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Ben there, done that
Gentle Ben Crenshaw will play final Masters
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth were already on the 18th green, ready to hit a few putts. Ben Crenshaw was back down the fairway, still 100 yards or so away, after driving his tee shot into a tree.

Yep, it’s time for Gentle Ben to go.

“I probably should have stopped playing a couple of years ago,” Crenshaw moaned Wednesday, standing outside the Augusta National clubhouse after getting in nine holes.

The two-time Masters champion will finally put away his clubs at age 63, after playing the tournament one last time with long-time caddie Carl Jackson by his side.

At every hole, they’ll be remembering all the good times. The first green jacket in 1984. The out-of-nowhere victory in 1995, when Crenshaw collapsed into tears after making the final putt, remembering his mentor, Harvey Penick, who passed away just days earlier.

It was a touching scene — Crenshaw buckled over, face buried in his hands, while Jackson came up from behind to provide a consoling pat on the back.

“A lifetime is going to flash in front of me,” Jackson said.

Crenshaw’s final Masters will be his 44th, tied with Sam Sneed and surpassed by only four other players — Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Doug Ford and Raymond Floyd.

Not bad company.

“I started thinking a while back about this week,” said Crenshaw, never one to hide his emotions and sure to shed a few more tears before this week is out. “I’m going to get through it the best way I can.”

Crenshaw’s last official practice round at Augusta National was one of the ages. The fading veteran was joined by Woods, the middle-aged star trying to recapture his form at age 39, and the up-and-coming Spieth, only 21 but already one of the top players on the PGA Tour.

“That’s the way life goes,” Crenshaw said. “Those guys are so strong, so young, so eager. We all remember when we felt like that.”

The night before, Crenshaw arranged a practice round with Spieth, a fellow Texan who led last year’s Masters on the front nine Sunday before fading down the stretch. Then, after learning that Woods didn’t have a partner, they asked the 14-time major champion to make it a threesome.

“You know how particular I am,” Crenshaw joked.

After playing the back side, down through Amen Corner and back again, Crenshaw grabbed some lunch, rested up a bit, and headed back out for the Par 3 Contest. He played with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, a worthy fill-in for 85-year-old Arnold Palmer, who’s still rehabbing from shoulder surgery but turned up at the first tee to dole out a few good-natured insults.

When Crenshaw missed the green with his first shot, Palmer blurted out, “Nice shot, Ben!”

They both had a good laugh.

“You know how special this place is,” Crenshaw said. “I love everything about it. Always have.”

Like so many past champions, Crenshaw looks forward to returning to Augusta in the years to come. He’ll attend the Champions Dinner, play a practice round every now and then, yuk it up with young and old in the Par 3 Contest. Maybe one day, he’ll take over as an honorary starter, a role currently held by Nicklaus, Player and Palmer.