Fifteen years ago this coming Sunday, the world stopped — if you were Canadian, at least. Way down in the heart of Georgia, the pride of Brights Grove, Ont., was alone on a verdant stage, watched by millions. After three days and 69 holes, Mike Weir was tied for the lead at the Masters, the first major championship of the season, held every year at Augusta National Golf Club.
Playing in the final group, Weir was the only one in the field who still controlled his destiny. The man he was chasing, Len Mattiace, a journeyman pro who had torn up the course with a fourth-round 65, was already in the clubhouse at minus-7.
The final three holes made for unprecedented drama, and Weir’s one-hole playoff victory over Mattiace provided a flood of relief, elevating him to Canadian sports immortality. It was wet, it was wild, but mostly it was a win for the ages.
Weir was the first lefty and remains the only Canadian to win the Masters, and the memories of those who experienced it with him are still fresh today. Having battled injuries for most of the past decade, Weir, 47, is not the golfer he was during any of his eight Tour wins or his years as a regular in the world’s top-10, but his passion remains. He’s got his eye on returning to the PGA Tour, and playing the Champions Tour after that. He’ll tee it up at Augusta for the 19th consecutive year this week.
MIKE WEIR It never gets old. Anytime I go on site there, it’s special and the memories come flooding back. For me, it’s the moments I shared with my dad and my brothers and my friends and caddies and friends of caddies — everybody who went back to the house with us later that night and celebrated. [My green jacket] is there [at Augusta] and when I show up, it’s in my locker. And for dinners they want you to have it on and wear it proudly around, which I’m happy to do.
RICH WEIR, Mike’s Dad I can’t say I ever thought he would win a major, but I always thought he would be successful because he was so dedicated and he worked so hard at it. He never gave up; he didn’t have any give up in him.
One of the charms of the Masters is that it represents the hope of summer while much of the continent — and Canada certainly — is still thawing out from winter. The lush green grounds and vibrant flowers are a beacon. But in 2003, the weather wouldn’t cooperate. Eastern Georgia was deluged with cold, steady rain and high winds, a weather system called a ‘wedge’ that persisted through the week. “The vast lawn that sits between the back of the clubhouse and the course, so festive and colourful most days, full of people drinking iced tea and chatting about this and that, and every other golf and non-golf matter, is empty,” wrote Lorne Rubenstein, Canada’s pre-eminent golf journalist in his book Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters. “Normally this would be a busy spot, teeming with people who have arranged to meet here … It’s teeming here, true, but with rain.”
STEVE ‘GOV’ BENNETT, Weir’s childhood coach at Huron Oaks Golf Course I remember the Monday coming in and seeing signs posted: “Golf course closed.” A couple of the days it was 40 to 50 degrees and the wind was howling and it was like, “We weren’t prepared for this.” You expect 70-plus degrees and the birds chirping and all the azaleas out and seeing all the flowers at Augusta. They were a little bit late that year.
RICH WEIR It was raining like I’d never seen at Augusta. It was a mud hole.
Weir was on fire to start the 2003 season, with wins at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and the Nissan Open as well as a third-place finish at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. He was one of the hottest players in the world not named Tiger Woods.
DAN CIMORONI, Weir’s long-time agent From the middle of ’02 on, every single time he tipped it up we thought he could win. It was never to make the cut or anything; it was always with the idea of him winning.
JIM WEIR, Mike’s older brother What really stands out was how calm he was about the whole week, but it made sense: He’d won twice that year and he had 100-per cent confidence in his game. It was like he knew it was the Masters and it was a major, but it was just another tournament and if he hit the shots he was capable of he would do well.
DAVE PERKINS, Toronto Star columnist It was his fourth try and he liked the place, so given his hot start to the year, I thought he’d be mildly competitive. [But] I wouldn’t have bet a nickel against Woods at that point.
