Emotional victory for Crenshaw

THE US MASTERS: Tears at 18th hole as American sees off challenge from Love and Norman to take Green Jacket for a second time
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The Independent Online
Ben Crenshaw, putting up overweight in emotional baggage, won the 59th Masters yesterday when he shot 68 in the final round to finish a stroke clear of Davis Love III and three ahead of Greg Norman and Jay Haas.

Crenshaw, a 43-year-old Texan, won the Masters in 1984 but, inevitably, he dedicated the new Green Jacket to his former coach and mentor Harvey Penick. The former University of Texas coach and the instructor at Austin Country Club, died last Sunday at the age of 90 and Crenshaw was a pallbearer at the funeral on Wednesday.

"Everything I've done was for Harvey," Crenshaw said. "I would probably have called him on Saturday night and he would have told me to trust my swing, trust my judgement and play hard and hope for the best.

"The added emotion hasn't been detrimental. I was just trying to apply what he taught me. I don't know how I got through the tournament. I really don't. This place charges me up like nothing else. That's obviously the best golf I've played for some time."

A week before his death, Penick gave Crenshaw a lesson. "He reminded me to take two practice strokes on the greens and not to let the head of the club pass the hands on the swing." An outstanding amateur, Crenshaw has always been regarded as an exceptional putter and yesterday he showed why.

Norman seems destined to be an also-ran here. Resuming at seven under, three strokes behind Crenshaw, he got to 12 under. Whereas in previous years the 18th hurt him, yesterday it was the 17th. After hitting his approach shot left of the green, he three-putted. He went eight feet past and missed the return for the only bogey of his round.

Cruelly, and crucially, Love, his playing partner, showed him how to play the hole. Love hit his approach shot to within three feet of the flag and rolled in the putt for a birdie three. Love went from 12 under par to 13 under; Norman went from 12 under to 11 under.

Love still had work to do on the 18th after hooking his drive miles to the left. The advantage of such a route, as unconventional and unintended as it was, is that it avoids any hazards. Love had only 120 yards to the green but he missed it on the left, his ball retreating from a bank.

Nevertheless, he was able to putt from there and he executed a well-judged shot which left him with a putt of three and a half feet to save par. Love did not miss and he signed for a score of 66. There was very little wrong with Norman's 68, but once again he was trumped.

As the shadows from the tall, elegant pine trees began to stretch across the course, Love could only wait and hope. In addition to Norman, the challengers faded one by one. Jay Haas had a chance but hit his second shot into the water at the 15th. He managed to save par but he was in desperate need of a birdie to force the issue.

Several others felt the heat. Curtis Strange, Fred Couples, Steve Elkington, Phil Mickelson, Scott Hoch and David Frost were all in a position to win but, Love apart, they could not make any significant progress.

The previous week, Love won the New Orleans Classic and that gave him the final place in the field of 87. The previous year Crenshaw won the same tournament but he arrived at Augusta National limping. His big right toe was giving him trouble and he had missed the halfway cut in New Orleans.

Crenshaw ensured that Love's labours would be lost when he picked up two birdies over the closing holes. He failed to birdie the 15th, where he pushed his approach shot to the right of the green, but the decisive blows were struck at the 16th and 17th.

Crenshaw's tee shot at the 16th pitched beyond the flag and spun back down the hill. It came to rest about five feet from the flag and he made no mistake with the putt. It was a magnificent time to get a two.

Thus Crenshaw went from 13 under to 14 under and he had another shot in his locker at the penultimate hole. He put his approach shot within 12 feet and curled in the putt for a birdie three. At 15 under, Crenshaw had given himself a little cushion and he used it. He was short of the green at the 18th but could afford to take a bogey five.

When he tapped in a short putt to complete a round of 68 he dropped his putter and almost joined it on the green. His cap tumbled to the floor and then he embraced his caddie. They were not crocodile tears.

"It was meant to be," Love said. "Harvey was a father figure to Ben and his best friend. We all knew how important this was to him." We didn't realise quite how important.

"I had a 15th club in my bag called Harvey Penick," Crenshaw said. He'd better not tell the rules officials otherwise they could disqualify him for exceeding the limit of 14 clubs.

Jose-Maria Olazabal, the defending champion, was again the leading European, but was only joint 14th. A closing 72 kept him at four under par.

Colin Montgomerie shot 69, but that followed a third-day 76 and he was only three under with Ian Woosnam, one in front of Nick Faldo and David Gilford.

Faldo set out believing he still had a chance at five off the lead, but he had a double-bogey at the first, going into sand off the tee and then hitting his third through the green. "It's been a long week - nothing happened to get me going," he said.

Woosnam told a similar story. "Nothing went right. I couldn't hole a sausage," he said. And Montgomerie was even more disappointed. "I've never felt more frustrated. I am shattered. I've never driven the ball better and I couldn't have hit my irons any better. But I can certainly putt better. That's where it's won and lost.

"It's a shame I've not performed to my ability. The 14th was the culmination - the end of the straw." He took four putts twice missing from a yard, but then made birdies at three of the last four holes to earn himself a return visit next April.

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