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Memories: 1995

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Crenshaw Controls Emotions, Masters Augusta

By Leonard Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 10, 1995

AUGUSTA, GA., APRIL 9 -- Rarely has the Masters come down to a more appropriate ending. Two men whose entire lives have been so touched by the old master teacher, the late Harvey Penick, were the last with a chance to win. And when Ben Crenshaw holed out a 12-foot putt for birdie at the 17th hole for a two-shot lead over fellow disciple Davis Love III, it was left to Greg Norman, watching that stroke of genius in the press room, to explain it best.

"Maybe it was written in the wind," said Norman, who tied for third, "and Harvey was up there saying Ben, I'm going to help you with this one, too.' "

Penick, who died last Sunday at age 90, put a golf club in Crenshaw's hands when he was just a boy of 7. Today, at age 43, Crenshaw held his emotions in check until he drained a last 18-inch putt for a bogey at the 18th green that provided a one-shot margin over Love, who had finished almost 45 minutes earlier. Love was a second-generation Penick devotee by way of his own late father, who adored the man and "patterned his life after him."

When that putt hit the bottom of the cup, Crenshaw sank down along with it, his head buried in his chest and his body finally releasing the emotion he'd held inside all week. "I let it all go," he said after shooting a final round 67 for 274, finishing 14 under par and winning $396,000. "I couldn't hold on any longer."

"I had a 15th club in my bag this week," Crenshaw said later. "That was Harvey Penick."

The most important club for Crenshaw was a putter that has always been a magic wand in his soft, sensitive hands. There was that three-foot putt for birdie at the 170-yard 16th after a brilliant 6-iron off the tee, the perfect shot at the right time. The birdie separated him at 14 under par from Love, who shot a magnificent 66 to finish the day at 13 under, good for second place and his highest finish in a major.

Jay Haas tied Norman for third at 277, with David Frost and Steve Elkington finishing in a tie for fifth. But no one could beat Crenshaw on this glorious spring day, in this place known as the cathedral of golf, where high drama is always played out on the back nine on Sunday.

There was one more magnificent putt for Crenshaw at the 400-yard 17th, a 15-footer that broke left to right and went straight to the center of the hole, pushing him to 15 under and a two-stroke lead.

At the 18th, after his 4-wood off the tee split the middle of the fairway, Crenshaw's second shot came up short. He said with all the emotion welling up, he merely lost concentration. His chip to the green was about eight feet above the hole, leaving a nasty par putt that easily could have picked up speed and left Crenshaw with a nightmare of a result.

But the man with the soft touch got it to stop 18 inches from the hole, and there was never any question about the ball's destination on the next stroke.

"I'll never know how I got through this," Crenshaw said later, when the tears had dried and he was able to compose himself before donning the second green jacket of his career. The first came in 1984 in the tournament Crenshaw, a man with an abiding sense of golf history, cherishes more than any other.

Crenshaw left these grounds on Wednesday with Tom Kite, another Penick protege, to attend the funeral in Austin and serve as a pallbearer. When he returned, he had no reason to expect success. He'd been playing poorly, with a chronically sore toe that will need postseason surgery, and he had missed the cut in three of his four previous tournaments, including the past two.

Going into today's final round, he shared a one-shot lead with his playing partner, Masters rookie Brian Henninger. Sixteen players, including many of the game's luminaries, were within five shots.

By the time Crenshaw made the turn, Henninger had crashed off the leader board and Jay Haas, Fred Couples, Norman and Love were all within two shots of the lead. Couples, the '92 champion who nearly had a double eagle at the 535-yard 8th hole, self-destructed by three-putting from 20 feet for bogey at the 11th hole, then missing a three-footer to make another bogey at No. 12.

Haas fell by the wayside when he bogeyed No. 11 with a missed three-footer on Augusta National's slick and treacherous greens. He got it back with a birdie at No. 14, but when his second shot at the 500-yard 15th rolled back down the slope and into the water guarding the green, he had to settle for a par on an easy birdie hole, and couldn't recover.

Meanwhile, Love and Norman were waging their own lovely little skirmish almost four holes in front of Crenshaw. They'd both started three strokes behind, they both climbed quickly into contention on the front nine and they both had more than ample chances to take home a first green jacket.

Norman has been so close here so many times before, most notably as the victim of Larry Mize's playoff chip-in on the 11th hole to win the 1987 title. Norman also will look back at numerous missed opportunities today, particularly a missed 15-foot eagle putt at the 15th, and a horridly off-line sand wedge that forced a three-putt at the 17th hole and a bogey that eliminated him once and for all.

Love was also a jumble of emotions this week. In fact, on Monday, Crenshaw had persuaded him not to go back to Austin for the funeral. Love had qualified for the Masters the day before by winning in New Orleans and was torn between a trip to Texas or staying to prepare for the Masters. Crenshaw told him to stay.

So it was that Love also stayed near the lead in the early rounds before pushing up the scoreboard on the front nine today. He, too, could look back in some anger at a missed five-foot par putt at the 16th hole. He came back with a brilliant wedge from the 17th fairway to a foot and a virtual tap-in birdie.

At the 18th Love unleashed a gargantuan drive way left that almost landed in the ninth fairway. He had 120 yards to the pin, but left the wedge to the green just short. But his putt from the bottom of a hill got up to within two feet of the hole, and his par putt left him at 13 under after 72 holes.

But Crenshaw excelled down the stretch. Maybe it was that extra club in his bag, perhaps it was ordained, or perhaps it was merely a master of a player finding his touch and his tempo at a place that needs all of that and more from anyone who hopes to prevail here.

"If I'd been beaten by any other player, I'd be more disappointed," Love said. "It was just meant to be that Ben would play well today. I'm happy for him."

© 1995 The Washington Post Company

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