Falling Under Crenshaws Spell
Crenshaw won the Fred Haskins award as the outstanding collegiate golfer three years in a row, from 1971-73. He won the NCAA Championship each of those years as well, sharing it in 1972 with his University of Texas teammate, Tom Kite.
Runner-up in the '72 U.S. Amateur, Crenshaw won the PGA Tour qualifying tournament by a record 12 strokes. His PGA Tour debut was 80 miles down Ineterstate 35 from his hometown. By Sunday he had won the Texas Open (then known as the San Antonio-Texas Open) by two shots over Orville Moody. Texas golf fans had their new Nelson, their new Hogan.
While Crenshaw possessed the pedigree, swing and hometown, which would endear him to Texas golf fans, he also had the looks, charisma and intensity to capture the hearts of those outside of the Lone Star State as well. Like great players before and after him, Crenshaw's admirers would forgive transgressions, applaud his heroics, and practically swoon in his presence.
My sister was the first person I knew to fall under the Crenshaw spell. When we would visit my father on the road, Liz always wanted to know if Ben would be playing. She had just entered her teens and had only showed interest in Bobby Sherman and David Cassidy, so I couldn't quite figure out her preoccupation.
When we would see Ben at tournaments, I began to notice that the spell had spread throughout my family, along the X chromosome. The men weren't immune, just not as badly afflicted.
The symptoms appeared in my sister first, spreading quickly to my stepmother and grandmother - far-off look in the eyes, increased giggling, loss of rational coherent thought process and a fluttering of the eyelids. To a 12-year-old boy, it was just plain gross.
My dad had a mild case also. Painful side effects included the euphoria of an impossible birdie putt, followed immediately by the heartbreak of an inexcusable double. No one could lay a roller coaster round on you like Ben. My father could be very critical of players when he wasn't broadcasting, but any Crenshaw mistake was met simply with an 'awww, Bin.'
My father loved Ben like a son. He was so happy to have Ben on the Ryder Cup team he captained in 1981, and would have been overjoyed with the job Ben did in 1999. I remember going to Augusta in 1995 and following him. It was a magical week in a magical place. I was in the grandstand on 13 Sunday when he lined up a critical birdie putt. I knew the cauldron of emotion that swirled inside of him. I knew Harvey Penick was looking after his pupil and friend. I wanted to remind Ben to take dead aim. I didn't have to. He made the putt, and when I met up with my father after the BBC telecast, dad's eyes were red, his voice spent.
My dad died two years later and never got to see the Miracle at Brookline. He never got to hear that Ben Crenshaw would become the U.S. Ryder Cup captain. But he would have liked what he saw. I was in the pressroom the night Ben told the world about his 'feeling.' I came out of the interview area positive that the U.S. would be victorious. I bet my BBC friends a dollar that the Americans would win.
Then some older, wiser golf writers calmed me down, saying Ben had lost his mind and was talking gibberish. I realized that I had fallen under the spell.
The next day I interviewed Julie Crenshaw for the local NBC station and provided my commentary throughout the day. When it was all over, I ran to the 18th green, joining the celebration. I'd seen many things during my days in the game but the delirium at that moment was indescribable.
I looked for my friend, Tom Lehman, to congratulate him and I looked for Ben, but I couldn't find either. I floated up the walkway towards the locker room and was stopped by a guard. I turned around and Ben was right behind me. Our eyes met and he threw me in a bear hug and shouted, 'This is for your father. I've been thinking of him all week long.' We stood there hugging and crying in a champagne shower until he dragged me into the locker room.
I stayed longer than I should have before sprinting back to the set for our wrap-up show. I tried to put the day into perspective, but really couldn't. I still haven't been able to. A few weeks later, a dryer, more composed Ben Crenshaw wrote a note to my grandmother and told her the same things he had told me on the locker room patio at the Country Club. He said all the things a mother would like to hear about her son. She kept that note on her bedside table until she passed away a few months later.
Ben Crenshaw burst on the golf scene burdened by the impossibly high expectations of his fans. In the end he wound up exceeding mine.
After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time
Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.
On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...
Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).
Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.
It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard
On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...
There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.
He sure looks like the real deal, though.
His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.
Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner
Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2
With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.
He picked up one more No. 2, too.
The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.
In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.
Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.
“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”
Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.
Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.
He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.
Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title
Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.
Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.
His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.
“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."
Tom Brady, postgame, on wearing the wrap on his hand: “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) January 22, 2018
Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.
Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.
Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:
Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)
What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.
Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.
Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.
Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.
Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.
Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:
Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry