Crenshaw’s Final Masters

This week Ben Crenshaw tees off for what will be his final Masters appearance. I’ve always been a big Crenshaw fan, not only for his skill, but also for his reputation as one of the game’s great gentlemen and historians.

My admiration began at a young age when my father bought Ben Crenshaw’s instructional video, “The Art of Putting.” The video started at Augusta National during the final round of the 1984 Masters. Crenshaw was on the 10th hole, standing over a massive, uphill 60 foot putt. The evening shadows were long and draping across his target line. The crowd was in a low rumble, and then settled into silence. As Ben prepared to putt, theme music chimed in setting the stage for the impending bomb he was about to drop. Crenshaw drew back his putter propelling the ball across the vast expanse. The ball was rolling, rolling, rolling FOREVER, finally cradling into the bottom of the cup. Crenshaw pumped his fist as the crowd let out a deafening roar which echoed through the Augusta pines. This exciting introduction was followed by a highlight reel of Crenshaw’s legendary back nine putting display as he marched to a thrilling victory. I maybe saw the entire video once, but I watched the first four minutes at least a hundred times. Again and again, as I reviewed the awesomeness of perhaps the greatest demonstration of putting in history, the thing which stuck with me the most was the theme song from the video. As a kid, when I needed to make a putt, I would pretend I was Crenshaw at Augusta. Slipping into a deeper level of focus, I would whistle the song from the video and my putts always seemed to go in.

In college my game was in shambles and my putting was just awful. I headed to one of my tournaments without much hope of having a good round. For some reason on the second hole I started whistling the song from the Crenshaw video I watched as a kid. I whistled the song over every putt and finished the day with only twenty-one putts! It was easily the greatest putting round of my life.

He really enjoyed reliving that magical putt at Augusta in ’84 and was every bit the gentleman we as fans wish for our heroes to be.

The years went by and I had somehow forgotten about my magical putting tip. I kept grinding on my stroke, practicing away, and not getting any better. In my teaching I began to spend time with a mental performance coach who preached a simple THINK – FEEL – DO formula. In essence, everything starts with a thought, which is followed by a feeling, then followed by an action.When our thinking produces an elevated “mood” we tend to execute at a higher level of performance. Conversely, when negative thoughts arise, our emotional state is diminished giving us less access to our best stuff!

If you’ve played golf for any period of time you’ve likely been over a shot where you knew you were going to hit it great and did. Maybe you always seem to hit good shots on a particular hole at your home course. Maybe when your shadow is in a certain place or the wind is coming from a certain direction you always do well. You are simply saying, “Hey, I like this. This makes me feel good.” Then bam, perfect shot! The great thing is, you control your thoughts, so you can choose to think of things which make you feel good. On every shot, you can internally recreate the same can’t miss feeling, you now have only every once in awhile.

Along the way, I had again realized the power of the Crenshaw video and the song. I started to re-incorporate whistling the melody to myself on every putt and once again started nailing putts from everywhere.

One day on the course, my playing partner said to me, “Do you know you smile when you putt?” It was then, when I finally made the connection as to what was happening. When I whistled the song, I thought of golf as a kid. It made me feel so good I couldn’t help but smile. The result was that I made great strokes simply because I felt great, which is why I’m convinced great putting is far more about attitude than it will ever be about technique.

I began to think of some of the quotes I had heard about putting in the past. I remembered hearing Jack Nicklaus say he never made a stroke until he “knew” he would make it. It was the feeling, not the technique. Then there was Crenshaw preaching putting as an “art, not a science.” I thought of the footage I had seen of Bobby Locke, Palmer, Bobby Jones, Gary Player all hooking, popping, and cutting putts across long shaggy greens into the cup. It’s not the stroke; it’s the attitude behind it which counts! Do I think you should practice your stroke mechanics? Absolutely, but once you get to the course, putting is all about attitude.

Years later I had the opportunity to share this story with Ben Crenshaw himself. He really enjoyed reliving that magical putt at Augusta in ’84 and was every bit the gentleman we as fans wish for our heroes to be. This week as you to enjoy golf’s greatest tournament, take a moment and give thanks for the inspiration, excitement and impact of one of golf’s greatest ambassadors.

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