In 1997, Tiger Woods turned golf upside down when he won the Masters as a 21-year-old — shooting a record 18-under-par to trounce the field by an unprecedented 12 shots. He won again in 2001, overpowering the course and the field with his length off the tee. Augusta National responded by “Tiger proofing” the layout, narrowing the fairways with rough for the first time and lengthening the course by more than 300 yards, but Woods won again in 2002. In 2003 with the wet course playing even longer, Woods was an even bigger favourite to win an unprecedented third straight green jacket, and the common wisdom was shorter hitters like Weir would be in for a challenge.
MIKE WEIR I would have loved to be able to get some distance when the ball hits the ground and runs out — that’s where I get a little bit of length out there. So I guess in my head I thought, “This is going to have to be really special for me to contend this week.”
CAM COLE, National Post columnist I had been at the Players Championship a couple weeks earlier and it was soggy, and Weir faded to 24th. I thought the wet conditions at Augusta would be a killer. Weir himself said that for a “medium-length hitter” to win, everything would have to go right.
LEN MATTIACE, two-time PGA Tour winner When I showed up in ’03, I felt like I was at a great disadvantage. I’m giving up 30 yards to some of the guys. I told my wife that if I finished in the top-10 it would be a great week. It wasn’t like we were going to go for a lot of the par-5s in two — and the weather had a lot to do with that.
Weir got in full practice rounds on Monday and Tuesday, in between the rain drops, and another nine holes on Wednesday in temperatures hovering in the low 50s. But the rain was back on Thursday. After several hours of delays, the course was deemed unplayable, leaving thousands of visitors disappointed. For players, caddies and, in Weir’s case, the houseful of guests who make the trip annually to watch him play it meant a lot of free time.
BRENNAN LITTLE, Weir’s caddie We sit there in the caddie room. It’s not much fun, believe me. You’re waiting around, talking and it’s boring, but as a caddie you’re not doing too much. As a player, you have to be prepared to play. The rules officials don’t really fill you in too much: they push it back an hour, push it back an hour.
MIKE WEIR I remember sitting in the locker room watching a little bit of Happy Gilmore. You have to distract yourself sometimes in a week like that when there are rain delays. I saw guys taking naps, reading books. You have to find something to do. If you get in your head about the tournament, you’re probably out of it.
JIM WEIR [The group at the house] didn’t go out. Gov cooks every night. We had a basketball hoop in the driveway and we’d shoot some hoops or play some ping-pong. Mike would come over and eat and hang out, and we’d talk about how the course was playing.
STEVE ‘GOV’ BENNETT We’d just sit around the house and party it up.
Opening-round tee times started at 7 a.m. on Friday. For the first time in Masters history, the field went off two tees in an effort to get more holes in. Weir played with Tom Watson and Padraig Harrington and his short game was clearly locked in — he made a 35-footer to save par on the first hole and chipped to two-feet on the par-5 2nd for an easy tap-in birdie. He shot a two-under-par 70 on his first 18 holes and then, starting his second on the back nine in the afternoon, birdied Nos. 13, 14 and 15 to land on the leaderboard for the first time.
BRENNAN LITTLE They used to think a firm, fast course would let the shorter hitters [contend]. But when it plays wet and long, it brings the longest hitters back to the field. Those guys can’t get to the par fives without long irons or hybrids and they aren’t used to that. Any time you bring everybody into the wedge level on the par-fives, that helps a guy like Mike. That’s the best part of his game.
MIKE WEIR I was dialed in with my wedge game and my putter, [but] the underrated part of my game that week was my driving — I drove the ball great that week. The course was long, but I was in the fairway a lot.
CAM COLE He was making just about every putt he looked at.
Weir was six-under and alone in first after 30 holes. It was dark, and he’d been on the course for 12 hours, but as the leader he was obligated to speak to the media.
MIKE WEIR I’d never been in the media room at Augusta before, but I felt my time was coming so it was a cool experience. At the same time, I knew I had a long day ahead. I was anxious to get out of there and get some rest.
