Crenshaw found his long-lost golf game Friday, shooting a 4-under 66 to take a one-stroke lead over Fred Funk at the midway point of the Champion Tours final major tournament of the year.
Crenshaw made four birdies on back nine, sinking long-range putts on Nos. 11 and 17 on the East Course at the Baltimore Country Club. He hit 12 of 14 fairways, only once landed in a bunker and never three-putted in finishing the second round at 7-under 133.
Theres not much explanation for it, said Crenshaw, whose 66 was his lowest round in a major since he carded the same score in the third round of the 2006 U.S. Senior Open.
It felt wonderful playing out there today, the 56-year-old Texan said. Im just trying to keep my rhythm going. Ive hit some nice shots. I cant hit the ball hard anymore, so thats out the window. I might as well just have a nice rhythm and hit it solid, try to get my way around it.
Funk, who grew up in Maryland, shot a 68 in an up-and-down round that included five birdies and three bogeys.
Today was a mixed bag, said Funk, who three-putted from the fringe on No. 13 before sinking a 20-foot birdie putt on 14.
After parring the final four holes, including a satisfying comebacker on 18, Funk was delighted at the prospect of playing with Crenshaw in the final threesome Saturday.
Bens a great guy. If I dont win, Id like to see Ben win, Funk said. But I want to beat him. It would be fantastic to win here.
Gene Jones shot a 66 to finish at 5 under, tied with Tom Jenkins, who carded a 68. Nick Price (66) and Mark OMeara (67) were among four players at 4 under.
Crenshaw came into the tournament with only one top-10 finish in 2008 and ranked 48th on the money list. He failed to make the cut at the U.S. Senior Open and tied for 52nd at the JELD-WEN Tradition, the only two majors he participated in this season before this one.
After making his mark on the PGA Tour, Crenshaw admittedly has not worked nearly as hard as a member of the Champions Tour. That, to a large degree, explains why he has finished in the top three only three times in 126 tournaments since signing up in 2002.
I havent been playing a lot. Ive spent some time at home, he said. My eldest girl just turned 21 last weekend. Still got three girls at the house, young girls, 16 and 10, so our hands are full there. But Im not making any excuses. Im doing exactly what I want to do.
Golf is no longer his life, but that doesnt mean the 1999 Ryder Cup captain cant still play well. His lone bogey Friday came after he hit into the bunker on No. 8, but he rebounded with a sizzling back nine in which he holed birdie putts of 25, 21, 15 and 10 feet.
Its kind of unexplainable for me. Ive been anything but predictable over my career, Crenshaw said. Sometimes I dont know when Im going to play well and a lot of times I dont know when Im going to play poorly, either. Thats not a great certainty, is it?
Theres no telling how he will fare over the final 36 holes, but for now, Ben Crenshaw is in front at the halfway point of a major tournament.
To win anything would be nice because Ive got a goose egg in my column on the Champions Tour, he said. Ive been close a few times, but not near enough.