Monday, April 14, 2003

Pars and putts add up to green jacket

By Tim Dahlberg
The Associated Press

AUGUSTA, Ga. - Mike Weir managed to get through 18 holes without making a bogey. When he finally did, it was good enough to win a green jacket.

Weir needed to make four birdies under the pressure of a Sunday at Augusta National to win the Masters. But it was the gritty way he kept salvaging pars that gave him the chance.

Weir saved his two biggest par putts for the final two holes of regulation, including a 6-footer on the 18th hole that was the difference between playing some more or accepting the silver medal given the runner-up.

"I wouldn't wish that putt on anyone," Weir said. "That's as nerve-racking as it gets."

Len Mattiace was already finished at 7-under and waiting for a possible playoff as Weir carefully looked over the putt on the 18th green before a hushed gallery.

He stroked it into the cup, just as he knocked in a 5-footer for par the hole before to keep his hopes alive.

Instead of celebrating, though, he had to walk to the adjacent 10th tee, pull out his driver and go back to work.

"It was probably the biggest shot of my life," Weir said. "It's one of the most difficult things you can have in golf, a putt to tie a major championship."

Six times in the last seven holes, Weir made putts between 4 and 15 feet. Two were for birdies to get in a tie with Mattiace, while the others were for par to keep him tied.

The only makeable putt he missed all day was a 10-footer for par on the first playoff hole. By then, it didn't matter because Mattiace had already made double bogey.

"It was just a gut-wrenching day," Weir said. "A lot of comeback putts that I needed to make and was able to make them."

It was different for Weir four years ago when he was paired with Tiger Woods in the final round of the PGA Championship, and got an up-close glimpse at how hard it is to win a major championship.

Weir shot 80 that day, leaving Medinah Country Club bitterly disappointed but also eager to learn from the experience.

"It was a very difficult day for me then but, at the same time, I did observe how Tiger managed his victory there," Weir said. "And the clutch putt I remember he made on 17 and how he really stayed with his game."

Woods made one big clutch putt on 17 to win his first PGA. On Sunday, Weir made them in bunches.

They included:

• A curling 8-footer on No. 4 after running his long birdie putt past.

• A 5-footer for par on No. 8 after hitting a pitch to the green.

• A 4-footer on No. 12 after sending his first putt past the hole.

• A 15-footer on No. 13 after hitting his eagle putt by.

• A 5-footer on No. 14 for a two-putt par.

• A 4-foot birdie putt on the par-5 15th.

• A 5-footer on No. 17 for a two-putt par.

• The final putt on the 18th for a two-putt par.

For the record, he had 26 putts on the day. But the statistics are as meaningless as second place in the Masters.

"I made literally all my putts inside of 8 feet today," Weir said. "At the PGA that year I don't think I made one of them. That was the difference this week."

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