AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Ben Crenshaw carried it around with him all week. It wasn't his not-so-secret wish to win the Masters for Harvey Penick, his longtime teacher and confidant who died last Sunday night at age 90.
It was his secret weapon.
Moments after Crenshaw tapped in his final putt last night at Augusta National to win the 1995 Masters, moments after he collapsed in tears as he plucked out the ball and fell into the arms of caddie Carl Jackson, Crenshaw let the secret weapon out of his bag.
"I carried a 15th club around with me in my bag all week and it was Harvey," an emotional Crenshaw said as he walked with his wife, Julie, from the 18th green to the clubhouse.
He was choking on nearly every word, the swirl of a week filled with emotions swimming in his head. From the practice rounds trying to get his game back together to serving as one of the pallbearers at Penick's funeral Wednesday in Austin, Texas, to playing four rounds with only three bogeys.
The last came on the final hole yesterday, and proved meaningless. It was a moot putt, because the birdies Crenshaw had made on the previous two holes would give him a two-shot cushion going into 18. It only meant that Crenshaw's margin of victory was one shot over Davis Love III and three over Greg Norman and Jay Haas.
With a 4-under-par 68, Crenshaw's four-round total of 14-under 274 was the third-best score ever recorded here, behind only the 271s put up by Jack Nicklaus in 1965 and Ray Floyd in 1976. It gave one of the most popular players in PGA Tour history his second major championship and his second green jacket 11 years after winning his first.
"I believe in fate," said Crenshaw, at 43 the second-oldest winner in Masters history behind Nicklaus, who was 46 when he won in 1986, as well as only the second American to win here in the past eight years. "Fate has decided another championship here as it has so many times. I don't know why. I gained so much confidence in a few practice rounds. I never had such a transformation. I played my heart out. I don't know how it happened."
Crenshaw, who has struggled this year and came in having missed the cut at three of his last four tournaments, credited his longtime Masters caddie with making a few suggestions on the practice tee Tuesday. Crenshaw said that Jackson, who has carried his bag here since 1976, told him to move back in his stance and turn more with his shoulders than with his body.
"It took four shots, but I started getting crisper contact with the ball," Crenshaw said last night. "My timing came back."
But Crenshaw believed it was more than just mechanics that allowed him to win. It was almost some sort of heavenly intervention, as if the gentle man who gave Crenshaw his first lesson at Austin Country Club when he was barely 7 years old and became his lifelong friend was helping him one last time.
"It was like someone put their hand on my shoulder and guided me through," said Crenshaw, still having trouble controlling his emotions more than an hour after the round ended.
Even Love, whose late father was a close friend of Penick's, said, "Maybe it's something written in the wind. Maybe Harvey's up there saying, 'I'll help you through.' There couldn't be a better end to Harvey Penick's life, having Ben winning the Masters. He's been working hard to get back to where he thought he should be."
The victory -- No. 20 for Crenshaw in a 23-year career -- did not come easily. Starting out the day at 10-under and tied for the lead with Masters rookie Brian Henninger, Crenshaw found himself in a day-long struggle against his emotions, the course and those in pursuit. While Henninger dropped out quickly, with bogeys on two of the first three holes, others stayed close to, even with, and for a brief moment, ahead of Crenshaw.
At one point early in the round, Crenshaw was still at 10-under and no fewer than seven other players were one shot behind. On three occasions, there were three players tied for the lead. But a seeming cast of thousands -- 21 players had started the day within six shots of the lead -- eventually became four, then three and finally just two.
Left-handed phenom Phil Mickelson was gone after a double-bogey at No. 6 and a bogey at 7. Former Masters champion Fred Couples, 10-under at the turn, three-putted twice on the next three holes. Veteran Jay Haas fell in and out of the hunt before a bogey at 16 did him in. Norman went out with a bogey at 17.
Love, who took the lead briefly with five birdies on the first 13 holes, opened the door when he three-putted the treacherous par-3 16th from 35 feet. Love joined Crenshaw at 13-under with a birdie at 17, but Crenshaw closed the door with those two birdies. "I'll never forget 16 and 17 as long as I live," Crenshaw said later.
The putt on 16 was an 8-footer that came after Crenshaw had blown a chance at the easy par-5 15th, which both Love and Norman had nearly eagled and easily birdied. It came after Crenshaw put his approach in a perfect place, about 40 feet above the hole, a place where the green funnels toward the cup. But it was the putt on the par-4 17th, from 14 feet away, that won Crenshaw the Masters.
As the ball dropped and the roars reverberated around Augusta National, Crenshaw bent down and seemed to say something to the ball. Or the hole. "One of the prettiest putts I've ever hit," said the player many consider among the best putters in history. "I said something to the ball, all right. I said, 'Stay in that hole.' "
Crenshaw added a touch of intrigue on the final hole. After putting his drive in perfect position, Crenshaw's approach to the yard uphill par-4 was short and his chip wasn't much better, stopping 10 feet above the hole. He missed the putt coming back, took a couple of deep breaths and knocked in a 2-footer.
As the ball disappeared, Crenshaw bent over, dropped his putter and covered his eyes with his trembling hands. He couldn't hide the tears that streamed down his cheeks or the shoulders that heaved toward the heavens. He could hold it back no longer. "I had said to myself, if you get through that putt, you can go ahead and cry," Crenshaw said later. "I don't know how I made it. I did make it through and I did cry."
It wasn't just the emotions from this week that Crenshaw felt, but from the past decade when he saw his career, and life, go through upheaval. There was his much-publicized divorce, a bout with a thyroid condition and a game that he admitted last night "went up and down like a yo-yo."
Many, including Crenshaw at times, believed that his victory here in 1984 would be the defining moment of a career that never seemed to reach its potential. Instead, it might have resuscitated it, giving him a 10-year exemption that will carry into his life on the Senior Tour.
"I can't tell right now [how it compares with 1984]," Crenshaw said. "I think the best thing about it is that you don't know how many chances you're going to have to get another one. You want to pick it off when you can."
Crenshaw had done just that. With a little help from a friend.
The winner . . .
B. Crenshaw 70-67-69-68--274
. . . and followers
D. Love III 69-69-71-66--275
G. Norman 73-68-68-68--277
J. Haas 71-64-72-70--277
D. Frost 66-71-71-71--279
S. Elkington 73-67-67-72--279
P. Mickelson 66-71-70-73--280
S. Hoch 69-67-71-73--280