Lefty Weir shows right stuff

Bogey on 1st extra hole beats Mattiace, earns him his first major title

`It's nice to get one for lefties'

First time a left-hander or Canadian gets jacket

The Masters

April 14, 2003|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

AUGUSTA, Ga. - History was made yesterday at Augusta National, just not the kind the sport's keepers usually get too excited about. Mike Weir did what Tiger Woods couldn't do in the final round of the 67th Masters, what left-handers have been trying to do here forever, and in major championships for 40 years.

Weir won.

After playing without a bogey for all 18 holes of regulation, Weir made one on the first hole of sudden-death, the par-4 10th. But Len Mattiace, who stumbled into the playoff with a bogey to close an otherwise sparkling round of 7-under-par 65, made a double-bogey to give the 32-year-old Weir the first major championship of his career.

Weir also became the first Canadian to win one of golf's four majors. The previous highest finish for a Canadian in a Masters was George Knudson's second place in 1969.

"This win is a win for me and my family, but it is a big win for Canadian golf and the fans that have been very supportive of me," Weir said.

The victory was the third this year for Weir, the most by any player on the PGA Tour, and the sixth of his seven-year career. Weir became the first left-hander since Bob Charles won the 1963 British Open in a playoff at Royal Lytham & St. Annes to win one of golf's four major championships.

"It's nice to get one for lefties," Weir said.

Weir and Mattiace, who was playing here for the first time since missing the cut as a 20-year-old amateur in 1988, finished the 72 holes of regulation at 7-under 281, two strokes ahead of another left-hander, Phil Mickelson. Woods, trying to become the first player in history to win three straight Masters, faded early in his round of 75 and finished tied for 15th.

"It was one of those days where I couldn't get anything going," said Woods, who after getting to within three shots of the lead with a birdie on the par-5 second hole, double-bogeyed the par-4 third and bogeyed three others on the front nine. "You can't win everything. That's our sport."

Yesterday, Weir used his experience of playing with Woods in the final round of the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah, where he shot a final-round 80 while Woods won the tournament.

"It was a very difficult day for me then, but at the same time I observed how Tiger managed his victory there," Weir recalled. "I made all my putts inside 8 feet today. At the PGA, I don't think I made one of them."

Yesterday, none was bigger than the 5-footer on the par-4 18th hole. After coming up a bit short on his approach to the green, leaving a 40-footer up a severe ridge, Weir didn't hit his first putt hard enough. But just as Mattiace had done earlier to save bogey on the 18th, Weir made his putt for par to finish a round of 4-under 68.

"That was probably the biggest shot of my life," Weir said. "I wouldn't wish that putt on anybody."

Mattiace probably felt the same way about his downhill 20-footer to save par on the sudden-death hole.

"I wasn't thinking I had to make it, I was thinking I would like to make it," said Mattiace, who knew that Weir still had about 50 feet to negotiate from the front of the green. "I know it didn't look like it, but I was trying to get the ball within 3 or 4 feet of the hole and maybe make it. I was putting so great, but that's how bad a putt it was, to hit it that far by. I wasn't trying to do anything crazy on it."

Nothing like the 80-footer he made for birdie on the same hole in regulation, a putt from nearly the same spot Ben Crenshaw converted, helping him win his first Masters in 1984. That putt was followed by a 10-footer for eagle on the par-5 13th and a birdie putt on the par-3 16th that gave Mattiace a two-shot lead going into the par-4 18th.

In sudden death, Mattiace's first putt rolled 10 feet past the cup and he missed his putt for bogey coming back after Weir's ball went 6 feet past. Weir then missed his par putt and tapped in for the biggest win of his career. The first Masters playoff in 13 years was won on a bogey for the first time in 12 playoffs overall.

Both men reacted similarly. They sobbed. Weir cried as he was being driven up to the green jacket ceremony, where he received the coveted piece of clothing from Woods. Mattiace cried, several times, during the post-round news conferences.

"We try to build up to a certain level, a certain focus or a certain intensity," said Mattiace, who was seeking his third PGA Tour win. "My wife will tell you that Sunday night I have a crash. With all the emotions of playing today and executing and shooting a great score, it all just came out."

Weir was as composed during his news conference as he was on the course, when he recovered all day from poorly executed shots to make pars - including after a tee shot found mud on the eighth hole - and turned those he hit with precision into birdies, the last of which came on the par-5 15th.

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