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Caddie's advice key for Crenshaw

Friday, April 01, 2011

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Ben Crenshaw might not have won the 1995 Masters Tournament had Carl Jackson not taken the "caddie shortcut" to the edge of the ninth fairway at Augusta National Golf Club to save some time.

Ben Crenshaw works with his caddie, Carl Jackson, on the driving range before the 1995 Masters Tournament. Jackson helped Crenshaw correct two swing flaws and Gentle Ben went on to win his second green jacket. (File/Staff)

The move put Jackson about 150 yards away from Crenshaw, who was teeing off on No. 9.

It allowed Jackson to see two flaws in Crenshaw's swing during a pivotal practice round, and helped set in motion Crenshaw's unlikely victory.

Crenshaw was struggling with his game -- and his emotions. Famed golf instructor Harvey Penick, who helped Crenshaw when he had swing problems, had died the previous Sunday.

Crenshaw would travel to Austin, Texas, for Penick's funeral the next morning, a day before the first round of the Masters.

"I was an emotional wreck; my concentration was not there," Crenshaw said recently. "My game was bad and so was I after that news Sunday night (about Penick's death)."

Crenshaw and Jackson went out for what they thought would be an 18-hole practice round.

Masters champion Ben Crenshaw is held by caddy Carl Jackson on the 18th green as Crenshaw is overcome with emotion as he wins the 1995 Masters title. (File/Associated Press)

After the eighth hole, Jackson took the "caddie shortcut" from the green to the right side of the fairway on No. 9 while Crenshaw headed to his left and to the ninth tee.

As Crenshaw was teeing off, Jackson saw what was wrong with Crenshaw's swing.

"I remember Ben was the last to hit," Jackson. "When I saw his swing, I thought, 'Darn, Ben, you look like you're playing hockey.' I realized he was out of position and was bent over too much and reaching for the ball."

When Crenshaw got to his drive on No. 9, Jackson was waiting with his news.

"I said, 'Ben, I think I saw something.' "

Jackson encouraged Crenshaw to cut the round short and head to the practice range after the ninth hole. Crenshaw agreed.

Ben Crenshaw gets a hug from caddy Carl Jackson on the 18th green after winning the 1995 Masters title. (File/Associated Press)

"I was in a mood to try anything because things weren't going well," Crenshaw said.

On the range, Jackson -- who had been Crenshaw's Masters caddie since 1976 -- told him two things: Move closer to the ball and take a tighter turn with his left shoulder, Crenshaw said.

"It was immediate; within five golf shots, it was like I keyed onto something with him," Crenshaw said. "He knew exactly what to say, and he said it in such a simple way. It was easily understood by me."

When Crenshaw returned from Penick's funeral, he came back with confidence in his game, thanks to the changes Jackson had suggested.

And playing with memories of Penick in his head, Crenshaw went out and shot 70-67-69-68. His 14-under-par 274 clipped Davis Love III by a shot.

Afterward, Crenshaw credited Jackson with helping him win.

Jackson knows his friend's swing so well that even Crenshaw's late father, Charlie Crenshaw, would encourage him to say something if he felt his son's swing was slightly off.

"He'd say, 'You tell him; he'll listen to you,' " Jackson said of Charlie Crenshaw. "In other words, he was saying, 'He won't listen to me.' "

Knowing Crenshaw's swing is only a small part of what has made Jackson a great caddie. At Augusta National, he knows the breaks on the greens like the back of his hand.

"He sees a lot of things people may not see," Crenshaw said. "He amazes me. He points out things I wouldn't see.

''He's got a great memory and a great mind for golf."

Reach David Westin at (706) 823-3224 or david.westin@augustachronicle.com.


SWING COACH

Warren Stephens, who has known Carl Jackson when Stephens was 13, hired Jackson to be the caddiemaster at the Alotian Club when it opened in Roland, Arkansas.

Jackson had caddied for Stephens' father, former Augusta National chairman Jack Stephens, for nearly three decades.

"Carl has got to be one of the best caddies in the history of golf," Stephens said. "Who can read a green better than Carl Jackson?"

Jack Stephens died in 2005, and now Jackson is his son's personal caddie at Alotian.

"Carl can see stuff about my swing and know what bad tendencies I get into and fix them," Stephens said.

"It's not a technical thing sometimes; it's a feel thing," Stephens said. "I'll say, 'What do you see?' He'll say I look anxious, that's one of his favorite descriptions of my swing. He'll say, 'On your transition, you look like you're anxious to hit the ball. Don't rush it.' That's a thought I take into my next swings."

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