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Weir takes green jacket; Tiger fades

4/21/2003

Final-round scores | Weir's scorecards

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Lefty finally won a major.

Just not the guy anyone expected.

Mike Weir didn't rely on power and flair. This mini Maple Leaf
is about tenacity and resiliency, two traits he leaned on Sunday to
win The Masters after the first sudden-death playoff in 13 years.

Weir became the first Canadian to wear a green jacket, and the
first left-hander in 40 years to win a major, by making clutch
putts down the stretch and watching Len Mattiace self-destruct on
the first extra hole.

Not bad, eh?

Six times over the final seven holes, Weir stood over crucial
putts and made them all. Playing in the final group, he didn't have
worse than a par in his round of 4-under 68. His only bogey came in
the playoff, and it didn't matter.

''It was an incredible day,'' Weir said. ''To go bogey-free at
Augusta National on Sunday, I can't ask for anything more.''

It required nothing less.

Mattiace brought drama back to the final nine holes with
phenomenal shots that took him to the edge of a stunning victory
with a 7-under 65.

Weir refused to buckle, making a 15-foot birdie on the 13th,
stuffing a wedge into 5 feet on the 15th and making keys pars along
the way, none bigger than the 6-footer he had on the 18th to force
the playoff.

''It was probably the biggest shot of my life,'' he said.

Mattiace could have used a mulligan. He pulled his approach into
the trees on No. 10 in the playoff, chipped 30 feet, nearly ran his
par putt off the green and choked back tears when he realized what
he had lost.

''I know one's going to win and one's going to lose, and I'm OK
with that,'' Mattiace said, referring to the first playoff since
Nick Faldo beat Raymond Floyd in 1990.

Tiger Woods made it to the green jacket ceremony for the third
straight year, only this time he slipped the coveted prize around
Weir's shoulders.

Only four strokes behind to start the final round, a chance to
make history with his third straight Masters victory, Woods took
double bogey on the third hole and was never a factor.

''No one has ever done it, so obviously it's been proven it's
not easy to do,'' Woods said.

As he was finishing up, the show was just getting started.

Mattiace, who had to make a 6-footer on the 18th for bogey, was
signing his card when he looked up and saw that Weir had pulled
even on the 15th.

He was on the putting green, where chairs already were being set
up for the closing ceremony. That was as close at Mattiace got to
the green jacket.

The final round ultimately belonged to Weir, who fielded a call
from Jean Cretien, Canada's prime minister, who was in the
Dominican Republic watching on television.

''He said they were jumping up and down,'' Weir said. ''They
were very excited.''

Bob Charles was the only left-hander to win a major, the 1963
British Open. He played a practice round with Weir two years ago at
Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

''It's nice to win one for the lefties,'' he said.

Phil Mickelson finished third, two strokes behind, after closing
with a 68. Mickelson was asked earlier this week which lefty he
thought would win the next major.

It seemed like a joke -- but not any longer.

The only other time Weir was in the final group at a major, he
was tied with Woods in the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah. Weir
shot 80, but it wasn't a wasted effort.

''The tough putts, the ones around 8 feet that you need to win,
I missed almost every one I looked at at Medinah,'' Weir said. ''I
don't think I missed one today.''

Weir and Mattiace finished at 7-under 281, the highest winning
score at The Masters since 1989.

Weir won for the third time this year, and all six of his PGA
Tour victories have been comebacks -- none more special than this.

Until Sunday, the most nervous he has ever felt was watching
Canada win the gold medal in hockey at the Salt Lake City Olympics.

''This was definitely nerve-racking,'' Weir said. ''I tried to
gather myself on each putt. Every putt on this golf course is
tough.''

Woods, who stumbled to a 75, slipped the coveted prize over his
shoulders.

''Thanks, Tig,'' Weir told him. ''It feels good.''

Woods was only four strokes behind to start the final round, and
history seemed to be there for the taking.

He gave it all away with one bad decision -- a driver on the
shortest par 4 at Augusta National that went into an azalea bush,
caused him to hit his next shot left-handed and led to a double
bogey that derailed his chances.

The Masters was supposed to be won by the big hitters, but Weir
proved again that the shortest clubs in the bag -- his putter and
wedge -- can make up for a lot.

''Unbelievable,'' Weir said. ''It's something I've dreamt of,
something I worked very hard at. I'm having a hard time putting it
into words because words won't do it justice.''

So ended an unforgettable week at Augusta National.

Four days of rain.

The opening round washed out for the first time in 64 years.

A tepid protest Saturday against the all-male membership at
Augusta National.

And the first playoff since Nick Faldo beat Raymond Floyd in
1990.

Weir now takes his place among so many others who have won the
green jacket, including six-time winner Jack Nicklaus.

As a 13-year-old, Weir wrote a letter to the Golden Bear asking
if he should learn to play right-handed. Nicklaus told him not to
change a thing.

''I still have that letter in my office,'' Weir said.

He now has a green jacket, and a spot in the Champions locker
room upstairs at Augusta National.

The final round lived up to its billing, but thousands of fans
who streamed through the gates at 8 a.m. -- almost seven hours
before the leaders teed off -- could never have guessed what was in
store.

There was an amazing array of shots that sent cheers resounding
across Augusta National as one player after another worked his way
into contention.

  • Mickelson, after hitting into a creek on No. 2, holed a
    90-foot birdie putt and looked to the sky, wondering if this might
    finally be his year to win a major.

  • Mattiace pitched over the large mounds on No. 8 and into the
    hole for a birdie, and rolled in a 60-foot birdie putt on No. 10
    from almost the same spot as Ben Crenshaw when he won his first
    green jacket in 1984.

  • Rich Beem, the PGA champion trying to prove that Hazeltine was
    no fluke, holed out from the fairway for eagle on No. 5.

    But every charge came with a collapse -- none greater than Jeff
    Maggert's.

    He started with a two-stroke lead over Weir, but it all ended in
    shocking fashion.

    From the fairway bunker on No. 3, Maggert's approach slammed
    into the lip and caromed off his chest, a two-stroke penalty. He
    slapped his knee in disgust, his ball still in the sand and his
    hopes of a green jacket fading fast.

    Maggert was lucky to escape with triple bogey, and managed to
    scratch his way back into the hunt until he reached No. 12.

    His tee shot went into the back bunker. His sand shot skidded
    through the green and into the water. He dropped on the other side
    of Rae's Creek and dumped another in the water, finally walking off
    with an 8.

    No one else got closer than two strokes the rest of the way, and
    it became a two-man race over the final six holes.