DAN CIMORONI Mike being Mike, he said anyone [in the group of his visiting friends and family] who missed the round should stick around. When he called me [Friday night], he said, “I don’t want anybody to leave.” The group just kept growing. We went through all the contacts we could but — Augusta would probably kill me for saying it — we needed an extra 14 to 16 tickets and had to buy whatever we could find, cash in pocket on the street. Whatever was available we would go and buy. There are certain things you don’t learn in school, my friend.
After finishing his second round on Saturday morning, Weir had a four-shot lead on Irishman Darren Clarke, who joined him in the third round’s final pairing. Weir again birdied the par-five 2nd as well as the par-four 7th to lengthen his lead to six strokes, but then gave up five shots over his final 10 holes to finish with a three-over-par 75.
STEVE ‘GOV’ BENNETT You’ll hear a golfer say “I lost my legs.” [Weir] had played 30 holes the day before, six [Saturday] morning and then, waiting to tee off again for the third round, it just got to that point his legs weren’t working and he had a bad stretch. But the thing about Mike is that he has nothing but fight in him. He won’t give up.
MIKE WEIR I do pride myself on fitness and being ready, but I was feeling fatigued. I was getting some cramping in my legs. My game was built on a stable lower body and a lot of resistance in my swing, and I remember not feeling that stability and feeling a little bit out of balance on those last few holes.
DAN CIMORONI On a Saturday like that it’s a little bit of kid gloves, but he was pretty good. He actually came over [to the house], as exhausted as he was. It was late and it was quick, but he was super gracious and came over to say hi to everybody and that he was looking forward to seeing them tomorrow and that kind of thing.
STEVE ‘GOV’ BENNETT That’s the thing about Mike, he can leave it at the golf course. He comes over, has a few laughs and it’s all good. He flipped it as a positive: “If anyone had said at the first of the week that I would be in the last group in the Masters heading into Sunday afternoon, I’d take it.”
MIKE WEIR I [wasn’t] happy about losing the lead but I really believed if I could get a good night’s rest and stretch it out and get that stability back in my lower body, I’d be a factor on Sunday. I was very fatigued, tired. I remember going back to the hotel, getting some food and just crashing. I slept a long, long time.
On Sunday, Tiger seemed ready to pounce. After shooting an opening round 76, following with a 73 and starting the third round in last, Woods had shot a six-under 66 to pull into a tie for fifth — four shots off the lead held by Jeff Maggert, who had picked up nine shots on Weir with a 66 of his own. Mattiace had quietly pulled into a tie for eighth and was one of just 10 golfers at even-par or better. The leaderboard seemed wide-open and Sunday morning broke sunny, warm and calm. With a late tee time, the nerves kept building.
LEN MATTIACE I mean, all morning it was a mental torture. I didn’t handle it well, I’m not going to lie. It wasn’t like I do this all the time.
JIM WEIR I was so nervous. [Mike’s] tee time was so late it made for a really long day. I got up and Gov is making breakfast and I can’t even eat. I went for a walk and then I went for a run; I did everything I could to try and calm my nerves.
RICH WEIR I didn’t sleep well and I was a bundle of nerves all day long, too.
STEVE ‘GOV’ BENNETT I think Rich and Jim were obviously nervous. I’m not going to say I wasn’t, but it was a different feeling than any other event he’s been at — more calm. I went out in the morning, had my cigar and my coffee and [breathes deeply] it was good.
MIKE WEIR I went for a nice 15-minute walk in the morning to kind of take a deep breath to prepare my mind for what I needed to do and what the day had in store. I’m talking to myself, walking along and it’s, “Hey Mike, you’ve won a couple of tournaments this year; your game is good. Let’s not let the finish yesterday bother you. Let’s just get back to what you do well and let’s see what happens.” Those are the things I can control: walking slower, taking some deep breaths. Just reminding myself of that so that when I get to the course I’m ready, I’m focused and ready to go.
