AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Farewell, Gentle Ben.
Welcome, Jordan Spieth.
Ben Crenshaw closed out his Masters career Friday with two rounds he would prefer to forget, but a lifetime of memories from his 44 appearances at Augusta National. While the two-time Masters winner from Texas was preparing to play his last rounds, Spieth — a fellow Lone Star state native — tried to soak up everything one of his mentors could tell him about the course.
Spieth is showing he’s a fast learner.
On the day of Crenshaw’s last round, Spieth set the Masters record with a 130 total through the first 36 holes. That might earn him his first green jacket in just his second tournament at Augusta National.
“It’s very special, and it’s really kind of a shame and sad for the tournament to be losing him, (but) legends have to go at some point,” Spieth said.
Crenshaw was quick to return the praise.
“Last year was his first time, and he played it like he’d been here forever,” Crenshaw said. “And I’m amazed at what he’s doing now. He’s so young, so he’s on a great streak obviously.”
As Crenshaw reached the 18th green, he was met and then wrapped up in a hug by Carl Jackson, his longtime Augusta caddie. The emotions almost overpowered both men.
“He said ‘I love you,'” Jackson recalled, “and I said, ‘I love you.'”
Jackson wasn’t in good enough health to carry Crenshaw’s bag for 36 holes, so he turned the duties over to his younger brother Bud, also a longtime Augusta National caddie. But Carl donned the white coveralls, with Crenshaw’s name on the back, for the occasion. They basked in the applause, even though Crenshaw’s score for the two rounds — a 32-over total of 176 — placed him last in the field.
“I apologized to him for my play,” Crenshaw said. “It was tremendous seeing Carl. It wouldn’t have been anywhere near the same without him.”
Defending Masters champion Bubba Watson, who finished his round a half-hour earlier, was among those who came out to watch Crenshaw close out his playing career. His wife, three daughters, and other family members were also there for the emotional scene.
But while Crenshaw’s career is ending, Spieth’s is just taking off.
The youngster, who doesn’t turn 22 until July, played the back nine Wednesday with the 63-year-old Crenshaw, absorbing as much knowledge as possible, especially concerning the tricky greens. That lesson paid almost immediate dividends.
In their practice round, Crenshaw warned Spieth how lightning-fast one area of that green could be. Spieth got a bit cocky and tried to show the man he calls “Mr. Crenshaw” that he could putt by rolling a few balls softly — and still knocked a couple about 6 feet past the cup.
So when he was on the 17th green Thursday, Spieth made sure to use a softer touch. He still knocked the putt past the hole, but only a very make distance of 2 feet.
“It’s been very helpful,” Spieth said, even if he was reluctant to go into much detail.
“I’d rather not share that,” he said.
Crenshaw certainly knows the course and the greens intimately, as his wins in 1984 and 1995 proved. Drawing on their shared Texas legacy, Crenshaw compared Spieth to lawman Wyatt Earp because of his direct approach.
“He’s a wonderful kid, way mature beyond his years,” Crenshaw said. But he also cautioned about looking too far ahead; Spieth led heading into the final round here last year, but made three bogeys on the front nine and finished runner-up to Bubba Watson.
“There’s a lot of players in here,” Crenshaw said. “This is far from over.”
For Spieth, Crenshaw and the Masters will be connected forever.
“You think of Ben Crenshaw, you think of Augusta National and the Masters and his victories that were, what, 11 years apart … and the emotional last one, after Harvey Penick’s death,” Spieth said. “Everybody in Texas growing up knows that story. And for this to be kind of the end for him, it’s tough. It’s tough.”
But he expects to see Crenshaw at Augusta National again sometime soon:
“He joked that he’ll be sitting with a beer and a sandwich in the crowd on 15 or something.”
AP National Writer Paul Newberry contributed to this report.
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