Buddy Martin April 12, 2015
Masters blends generations, celebrates its past champions, but always
provides a stage for its future stars. And on the grandest stage in
golf, a young Texan looked like the grandest star of all.
Masters is old and it is new. Bob Jones, meet Arnold Palmer and Jack
Nicklaus. Arnold and Jack, meet Ben Crenshaw. And Ben Crenshaw, meet
Jordan Spieth. The Masters blends generations, celebrates its past
champions, but always provides a stage for its future stars. And on
the grandest stage in golf, a young Texan looked like the grandest
star of all.
Today the Masters feels new, even at age 79 --
brand new, with sparkling 21-year old cover boy champion Jordan
Spieth. He is about to take the throne of golf vacated by Tiger Woods
and inspire a whole generation of fans to follow a game which,
frankly, has begun to slip into the anonymity section of sports
pages. And none too soon for a sport with flagging
Spieth is the freshest face to come along in
sports since, well, Tiger. His movie star good looks, hyper-focused
game, courteous nature and joy with which he plays the game have
hastened his popularity with the social media crowd. And even though
he dropped out of Texas after his freshman year, having helped the
Longhorns win the NCAA title, he is still a very big star with the
Spieth left college early. Now it looks like he's going to make
enough to buy one.
family keeps him grounded. Jordan's 14-year-old sister Ellie was born
with a neurological disorder that places her on the autism spectrum.
His mom thinks her special needs daughter has helped shape the
character of her brother.
He is handsome, humble, gentle, kind
and caring. How many other Masters winners played cards with their
81-year-old grandfather while leading the tournament?
onto hallowed ground of Augusta National last year by fellow Texan
and two-time winner Crenshaw, Spieth and his caddie had the advantage
of downloading all the information from Ben and his caddie Carl
Jackson. With all that in hand, plus a commitment that he would gain
retribution for blowing a chance to win the 2014 Masters, he set foot
on that ground again with total resolve.
As a one-man wrecking
crew of Masters records, he quickly shot up to No. 2 in the World
Rankings, just behind Rory McIlroy, who turns 26 next month and came
to Augusta looking for his fourth major that would have given him a
career slam. Instead, he got slammed by his newest rival.
wanted their superstar, and they got one very soon, at only
21-years-old,” said Englishman Nick Faldo of CBS, himself a
three-time Masters champion.
“The first time I met him and
looked into his eyes, I thought I was seeing Wyatt Earp,” Crenshaw
said. With those coldblooded eyes, Spieth stared down the barrel of
his clubs Sunday and shot the eyes out of Augusta National, becoming
just the fifth player in history to go wire-to-wire in winning.
never laid up, not even with a comfortable lead. Instead he kept
firing at the pins, including the ones at the treacherous 13th and
"Nerves of Titanium!" exclaimed David
Feherty of CBS.
Onions. Whole bag of 'em.
may have won by just four shots, but it felt like he lapped the
field, because at 18-under it tied Tigers’ all-time Masters
There were so many crucial moments in his final round,
and he answered the bell on all of them. His bold second shot at No.
13 was fearless, and accurate. He could have laid up at No. 15 and
taken bogey out of the equation, perhaps clinching a win, but stayed
true to his promise never to take his foot off the gas. At 16 he
might have brought somebody back within striking distance with a
bogey, but scrambled back with a 10-foot putt for par which he calls
“maybe the most important putt of my career.”
virtually flawless, except for one minor hiccup. Closing with a
2-under 70, Spieth missed a 5-foot par putt on the final hole that
would have broken Tiger Woods' record of 18-under 270 for the
so Spieth is running up the score. Love it.
now he is officially in the Green Jacket club and will dress in the
The Masters hangs on to its heroes. Men in
green jackets, golf royalty, accorded heavy reverence as such. Like a
pantheon of golf gods, they meander through the dogwoods and azaleas
to the serenading cheers of admirers, even long past their prime.
Finally, there is that nostalgic trail of tears up the 18th fairway.
And then they live in the legacy of their grand achievement as
perpetual icons. All of them bleed green.
They never really
leave Augusta. They come back for ceremonial teeoffs. They gather for
the annual brotherhood supper, the Dinner of Champions. They laugh
and imbibe and feast on Southern cuisine from a menu chosen by the
reigning champion. (Looks like in 2106 they’ll be serving Texas
And though they do hang up their spikes eventually,
they live in the hearts of Masters loyalty for an eternity, even if
only as whispers among the hollows and the swales of 2004 Washington
Road, Augusta, GA 30904.
We saw another dramatic exit from
competitive Masters play Friday when Ben Crenshaw tapped in his last
shot, then hugged a tall black man in a white Masters caddie suit,
almost like when he’d done the same thing in real time 20 years
I must confess I teared up Friday as I watched the
gracious Crenshaw leaving stage left, all the while throwing bouquets
of thank yous to his friends, family, fans and fellow players. It was
déjà vu, seeing Crenshaw bury his head in the solace of Carl
Jackson’s shoulder, much as he did in 1995 when he burst into tears
after winning as a final footnote to an emotional week following the
funeral of his teacher/mentor Harvey Penick.
I did not always
see eye-to-eye with Ben. He once charged into the pressroom in New
York, newspaper in hand, to confront me over the column I had written
about the less-than-stellar field for the Westchester Classic. None
of the superstars were in the field.
“Ben Crenshaw is a good
player,” I wrote – and please note this was before he’d won a
Masters – “but he is no Jack Nicklaus.”
Red-faced and so
vocal that veins on his neck were visible, Crenshaw demanded to know
my reasoning and my sources for the column, but I declined to offer
it. Finally, having sufficiently reamed out this miscreant columnist,
Crenshaw blurted out: “WELL! I may not be Jack Nicklaus! But you’re
sure as hell are no Herbert Warren Wind!”
Wind, of course, being the New Yorker essayist, author and sometimes
Sports Illustrated contributor who had actually nicknamed “Amen
Corner” at Augusta National.
Crenshaw, the consummate
historian of golf and great admirer of golfing literature, nailed
that one like a pure 3-iron shot off a plush green Augusta
Years later when we became better acquaintances, I
came to respect Ben even more and not only admire his success at the
Masters, but greatly appreciate his contributions to the game and the
rich story lines he provided to those of us scrambling on deadlines
as Herbert Warren Wind impersonators.
And now Ben has handed
off the baton to golf’s next messiah.
It is the passing of
the torch which connects the past to the future, forevermore bonding
that link of men which, Ben Crenshaw notes, “had to make brave
choices” and then make good on them.
That’s exactly what
happened Sunday. The newest Texan, indeed, made brave choices, and
made good on them.