So how would you explain it? Balls trickling left down ridges,
when any physicist would turn purple telling you they've got to
go right. Putts diving into corners of holes when you know they
are supposed to slide six feet past on green Formica. A ball on
Saturday that had a one-way ticket for a double- bogey bunker at
number 8, smacking dead into the sand and then, for no reason at
all, bounding out.
``Another Harvey bounce,'' Julie Crenshaw would say to her
husband, Ben, that night. Ben would smile yes.
And what about the caddie? What are the odds on that? Ben
Crenshaw had come to Augusta for the Masters playing uglier than
a presidential threesome. Three missed cuts in his last four
starts. Hadn't broken 70 in two months. Sixty-ninth on the PGA
Tour in putting. Sixty-ninth? Ben Crenshaw? But then on the
Tuesday before the tournament, his longtime Augusta caddie, Carl
Jackson, a man who would need two woofer implants just to be
considered quiet, said out of the blue, ``Put the ball a little
bit back in your stance, Ben. And you got to turn your shoulders
After hitting four balls, Crenshaw was suddenly striping it
again. Four balls! ``I've never had a confidence transformation
like that in my life,'' said Crenshaw.
Good thing, too, because for the 1984 Masters champion, practice
was over. The next morning at 7:30 Crenshaw flew 950 miles to
attend the funeral of Harvey Penick, the tiny and frail former
head pro of Austin Country Club. In a downpour. Pure sentiment,
but Crenshaw is 99.4% sentiment. This is a guy who watches
Beauty and the Beast with his daughters and ends up crying
himself. His father, Charlie, is also like that. Charlie will
cry at a Thanksgiving toast or a decent Southwestern Bell ad. So
three days after the 90-year-old Penick, the man who first put a
golf club in Crenshaw's six-year- old hands and the only coach
he ever had, died on Sunday, April 2, Crenshaw and Tom Kite,
another of Penick's pupils from Austin, flew home and carried a
very light box and their own heavy hearts to the grave.
After the service Penick's son, Tinsley, took his father's old
wooden Gene Sarazen putter and saved it for Crenshaw. It was the
same putter that, on the last Sunday in March, Penick, lying in
a hospital bed in his bedroom at home, had commanded Crenshaw to
get from the garage. The man who wrote The Little Red Book
checked Crenshaw's grip the same way he had been checking it
since Ben was a child. Then he said, ``Just trust yourself.''
When Crenshaw flew back to Augusta on Wednesday night he was
tired and drained of tears and emotion and energy. But when he
teed off in the tournament the next morning, all heaven broke
loose. ``There was this calmness to him all week that I have
never seen before,'' said Julie.
Said Ben, ``It was kind of like I felt this hand on my shoulder,
guiding me along.''
Crenshaw has always been a ``feel'' player, not only because of
his hands but also because of his emotions. When things are
going badly, he bleeds--he kicked a trash can a few years ago
after a three-putt and may need surgery on that foot sometime
soon--and his game unravels. However, when things start going
well, Crenshaw lets his heart follow. The swing gets sweet, and
the best putting stroke in history starts pouring golf balls
into holes like little white rivers.
Moreover, every break went his way. Disaster never got within a
three-wood of him. He made only five bogeys and not one double
bogey. On Sunday, tied for the lead, he hit a terrible drive on
the par-5 2nd hole. The ball struck a tree and bounced into the
fairway, pretty as you please. ``Look, there's Harvey,'' Julie
said to a friend. Crenshaw birdied the hole.
What's weird is that this did not start out as Crenshaw's week
at all. The first two days of the tournament belonged to the
19-year-old dervish known as Tiger Woods, the U.S. Amateur champ
playing in his first Masters and only the fourth black American
to compete in the event. He changed the face of the tournament,
literally. This year you did not have to look for white caddie
overalls to find a black face. They were everywhere in Woods's
teeming galleries, and they were there to take a sip of golf
history, to see the baby steps of the first potentially great
black golfer on the most important golf course in America.
``My god, I had no idea how long he was,'' said none other than
Jack Nicklaus. In practice rounds Woods was 30 yards longer than
such short knockers as Greg (Shark) Norman and Fred (Boom-Boom)
Couples, who have been known to blast golf balls from here to
Peachtree Plaza. On Friday at the par- 5 13th, when his
three-wood tee ball got stuck behind a huge pine to the right of
the fairway, he cut a two-iron from 250 yards over Rae's Creek,
over the flag and into the back bunker. On the 500-yard par-5
15th, he hit either an eight- or a nine-iron for his second shot
in all four rounds. On the 405-yard uphill par-4 18th on Sunday,
he had a sand wedge to the hole.
Somebody asked Long John Daly who was longer now, him or this
150-pound rocket launcher. Daly said, ``I guess we'd probably be
about even.'' Wrong. Woods's average driving distance was 311.1
yards, the longest in the tournament and 14 yards more than
Too bad Woods was almost as long with his short irons as he was
with his driver. He flew more greens than Delta. If somebody
will just sneak into this kid's bag some night and uploft each
of his irons three degrees, he'll be scary good here. Still,
Woods's first two rounds at Augusta were respectable--matching
even-par 72s, nine shots behind the midway leader, Jay Haas. And
he earned honors as low amateur; indeed, he was the only one of
the five amateurs even to sniff the cut.
Through it all--all the hype, the huge crowds, the massive press
conferences--he chilled. He walked in the middle of the fairways
with his hands in his pockets and his head down, as though he
were on his way to Monday, nine o'clock, history. When he was
asked if he was awed or thrilled or struck dumb by Augusta
National, he shrugged and said, ``It's just another tournament
But, but, but what about Magnolia Lane? ``It was just a short
drive. I thought it would be longer,'' he said. But, but, but
what about staying in the Crow's Nest? ``I don't know. I came in
late, threw my bag down and went right to sleep.''
That had a few green jackets' jowls shaking, but how else could
he be? Why should he genuflect at the clubhouse door when so
many black golfers have been banned from walking through it? How
could he pretend to cherish a place that went out of its way to
keep Charlie Sifford out? Or have goose bumps in the company of
men who only last week inducted the second black member ever
into the club? In a town where his parents woke up on Friday
morning to find a window of their rental car shattered? He's
supposed to turn cartwheels on the veranda?
What no one knew was that at night Woods was sneaking around the
clubhouse, opening doors and wandering into the champions'
locker room. ``To tell you the truth,'' he finally said on
Sunday, ``I had the time of my life.''
Nicklaus has played in exactly 36 more Masters than Woods, but
this year's had to be his weirdest. He knocked two middle irons
into the same par-4 hole--the 5th--for two eagles, a feat never
accomplished by anybody else in Masters history or anywhere else
on earth, for that matter.
His first, a 180-yard five-iron, dived into the hole on the fly
on Thursday to help him to a 67, only one shot behind the
first-day leaders, Phil Mickelson, defending champ Jose Maria
Olazabal and David Frost. The second came on Saturday, when
Nicklaus ``missed'' a seven-iron, 12 feet right of where he had
aimed, and the ball proceeded to run into the cotton-picking
jar. For the week Nicklaus's shooting percentage from 540 feet
away into a hole not much bigger than a tuna tin was exactly
50%, or almost as good as Shaq's from the free throw line.
By Saturday night Nicklaus was out of it (he finished 35th), but
almost nothing else had been settled. The big scoreboard didn't
have enough room for all the names that should have been up
there. Davis Love III was at seven under, only three shots
behind the leaders, Crenshaw and Brian Henninger. Was there a
better story than Love's? The man who the previous week in New
Orleans had made the last possible putt in the last possible
tournament to win the last possible ticket to Augusta? The same
Love for whom Penick had clapped twice only hours before his
death, upon hearing that Love was making that ninth-inning,
two-out, two-strike effort? Love, too, had wanted to go to the
funeral, but a close friend told him that he should take the
time to prepare, to get a little rest, that that's what Mr.
Penick would have wanted. That friend was Crenshaw.
Would the winner be Henninger, a man so small and Webelo-faced
that once, at the Western Open, he drove up to valet parking in
his courtesy car, and Sue Price, Nick's wife, got in the front
seat, thinking her driver had arrived?