LEN MATTIACE I didn’t tee off until 2:30 or something. It’s a lot of time to kill and everyone is sitting in the locker-room eating areas by themselves. Tiger was there, David Toms was there. There was no chit-chat. It was like we were going off to war. It was very intense and as a result very mentally mind-playing.
BRENNAN LITTLE I always like going out to Augusta and just walking some holes in the morning, especially in the old days because the pin sheets were never any good. You get to look at the greens, see how they’re releasing, see where the tees are for the par 3s. Mike always liked that, so on the range when we’re going over shots it’s like, “OK, it’s going to be 150 yards on the 12th hole; probably going to be a 7-iron.”
JIM WEIR I got a text from [Mike] about 10 a.m. He wanted me to bring something to the hotel from the house, and I went over — it’s about a five-minute drive — and he was in his room stretching, watching SportsCentre. It couldn’t have been more relaxed. It was like a typical Tuesday morning on Tour. I was there for about 15 minutes and when I left, I was fine. I figured if he wasn’t nervous, what was I worried about. That worked until I got to the first tee.
LEN MATTIACE The first hole, I hit it down the fairway [then] on the green and lipped out for birdie, and that proved to me that I could handle those nerves. I had the round of my life on Sunday. Everything went my way.
MIKE WEIR [My thinking was:] Let’s get to the first tee with plenty of time so you can get settled, get your pin sheet, get relaxed, see your target on your first tee-shot — that’s priority No.1, so you can get off with a nice tee shot and settle into a nice, comfortable round.
STEVE ‘GOV’ BENNETT A lot of times you judge a game of golf by your first tee-shot and Mike piped it. He was in the zone. The swing was good all week, the timing and the rhythm. Everything was pin-point.
Weir’s first window of opportunity opened on the par-4 third hole, when his playing partner, Maggert, drove his tee-shot into the left-hand bunker. On his second shot, he failed to clear the lip and his ball bounced back and hit him in the chest. Weir was in the fairway.
DAVE PERKINS Maggert was in that bunker on the left side of 3 and we were on the right side of the hole. I knew something weird had happened to him…
MIKE WEIR [Maggert] calls me over and says, “Hey, the ball just hit me.” And you’re like. “OK, make sure [to] get an official over.” But when that is going on, you have to take a few steps back. “OK, I need to get focused on my game here. This is what I can control.” You kind of get lost in your own game, even though there are other things happening.
BRENNAN LITTLE I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that before. Everybody knew it was a penalty, but we weren’t sure if it was one or two strokes. Do you leave the ball where it is, or what?
STEVE ‘GOV’ BENNETT [Maggert] makes a [seven] on that hole and all of a sudden it’s game on.
CAM COLE I thought Maggert was done when that ball came back and hit him in the chest in the bunker on 3, but he recovered and was in good shape again until he made eight at the [par-3] 12th. It was not unlike [Jordan] Spieth’s meltdown there, all those years later [when he took a seven on the hole in 2016]. Maggert was eight-over-par on those two holes and lost by five.
MIKE WEIR On No.12, he hit it in the back bunker and it went in the water and he had to walk all the way around and drop [he put that one in the water too] That’s like a five-minute ordeal, probably.
BRENNAN LITTLE That was unfortunate, yeah. I mean believe me, I’ve done it many times myself — you just don’t see it on Tour very often.
Weir shot two-under on the front nine, with birdies at Nos. 2 and 6 and scrambles for par at Nos. 7 and 8. He made the turn at five-under-par, briefly alone in the lead. But Mattiace, playing four groups ahead, was just one shot back as the two men navigated the most famous back nine in golf.
LEN MATTIACE I played a practice round [at Augusta] when I was an amateur with Arnold Palmer and Roger Maltbie. And I remember walking down the 10th fairway and them saying there is no greater moment in golf that the back nine at Augusta on Sunday. And that always stuck with me. I was walking down the 10th fairway and I was in the tournament. I never thought about score — I didn’t care, I knew it was good. I was like a pitcher: Leave the pitcher alone, let him do his deal, and we can all talk about it after. Let’s just see how good I can do here.
