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 more."
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.