“Not winning a major for my first 11 years was difficult to accept given the number of good chances I had,” Crenshaw said in his autobiography. “But in the end, the tough losses made my victories at Augusta even sweeter.”
Crenshaw finally answered his critics in 1984 by capturing his favorite event, the Masters. Lurking two shots behind heading into the final round, Crenshaw put on a putting exhibition the likes of which was seldom seen. Walking up the 18th fairway en route to a 4-under 68, Crenshaw at last was triumphant on golf’s largest stage.
Eleven years later, he won his second Masters seven days after he learned that Penick had died. Crenshaw showed up at Augusta with a heavy heart and his game in disarray. Golf’s foremost putter entered the Masters ranked 69th in putting that season, but a swing tip from his caddie, Carl Jackson, and one last putting tip from his mentor rejuvenated his game. Two weeks before Penick died, Crenshaw visited him and the ailing pro gave his 43-year-old student one final lesson from his bed.
Crenshaw’s magical stroke returned. He mastered Augusta’s slippery surfaces, surviving the tournament without making a single three-putt. He authored a final-round 68 that included “a Harvey bounce” off the trees at the second and birdies at 16 and 17 to close one of the tournament’s most improbable victories.
It was a signature moment, with one more to come. Crenshaw was the captain of the U.S. team at the 1999 Ryder Cup at the Country Club in Brookline, Mass., and by Saturday, he looked every bit the loser. The U.S. was down 10-6 going into the Sunday singles matches. No team had ever overcome such a deficit.
But Crenshaw, emotional and defiant, a historian at heart, used every bit of his stubborn Texas upbringing and knowledge of the game to inspire his team. And when Justin Leonard clinched the win with his 45-foot prayer of a putt on the 17th hole, Crenshaw had left another unforgettable mark on the game he loves so dearly.