Weir was heating up too. He had birdie chances that he didn’t convert at Nos. 10 and 11 — two of Augusta’s most demanding par-4s — and a solid par at the famous 12th as Maggert was making his unfortunate eight. But up ahead, Mattiace had birdied No. 10, eagled No. 13, and birdied Nos. 15 and 16, storming from behind to open up a three-shot lead. Standing in the fairway on the par-five 13th — a dogleg left where the Canadian lefty had put his second shot into Rae’s Creek from a similar yardage on Saturday — Weir had a decision to make.
BRENNAN LITTLE When you have a three- or four-iron in your hand and you’re a couple [strokes] back, there are times when you got to take a chance, right?
MIKE WEIR I hit a nice tee-shot on 13. Maybe I was hugging the corner just a little, but the angle was quite a bit different than on Saturday, where I had 215 [yards] off a little hanging lie, downslope, and I hit it in the water with a three-iron. I had to fade it a little bit [on Sunday], but it was a much flatter lie, so I felt much better about that shot.
BRENNAN LITTLE He hit a pretty good shot that just trickled over the green. But he hit a really good putt and it kind of trickled down to about 12 or 15 feet and he made that for birdie. I looked at the leaderboard. Lenny was a couple up [on us] and we were at six-under. I knew that was a pretty important two-putt there.
CAM COLE I honestly could feel the blood pumping in my temples. I distinctly remember thinking — weird analogy, I know — this reminded me of watching Elvis Stojko winning the 1995 [figure skating] Worlds on a bad ankle. And I had the same reaction: “The son of a gun is going to do it.” Although, I think the actual words were “little bastard.”
STEVE ‘GOV’ BENNETT Standing on the 14th green, I could see the 18th tee to my left. Mattiace was eight-under, and all of a sudden he swings and [his tee-shot on No. 18] goes straight right and I go, “Oh my,” because you know he’s not making par from the trees on 18 on the right — you’re just not.
Weir had parred No. 14 and was two strokes behind with four holes to play standing on the 15th tee. There was no one else on the golf course who was realistically in contention, and he didn’t know what many of the gallery and those watching at home did: that Mattiace was in trouble off the tee at No. 18.
DAN CIMORONI I know deep down what a grinder [Mike] is. So I’m nervous, but I’m not shot-by-shot living and dying by it. But all his buddies were, for sure, on pins and needles, like, every shot. It was shot, scoreboard; shot, scoreboard — for every shot.
RICH WEIR Sometimes I walked with the other guys, sometimes I walked alone and got in my own thoughts. You’re with him every shot and you’re pulling so hard too, you know?
JIM WEIR The whole crew met up between the 13th and 14th fairways. But I spent most of the time kind of off to the side — my Dad did, too. It’s just too nerve-wracking. I don’t want to talk or get distracted, I want to watch. It was funny: Years later, Mike was watching his daughter play soccer — she was a goalie and her team was playing to go the state [championships] — and he says, “Now I understand how nervous you guys were watching me play.”
Weir’s drive on No. 15 drifted left where deep, wet rough and overhanging branches made him rule out going for the par-5 in two shots. He advanced his ball with a short-iron and left himself about 90 yards to the hole.
MIKE WEIR Earlier in the year I was tied with Jay Haas. We’re on the 72nd hole of the Bob Hope [Classic, now the CareerBuilder Challenge] and we were within a yard of each other off the tee. I was first to hit and I decided to lay-up and Jay unfortunately missed his shot a little bit and it went in the water. I was able to hit my wedge close and make the putt for birdie, and I won by two — but that’s my game.
After punching out from the woods Mattiace’s third shot on No. 18 ended up over the green. He came up well short on his par putt, leaving himself with a seven-footer for bogey to stay at seven-under.
