do was watch him putt and I just knew he was going to make them." Crenshaw, who has always been acknowledged as an outstanding putter, did not three-putt a green in the entire tournament. "I played the 17th like a dream," Crenshaw said. "It was the prettiest putt I think I've ever hit."

Love had also birdied the 17th but it was at the penultimate hole that Norman, once again, came up short in every sense. He played a wretched approach shot, missing the green on the left, took five and was resigned to taking a place in the shadows. "Maybe there was something in the wind," Norman said. "Maybe Harvey's up there saying, `Hey Ben, I'm going to help you do this'. You've got to admire what Ben did. It takes a lot of nerve."

Penick - his Little Red Book on golf tips became a best seller - gave Crenshaw a putting lesson two weeks ago. A favourite piece of advice was: "Take dead aim." "It means much more than how to hit a golf shot," Crenshaw said. "It means to trust yourself and not think of anything that is going on in the world at that particular moment but letting your muscles and instinct take over. Whatever I have accomplished I owe to Harvey. When I was six he cut down a mashie, put my hands on the club and my grip hasn't changed since then. Whenever anybody went to see him for a lesson they got a large dose of golf and a larger dose of love."

By now you have probably got the impression that the 59th Masters was scripted by Mills and Boon. Indeed, Love was all around. Davis Love III pointed out that his father, the late Davis Jnr, was coached by Penick in college. Love III, from Sea Island in Georgia, had a miserable record in the majors. His highest finish had been 25th in the Masters in 1992. "Davis is fabulous," Crenshaw said. "He's going to win many coats here. He's so loaded with talent." Crenshaw won $396,000 (£247,500) - he and Love have almost certainly earned places in the United States Ryder Cup team for the match against Europe in Rochester, New York, in September - and a small percentage of the purse will go to Carl Jackson. Harvey Penick may have been Crenshaw's 15th club but it was Jackson who had to carry the bag.

Whenever Crenshaw plays at Augusta National he teams up with Jackson, who has 33 years of Masters experience. A native Augustan, Jackson, who caddied in his first Masters in 1962, was a former butler to Jack Stephens, the club chairman. Jackson's knowledge of the greens was invaluable to Crenshaw and the caddie was consulted on almost every putt.

Jackson also came up with a catchphrase: "Reach deeper". It was mentioned several times on Sunday and by the time they reached the 18th green the tank was nearly empty. Crenshaw had to take dead aim for the final time to coax in a two-foot putt and when the ball dropped, so did he. Jackson walked over to lend a helping hand. "Everything's all right Ben," he told him.

Crenshaw received the Green Jacket from Jose-Maria Olazabal, who finished as the leading European, joint 14th at four under par, 10 strokes behind the winner. Ian Woosnam and Colin Montgomerie were at three under and Nick Faldo and David Gilford two under. Gilford, who won $18,260 (£11,410), was the third most accurate driver in the tournament but the most revealing statistic was in driving distance. Tiger Woods, the 19-year-old amateur, averaged 311 yards and was the longest hitter in the championship. "It is here that I left my youth behind and became a man," Woods said. "It was fantasy land and Disney World wrapped into one." Crenshaw would say amen to that.

US MASTERS (Augusta National) Final scores (US unless stated): 274 B Crenshaw 70 67 69 68 (£245,657). 275 D Love 69 69 71 66 (£147,394). 277 G Norman (Aus) 73 68 68 68; J Haas 71 64 72 70 (£79,155 each). 279 D Frost (SA) 66 71 71 71; S Elkington (Aus) 73 67 67 72. 280 P Mickelson 66 71 70 73; S Hoch 69 67 71 73. 281 C Strange 72 71 65 73. 282 F Couples 71 69 67 75; B Henninger 70 68 68 76. 283 K Perry 73 70 71 69; L Janzen 69 69 74 71. 284 J-M Olazabal (Sp) 66 74 72 72; T Watson 73 70 69 72; H Irwin 69 72 71 72. 285 C Montgomerie (GB) 71 69 76 69; P Azinger 70 72 73 70; B Faxon 76 69 69 71; I Woosnam (GB) 69 72 71 73; R Floyd 71 70 70 74; C Pavin 67 71 72 75; J Huston 70 66 72 77. 286 D Gilford (GB) 67 73 75 71; D Edwards 69 73 73 71; L Roberts 72 69 72 73; N Faldo (GB) 70 70 71 75; D Waldorf 74 69 67 76. 287 B Estes 73 70 76 68; M Ozaki (Japan) 70 74 70 73. 288 B Lietzke 72 71 71 74; P Jacobsen 72 73 69 74; B Langer (Ger) 71 69 73 75; M O'Meara 68 72 71 77. 290 D Forsman 71 74 74 71; W Grady (Aus) 69 73 74 74; J Nicklaus 67 78 70 75; C Beck 68 76 69 77; M McCumber 73 69 69 79. 292 T Lehman 71 72 74 75. 293 M Calcavecchia 70 72 78 73; *T Woods 72 72 77 72; J Sluman 73 72 71 77; P Stewart 71 72 72 78. 296 S Ballesteros (Sp) 75 68 78 75; J Daly 75 69 71 81. 297 R Fehr 76 69 69 83.

* denotes amateur

Comments