- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003

From Monday’s washed out practice round to Sunday’s butchered playoff, the 67th Masters featured a non-stop stream of the unexpected. Here’s a rundown of our favorite oddities from what was easily the most bizarre major championship in recent memory:• Weir-d winner — Thanks to his two victories earlier this season, nobody could argue that 32-year-old Canadian Mike Weir was a bolt out of the blue. A major coronation seemed inevitable for the steady lefty, but the Masters just didn’t seem like the logical Slam site.Weir is a shortish hitter who had never finished in the top 20 in four previous starts among the azaleas. And while five of the event’s last seven winners fit the same small-ball profile (Bernhard Langer, Jose Maria Olazabal, Ben Crenshaw, Nick Faldo and Mark O’Meara), the combination of the post-2001 course changes and the wet turf was supposed to make 7,290-yard Augusta National a bunt-proofed monster’s ball.Guess again. Short-knockers like Weir, runner-up Len Mattiace, Jim Furyk (fourth place) and Jeff Maggert (fifth) thrived, leaving driving distance-leader Phil Mickelson (third) as the only bomber in the top five.Weir’s victory also marked some curious firsts. On the obvious front, he became the first Canadian to win a major and the first lefty since Bob Charles at the 1963 British Open. On more obscure fronts, Weir was the first player to win the Masters in a playoff since 1990, and the first player to win a Masters playoff with a bogey. The bogey (on No. 10) was unexpected in that he had played one of the day’s two bogey-free rounds en route to a 68.•Tiger tanks — Tiger’s unsuccessful bid to win an unprecedented third straight green jacket wasn’t outrageous because of his loss; it was how he lost that was so staggering. First, he opened his quest with a 76, his first over-par effort at Augusta National since the third round of the 2000 Masters. It was his worst round at Augusta National as a pro, and the only time he had played a round on the layout without recording a birdie.Then, after working himself back into Sunday position with a third-round 66, he disintegrated and closed with a 75, equaling his worst final round in nine Masters starts.”Nobody’s perfect,” said O’Meara of Woods’ performance. “On the rare occasions when he plays like that, I think we all realize just how insane our expectations of him have become.”Woods is still 0-fer in the major comeback category (see adjacent charts). And unlike legendary major finishers like Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, his final-round scores are higher than his average, not lower, a disturbing trend for a player already considered among the greatest ever. That said, he’s still superior to his contemporaries in Slam finales, fueling the notion his competitive cast is awfully weak.”If I was leading a tournament, I just knew there were guys out there who could come get me if I slipped at all. I’m not sure Tiger has that concern,” Arnold Palmer said early last week. “There just aren’t that many guys out there right now who have proven they know how to win majors. There’s Tiger, then maybe Ernie Els, and I think there’s a significant gap after that.”•Maggert and Mattiace — What happened to Maggert on Sunday would be unimaginable if it hadn’t actually happened. Two virtually unplayable lies in bunkers caused the third-round leader to card triple- and quintuple-bogeys on Nos. 3 and 12, respectively. Despite what must have been indescribable emotional torture, Maggert responded by playing the other 16 holes 3 under.”Considering how difficult it must have been for him psychologically, I think that’s probably the greatest 75 I’ve ever seen,” said Weir, his playing partner.It’s extremely unlikely that we’ll ever again see a major leader play two final-round holes in 8 over. It’s equally unlikely that we’ll ever see Mattiace play any meaningful holes in a major again. For the 35-year-old Mattiace, Sunday’s miracle 65 was his Warhol moment. The obscure journeyman came one blocked 72nd-hole drive from becoming the most obscure Masters champion since 1973 (see Tommy “no relation to Hank” Aaron). Augusta National just doesn’t let these sorts of guys into the winner’s circle, but you can’t come closer than Mattiace.•The real storm — Who would have guessed Mother Nature would cause far more logistical problems at Augusta National than Mother Martha? But the first washed-out opening day since Bobby Jones was a competitor did far more to disrupt the proceedings than Burk and her tiny gang of Augusta Irrationals.

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