LEN MATTIACE My job, being an hour in front [of Weir], is to post the best score possible. So that’s what I’m happy about, to be able to put a score up on the board that really meant something on Sunday. [But] frankly, if I had missed that putt on 18, it would have been a choke, it would have been devastating — to finish with a double-bogey would be such a failure, you know? But I had such a connection with that putt, there was no way I was missing it. The will was so high at that point. I was not going to miss.
He made it, rolling in his bogey putt just as Weir stuck his third shot on No. 15 to about four-feet. Weir knocked that in for birdie to get to seven-under-par just moments after Mattiace had dropped to seven-under.
STEVE ‘GOV’ BENNETT Now we’re getting excited; now we’re tied with Mattiace.
In Road to the Masters, Rubenstein writes: “Weir makes his birdie putt [on No. 15], so he’s seven-under-par. Three pars and he’ll be in a playoff. One birdie and two pars and he’ll win the Masters. One bogey and two pars and he’ll finish second. The mathematics are brutal. So is the task.”
DAN CIMORONI [The situation] is just completely foreign [for most Tour pros]. You’re out alone against a guy who posted a low number, way early, and you’re trying to hold on or catch. You’re not really hunting, you’re not really protecting [a lead] — it’s a completely lonely hour.
MIKE WEIR I’ve never experienced that, especially in that arena. That was about as much pressure as you can feel. My playing partner wasn’t in it, the guys in front weren’t in it and [I knew] Len was already in the clubhouse, waiting.
BRENNAN LITTLE Yeah, I get nervous coming in but you don’t want to get silent out there. You want to keep communication lines open. You want him to think [about the shot, when he’s standing] over the ball, but after that you want to free him up a little bit. The last thing you want to do as a caddie is just get dead silent on a guy. We had some good talks when we got in the heat, at the Tour Championship or whatever, and he’d be like: “This is why you play golf, right here.” And I was like, “Yeah, perfect, let’s go, game on. Show me what you got.”
MIKE WEIR I hit not the greatest putt on 16 — I hit a great shot in there and kind of left the putt a little bit low — but walking to 17, I remember saying to Brennan, “Seventy holes into this tournament would we take being tied for the lead?” “Absolutely.” “Yea, I agree.” That was my focus. Not “Aw, I just missed an opportunity on 16 to take the lead.” It’s more like, “OK, if you told me at the beginning of the week I was tied with two holes left at Augusta National, I’d have taken that in a snap.” I think saying some of those things out loud, saying that to your caddie and having that conversation so it’s not bottled up, is healthy.
Weir parred No. 16 and had to make a nervy five-footer for par on No. 17. He split the fairway with his tee-shot on the long, uphill par-4 18th. He needed birdie to win or par to force a playoff. There was no room for error.
MIKE WEIR I hit a great tee-shot on 18, and [then] probably one of the best 4-irons I’ve hit. I can still envision that shot and, in my mind, the ball was definitely travelling left-to-right, right at the pin. I was trying to land it at the bottom tier and get it to stick and scoot up to the top tier, which I thought it did. It almost got up to the top tier, and [then] came all the way back down. I executed very, very well but left myself a tough putt.
BRENNAN LITTLE He left it in a good spot. When you’re a good putter, right below the hole there’s not bad.
Weir had 35-feet uphill for birdie, but he left the first putt about eight feet short. After 71 holes, the tournament hung in the balance. Miss the par chance and Weir is forever the guy who three-putted to lose the Masters.
DAN CIMORONI I had left the group and was standing in the walkway off the green on the way to the scorer’s tent. I was looking at the putt down the walkway with [Weir’s then-wife] Bricia. That was a scary moment. You’re standing there and, oh my God, you just want it so bad for him. He’d worked so hard for it. He’d been holding onto the lead for so long — for two-and-a-half crazy days.
RICH WEIR I skipped 17. I assumed he was going to par and he’ll be tied or have a chance to win on 18. So I marched up the hill to 18 and told a sheriff’s deputy at the entrance that I was Mike Weir’s dad. “I’d like to get in so that I can see the putt.” “Well, you can’t do that.” I said “Yes, I can. I’m a family member.” I showed him my driver’s license and he said “OK, you can watch.” So I was upfront, but not in sight; I didn’t want to be in Mike’s line of sight.
