Mike Weir wins first major in
A Maple Leaf grows among the towering
pines of Augusta National.
Mike Weir became the first
Canadian to win the Masters, making two clutch pars to force a playoff with Len
Mattiace, and winning on the first extra hole with a simple tap-in for bogey.
The green jacket that Tiger
Woods had hoped to slip on for a record third straight year is going north of
Weir, who only five years
ago had to toil through PGA Tour qualifying school, closed with a bogey-free 68
on a dramatic Sunday at Augusta National, then let Mattiace make all the mistakes
in the first Masters playoff in 13 years.
Weir had to sweat over a
5-foot par putt on the 17th and a 6-footer on the 18th, as Mattiace waited on
the practice green among chairs that already were set up for the fabled green
Minutes later, Weir leaned
over to tap in for his only bogey of the day, then raised his arms and embraced
his longtime friend and caddie, Brennan Little.
What a breakthrough - not
only was he the first Canadian to win a major championship, he became the first
left-hander to win a major since Bob Charles in the 1963 British Open.
Mattiace watched a brilliant
day at Augusta National crumble quickly.
He chipped in for birdie,
holed a 60-foot putt on No. 10, and charged through the back nine on a mission
to build a two-stroke lead. But Mattiace bogeyed the 18th for a 65, and he never
had a chance in the playoff.
From the middle of the 10th
fairway, he hooked his approach wildly to the left and then chipped some 30 feet
by the hole. His par putt nearly went off the green, and Mattiace wound up with
a double bogey.
Both finished at 7-under
281, the highest winning score at the Masters since 1989.
Weir won for the first 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."
All of them mattered until
the end, when Mattiace chopped up the 10th hole and was struggling to hold back
tears when he realized how close he had come.
All of them mattered in
a nervous pursuit of the green jacket.
Woods, who stumbled to a
75, slipped the coveted prize over his shoulders.
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 other lefty - Phil Mickelson
- had a 4-under 68 for his best closing round at the Masters, but it still left
him empty after 43 tries in a major championship.
Mickelson finished third
at 5-under 283.
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.
Two strokes behind with
six to go, Weir holed a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-5 13th, then laid up and
trusted his wedge on No. 15, sticking that to 5 feet to tie for the lead.
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.
Not bad, eh?
Weir now takes his place
among so many others who have won the green jacket, including six-time winner
As a teenager, 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.
"If the greatest player
of all time tells you to stick to it, then I was going to do it," Weir once