The day Crenshaw finally cracked it

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One of the oldest adages about the Masters goes that the tournament doesn’t really begin until the back nine on Sunday.
Posted on
April 1, 2024
by
Robert Green in ,
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Forty years ago I attended the Masters for the first time. OK, enough about me (for now). The story of the 1984 Masters was mostly about Ben Crenshaw.

A hugely keen student of the game, the very prospect of the then 32-year-old Texan going throughout his career without winning a major championship seemed positively preposterous. But after enjoying an illustrious record as an amateur, the fact was that after 11 years as a professional he hadn’t yet won one. Heading to Augusta National in April 1984, he had five times been runner-up in a major, including to Seve Ballesteros in the previous year’s Masters and after a sudden-death playoff to David Graham at the 1979 USPGA Championship. This time was to be his time.

One of the oldest adages about the Masters goes that the tournament doesn’t really begin until the back nine on Sunday. That was probably true of this one. The most memorable shot of the 277 Crenshaw used that week occurred on the 10th green of the final round. His 4-iron approach shot had left him a treacherous 60 feet below the hole. There was a break of about eight feet from right to left. It was a truly daunting putt, even for a man as customarily assured with the small stick as Crenshaw was. He estimated later that his chances of making it were about 1000-1. Well, this was the thousandth time. That gave him a two-shot lead, which eight holes later would be his margin of victory.

Playing with Crenshaw that Sunday was Nick Faldo. While ‘Gentle Ben’ was compiling his 68, the Englishman was struggling to a 76. But he learned a salutary lesson that afternoon – he realised he did not have the game, did not possess a swing, that would stand up to the pressure of trying to win a major championship. He duly went off to seek assistance from one of the game’s leading teachers, David Leadbetter. A little over three years later, he won his first major, the Open Championship at Muirfield. In total, Faldo won the Open and the Masters three times each, his last triumph at Augusta coming in 1996, the year after Crenshaw won there for his second and final time.

This year, of course, the initial Masters focus of attention from a British perspective will be on Rory McIlroy. Unlike Crenshaw four decades ago, he is not waiting on winning his first major. That came at the US Open 13 years ago, two months after a closing round of 80 had blown his chances of winning at Augusta. He hasn’t won a major since claiming his fourth in 2014. One decade on from that, can he at last complete his personal Grand Slam? We shall find out soon enough – although the current world No. 1 may have something to say about that. The 2022 Masters champion, Scottie Scheffler, has made eight starts on the PGA Tour this season. His finishes read 5-17-6-3-10-1-1-2. Hot or what?

As for me at Augusta in 1984, I got lucky - in the golf writers’ ballot I was given the opportunity to play the course the next day. And, no, I did not make a 60-footer at the 10th.

You can follow Robert Green on Twitter @robrtgreen and enjoy his other blog f-factors.com

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About Robert Green

Robert Green is a former editor of Golf World and Golf International magazines and the author of four books on golf, including Seve: Golf’s Flawed Genius. He has played golf on more than 450 courses around the world, occasionally acceptably.

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