STEVE ‘GOV’ BENNETT I’ve walked every hole and now he’s got a putt for the playoff and I can’t see it. So I’m asking: “What’s going on? What’s going on?” And I’m hearing everything: “He’s got a five-footer. He’s got a10-footer.” Everyone is saying a different number.
DAVE PERKINS I was horrified at the thought that he could three-putt 18 and lose the Masters right there. Who wanted to write that? It would have been a terrible moment that couldn’t be sugarcoated. [And] beyond the Canadian thing, I think we all liked Mike and his family and wanted to see him do well.
BRENNAN LITTLE That’s probably the most pressure-filled putt I’ve ever been on the bag for. I will say one thing: Mike never had too many easy wins. I’ve always said there’s one thing I’d like to do is have about a six-stroke lead with a few holes left where you could actually just take a breather and enjoy it. It never really happened.
LEN MATTIACE I was on the putting green and there was a Masters official right next to us with a walkie talkie, so I was obviously getting the information. And he said, “He’s got seven-footer for par. If he misses it, you win.”
RICH WEIR My mouth was so dry I could spit dust.
MIKE WEIR It went from very, very loud to the most-quiet thing you’ve ever heard in your life when that first putt came up short. The place just went dead silent. That’s not a great feeling. That you’re able to gather yourself and have your wits about you in a pressure-packed moment like that; being able to control your emotions, control your breathing and control all the thoughts of what ifs; and being able to stay focused on what you’re doing. Those are the things when you look back in your career that you’re proud of most. I’ve failed on some, but that one in particular I was able to come through.
STEVE ‘GOV’ BENNETT I remember back in the day he’d be on the putting green at Huron Oaks and it was always, “I’ve got an eight-footer to win the Masters.” He was always thinking of the future; this is what he wanted to do.
LEN MATTIACE At that point every golfer is thinking, “He’s going to make it.” As a competitor, you’re always thinking that a golfer is going to do above and beyond greatness, and you have to as well. It was not a shock; it was expected.
STEVE ‘GOV’ BENNETT I didn’t need to ask if he made it once I heard the gallery.
Weir and Mattiace headed for the first playoff hole, the par-4 10th, with thousands of spectators in tow.
CAM COLE Mike was a stand-up guy through the years. And he always represented, to me, the classic underdog: Not from a rich family, not raised at an exclusive club, wife caddied for him when he couldn’t afford to pay one, medium/short hitter. And here he was, about to have a lifetime exemption to the Masters, No. 5 in the world [later No. 3, after finishing third at the U.S. Open at Olympia Fields Country Club in June]. Damn right I was pulling for him.
STEVE ‘GOV’ BENNETT We’re going down the right side of the fairway and all you’re seeing is balls in the air [because there are so many spectators in the way] And then you see a ball going left and you’re like, “Who is it?” [And someone answers,] “Mattiace.” I know if you hit it left on the 10th hole, you’re history. The pin is back left. You’ve got no chance from there to get it up and get it close.
LEN MATTIACE That [second] shot was disappointing. I had a good picture of what I was going to do, a good club. I pulled it a little bit. It wasn’t that far off but it landed eight steps left of the green and rolled a little down the hill. I feel like if I hit the green — I went first — it might have put the pressure on Mike. But that didn’t happen, and that was tough to take.
Mattiace’s approach came to rest behind a tree. Chipping at the pin was impossible; the best he could do was get to about 40 feet. His par putt rolled well past the hole. He eventually three-putted for double-bogey.
BRENNAN LITTLE It’s kind of a match-play event at that point, and we saw where he went so it was, “Let’s get it in the middle of the green and give yourself a chance to two-putt.”
