Herrmann has covered the Mets and Yankees since 1988, and has been Newsday’s national golf writer since 2002.
AUGUSTA, Ga. - If there is such a thing as a Texas torch, Ben Crenshaw is proud to pass it along to Jordan Spieth, who leads the tournament that Crenshaw officially and elegantly left Friday. Spieth will be proud to accept it.
Crenshaw is the sort of person Spieth can look up to this weekend, which is shaping up as the biggest of his young life. Of course, Crenshaw is one of Spieth's role models.
So is Spieth's younger sister Ellie, a special-needs child who will be watching from a friend's house as the 21-year-old tries to build on his record 14-under-par 36-hole total and win a green jacket. It would be quite a prize to bring home to Dallas, along with Crenshaw's torch and a souvenir keychain, something that Spieth buys at every tour stop and delivers to his sister.
"On a tournament week, I talk to her every other day, or something," Spieth said after he shot 66 in the second round of the Masters Friday. His parents are here, so Ellie is spending the weekend with friends. "I'm sure she's having a good time, and loving watching the coverage."
That he can draw inspiration from both of those people says something about him. It does not say he will win Sunday, or any other year. It does say that he will be humble and grounded, however it turns out.
The eyes of Texas will be on him, and seeing symbolism. People there would love to see Spieth make a triumphant walk up to the 18th green, the way Crenshaw made it a pilgrimage to fond memories Friday.
It was touching to see how emotional he became, finishing his 44th competitive appearance at the Masters and having a good, long hug with Carl Jackson, the man who caddied for Crenshaw starting in 1976 (just not this year as Jackson had some aches and pains). The golfer was thrilled that the caddie had been given the key to the city Monday night, celebrating a Masters era in which the golfers used local experts and in which (unlike now) the caddie corps was not overwhelmingly white.
Mostly, everyone around that green celebrated the two green jackets Crenshaw won.
During his news conference earlier, Spieth spoke of Crenshaw's 1995 victory, following the death of beloved instructor Harvey Penick. "Everybody in Texas, growing up, knows that story," the current leader said. "You think of Ben Crenshaw, you think of Augusta National and the Masters and his victories."
Crenshaw admitted, "It was way past time for me." No kidding. Only once since his final round in 1995 did he break par in a Masters round. Only three times since 1995 did he make the cut. He just couldn't get himself to break away. "It's a festival each year," he said.
Imagine Spieth finishing the Crenshaw weekend with his own green jacket. "Wow, that would be something," Crenshaw said. "I'm looking forward to the next two days because, I think most everybody knows, Jordan is capable, entirely capable . . . I've got to pull for my Longhorn."
Every week, every day, Spieth pulls for his sister. "She's the funniest member of our family," said the golfer who used to volunteer at her school every week when he was in high school. "It's humbling to see her and her friends and the struggles they go through each day.
"But at the same time, they are the happiest people in the world; and when I say 'they,' I speak of special-needs kids. And my experience with her and in her class and with her friends, it's fantastic. I love being a part of it and helping support it."
Spieth might have an experience of a lifetime this weekend, one that will have him coming back here for the rest of his life. Or maybe he won't. Either way, he is going to be OK.