Or would the winner be one of five guys one shot back: Steve
Elkington, trying to take home a present for his two-week-old
daughter; 24-year-old Mickelson, looking to begin the run of
majors that everyone has predicted for him; Couples; Haas; or
even Scott Hoch, who was attempting to get back the unforgiving
two-footer he missed to lose the 1989 Masters? Wait a minute.
Curtis Strange was only two strokes behind, the Shark three. In
all, 23 players, representing nine green jackets, were crammed
into a seven-shot bunch.
On Sunday, however, Henninger's training wheels came off with
bogeys at 2 and 3. Elkington made a mess of things with bogeys
at 9 and 11. Mickelson's potential crashed and burned with a 73,
and Hoch faltered with the same score. Couples three-jacked 11
and 12 and never resurfaced. Haas dumped one into the water at
15 and bogeyed 16. All of which left three players in a
green-jacket raffle--the red-hot pairing of Love and Norman, and
Crenshaw, who was playing 45 minutes behind them. They were tied
at 12 under.
Then Crenshaw rolled in the prettiest little putt you ever saw
at 13 for a birdie and a one-shot lead. On the next hole he
punched a shut-faced eight- iron from under a tree that kicked
obediently off a mound and to within 12 feet of the hole, an
impossible, indescribable piece of luck and skill. In the
gallery Julie said to herself, Harvey bounce. At home in Austin,
81-year- old Charlie Crenshaw could feel himself starting to
well up. In the pro shop at Austin Country Club, Tinsley Penick,
Harvey's successor as head pro, watched on his 16-inch set.
Crenshaw missed his 12-footer at 14, but up ahead something odd
was happening to Norman and Love, who together had made 11
birdies and not a single bogey in 15 holes. Faced with an easy
tee shot at the par-3 16th, Love carried his seven-iron too far.
``Sometimes you wonder if things are meant to be,'' he would say
later. ``That shot went four or five yards farther than I should
be able to hit and stayed on top of that hill. No way it should
stay up there.'' He three-putted. On the par-4 17th hole Norman
had the easiest 106-yard sand wedge you could want, blew it 40
feet to the left of the hole and then three-putted. What in the
world was going on?
Norman was done (he would tie for third), but Love came back
with a birdie at 17 and a 66 that tied him with Crenshaw at 13
under. Then he had the pure joy of going to Jones Cabin to watch
history's finest putter have a go at maybe history's finest
``I just had this strong feeling the whole week,'' Crenshaw said
later. ``I never had a week like this, where I really enjoyed
playing golf the whole week.'' Just trust yourself.
Maybe Harvey Penick has learned to channel golf tips through
Augusta caddies, or maybe Crenshaw went out and won all by
himself. However it happened, Crenshaw birdied the next two
holes --the 16th from five feet and the 17th from 13--for a
two-stroke cushion. In the gallery Julie Crenshaw's makeup
started to run a little, and back in Austin, Charlie Crenshaw
soaked his sleeves with tears, and Tinsley Penick held a
celebration for two with only one person in the room.
When Crenshaw bogeyed the 18th for a 68 and a 14-under-par,
one-stroke victory, he bent over at the waist and held his face
in his hands and cried. Then he came out of the scoring tent and
held Julie's face in his hands, and they both cried. Then he
hugged his sobbing brother, Charlie, and everybody cried. All in
all, you would've loved to have had a piece of the Kleenex
``I believe in fate,'' said Crenshaw when it was all over. ``I
don't know how it happened. I don't.''
Love does. ``I just had this feeling all week that this was
going to happen,'' he said. ``Either way, one of Harvey's boys
was going to win.'' For his trouble, Love gets the discomfort of
knowing that his 13-under 275 was the lowest score not to win
Sunday night closed with the Crenshaws eating dinner in the
Augusta National clubhouse while the Gatlin Brothers serenaded
them from the porch. That was as good a way as any to end the
three most unforgettable consecutive Sundays in Ben Crenshaw's
life. A lesson. A death. A championship. It's funny how things
work out. A little man spends his whole life trying to teach you
his grip, and then you find out you have been in it all the