MIKE WEIR It’s hard to tell on TV but when I hit my seven-iron, I was within about two yards of where I hit it two hours earlier in regulation. It may have been the flushest seven-iron I’d hit all week. It was right at the pin and it just caught a little puff of wind, so it probably landed four or five yards short of where I wanted it. Three or more four more yards [and] the ball would have released to the hole. Instead, I had this tough 45-foot putt.
Weir’s first putt rolled about six feet past. He missed the comebacker but tapped in for his bogey and the win. Bricia was first on the green for a hug, then his father and Cimoroni.
DAN CIMORONI When I speak at schools and stuff, I say my whole CV is I was the third hug at the ’03 Masters.
JIM WEIR We were getting in carts to go back up to the clubhouse and a Masters official taps me on the shoulder and says, “I think you forgot something,” and hands me Mike’s ball. Brennan had forgot to pick it up out of the cup.
BRENNAN LITTLE Honestly, I don’t really think I had too many thoughts until a few days later, when you get home and can relax a little bit.
MIKE WEIR The cart ride back before we went on TV, that was a special moment. I was able to ride in the cart with my dad in the back and shed a couple of tears, that was really special.
RICH WEIR One of the marshals took us in a cart through the woods to the left of the 10th fairway. It was absolutely quiet. I was standing on the back of the cart and Mike was sitting and I was patting him on the head and saying what a wonderful thing it was. He was just starting to feel it.
LEN MATTIACE After the playoff was done, we got dropped off by the putting green. The sun was just about down and the shadows were out. The event was over and a friend of mine came up to me and put his hand on my shoulder and looked me right in the eye and said, “You did really good. You have a lot to be proud of. Keep your head up.” When you hear that from a close friend — it just hit me. That was that, and I was a mess.
The first stop after the final putt drops for any Masters winner is Butler Cabin, where the previous year’s champion presents the green jacket. Then there is a ceremony on the lawn behind the first tee, followed by a press conference and then several sit-down interviews. Finally, there is a reception for the victor and his family.
MIKE WEIR I don’t know if I’ve ever said it to anyone, but maybe the most satisfying thing was, before Tiger puts the jacket on for the CBS thing in Butler Cabin, I was able to go into the bathroom and splash some water on my face. I looked at myself in the mirror and it was, “OK, it’s over. You did it.” I was able to kind of just let go a little bit. I got a little teary, for sure.
DAN CIMORONI My dad, who’s an Italian immigrant, a fantastic human being, and Rich [Weir], a middle-class guy from Sarnia, are there standing at the fireplace in the Cabin with Hootie [Johnson, then-Masters chairman]. The three of them are having a conversation, and I walk by Weirsy and I go, “What the f— are those three talking about?” And Weirsy just cracks up. It was so totally out of place. It’s like we’d taken over someone else’s movie. It was just surreal.
JIM WEIR Me and my dad are sitting having dinner at Augusta National after my little brother won the Masters. I mean, pinch me. Is this really happening?
STEVE ‘GOV’ BENNETT Before dinner there was a reception line with Mike standing there with Hootie with the green jacket on. and everyone gets introduced and [they explain] what their connection to Mike is. I get up to Hootie and so I said, “Hi, I’m Steve Bennett. I was Mike’s first golf pro when he grew up as a junior.” And Hootie looked at me and said, “Wow, you should be so proud.” And I lost it.
JIM WEIR We were finally getting ready to leave and go back to the house and I realized we had no beer left at home. So I asked the food and beverage manager if he could help us out, and they emptied their cooler for us. I remember them clinking in the back as we’re going down Magnolia Lane.
STEVE ‘GOV’ BENNETT I said to the boys, “We need to finish this night off right; we need to walk down Magnolia Lane.” So we’re walking down and Mike’s following us in the car, beeping the horn and that. And we get to the end and there’s a guard and the gate’s closed and he says, “What are you doing? You know you’re not supposed to be walking on Magnolia Lane.”
RICH WEIR We got reprimanded, by a guard — semi-reprimanded.
STEVE ‘GOV’ BENNETT I said, “Sorry, sir. It won’t happen again.”
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