Ben Crenshaw will compete in his 44th and final Masters this year. Since his 1972 debut, he’s experienced every emotion and result a tournament can wring. Here’s a retrospective on Gentle Ben’s most memorable Masters moments.
2013. Gentle Ben’s 80-84 was hardly his finest hour at Augusta. Yet, he served as an astounded and comforting elder statesman as playing partner for 14-year-old Guan Tianlang of China, the youngest competitor in Masters history. Guan became the youngest ever to make a cut at a major, even after being slapped with a disheartening one-stroke slow-play penalty on the 17th hole in the second round.
1972. The 1971 NCAA individual champion and fresh off a fifth-place finish that year in the U.S. Amateur, 20-year-old Ben Crenshaw earned a Masters invitation. With rounds of 73-74-74-74, Crenshaw tied for 19th and earned the gold and silver hardware awarded for Low Amateur. In besting legends such as Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer and Lee Trevino, Crenshaw showed he could compete at the highest level.
1973. Only twice in Masters history had a player defended his Low Amateur honors before Ben Crenshaw achieved this distinction in 1973. Charlie Yates did it in 1939-40 and Charlie Coe accomplished the feat in 1961-62. Crenshaw posted a 295 total to tie for 24th. In doing so, he earned his first pair of crystal goblets for making eagle at the par-5 8th during the second round.
1977. It wasn’t Ben Crenshaw’s finest finish, but 1977 marked the first time he had a chance to win. A second-round 69 was highlighted by an eagle at the par-5 second and another 69 tied him for first with Tom Watson at 7-under-par heading into the final day. A closing 76 doomed his chances, but there would be more opportunities to come.
1976. Crenshaw’s score of 279 would have won him 42 other Masters. Unfortunately, he ran into buzz saw Raymond Floyd, who won the event with 17-under-par 271, tying the all-time 72-hole scoring record. Ben did finish solo second, three shots ahead of anyone else, with a final-round 67, earning him a crystal vase for the day’s lowest score.
1987. Fresh off a win at the Par-3 contest and eager to break the jinx of no one winning both titles in the same year, Crenshaw ripped a Saturday 67 to tie Roger Maltbie for the lead going into the final round. Four straight birdies, beginning at the 12th, paved the way. On Sunday, both men shot 74 and missed the Mize/Norman/Ballesteros playoff by one.
1988. Following the best round of the day, a third-round 67 which earned him a crystal vase, Crenshaw stood two shots back of leader Sandy Lyle, tied for second with Mark Calcavecchia. Three birdies in the final five holes propelled Gentle Ben. Crenshaw’s magic ran out on Sunday. He pulled within two of Calcavecchia’s lead with three holes to go, but that was it. A 72 left him T4, three back of Lyle.
1989. At 3-under-par 213, Crenshaw led by one after the third round. However, he actually led by three when rain stopped play on Saturday. He stood tied for the lead at the soggy 72nd hole. Unfortunately, he had run out of dry towels and you could see his glove hand slip on his 5-iron from 172 yards. Bunkered, he wedged to 12 feet — and missed. He tied Greg Norman for third, one shot from the Faldo-Hoch playoff.
1995. “I had a 15th club in the bag this week,” Crenshaw said. “It was Harvey Penick.” Ben’s lifelong teacher had passed away on the Sunday before the Masters, and Crenshaw flew to Texas on Wednesday to serve as a pallbearer. Emerging from a slump, he took caddie Carl Jackson’s advice and moved the ball back in his stance. He made just five bogeys all week — with no three-putts — and won by a single shot.
1984. Everyone’s favorite golf history buff had rung up nine wins in his first ten years on the PGA Tour, but he hadn’t cashed in at a desperately craved major. In the final round, after sinking a monstrous 60-foot putt from the front of the 10th green that broke at least six feet, Sentimental Ben thrust his arms skyward. A final birdie at 15 led to a two-shot win over Tom Watson.