Mattiace Oh-So-Close

By Golf Channel NewsroomApril 13, 2003, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- Len Mattiace was waiting for the playoff to start, putting between folding chairs, television cameras and a wooden podium.
 
The Augusta National practice green was cluttered in preparation for the green jacket ceremony. But Mattiace never made it back; the Masters runner-up isn't invited.
 
He was that close - that close - to claiming golf's most prized piece of clothing.
 
Despite one of the best closing rounds in Masters history, Mattiace was tied with Mike Weir after 18 holes Sunday.
 
In the playoff, he hit a perfect drive. However, on his approach, Mattiace struck his worst shot of the day, winding up behind a pine tree next to the 10th green.
 
From there, things only got worse. He muscled up on a chip, the ball racing past the flag and winding up on the far side of the green. Then, an icy downhill putt that nearly rolled off the other side. Finally, another putt hit too hard, the ball sliding past the hole yet again.
 
Mercifully, he didn't have to take another shot. Weir tapped in a bogey putt to win.
 
Mattiace broke down in tears, overwhelmed by the realization that his best effort wasn't quite good enough.
 
'I love this game. I've loved it since I was 8 years old,' he said, rubbing his eyes. 'You're trying to get better and better as a golfer. You're trying to reach new levels.'
 
For Mattiace, this was a new level. He shot 65 in the final round of the Masters, quite an achievement for a guy who never finished higher than 24th in a major championship.
 
His closest brush with fame in a major tournament came in 1988, when he went to the 71st hole at The Players Championship just one stroke out of the lead.
 
Mattiace was overwhelmed by one of the most famous holes in golf -- the island --green 17th at Sawgrass. One shot into the water, then another. When he was done, a quintuple-bogey 8, his chances of victory at the bottom of the lake.
 
Mattiace managed to find some perspective when he looked over at his mother, Joyce, sitting in a wheelchair, her body ravaged by lung cancer. She died a few months later.
 
On Sunday, Mattiace was asked if she was watching over him.
 
'You're going to make me cry again,' he replied. 'Yeah, she was.'
 
Mattiace was playing at Augusta National for the first time since 1988, when he made his debut while still a college student at Wake Forest.
 
He never expected it would take 15 years to get back.
 
'Being the college stud I thought I was, an All-American coming out of college, I thought I would zip right to the pros, win my first or second year on the tour, hang around the top 30,' Mattiace said.
 
Instead, he didn't qualify for the PGA Tour until 1993, three years after graduating. He lasted only one year, dropping off until '96. He finally won his first tournament at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles last year. Finally, he qualified for his second Masters appearance.
 
Through the first two rounds, Mattiace wasn't much of a factor, shooting 73 and 74. He slipped in under the radar with a 69 on Saturday, but still began the final round five strokes behind third-round leader Jeff Maggert.
 
Then, Mattiace went out and shot the round of his life. Six birdies and an eagle on one of golf's most challenging layouts.
 
'This day proved to me that I can do some great stuff,' he said. 'I was in a zone. I was hitting shots just the way I was seeing them. That's all you want to do. It was a great feeling doing it.'
 
The feeling wore off at the treacherous 18th, a hole that bedeviled Mattiace all week. Needing just a par to equal the course record for a closing round, his body flew open on the tee shot, the ball plopping down on some wood chips to the right of the fairway. He had to punch out and wound up making bogey.
 
At that point, Mattiace was still the leader with a 7-under 281. While he was in the scoring hut going over his card, Weir made a birdie putt at 15 to get to 7-under, too.
 
Mattiace made a brief stop at a nearby cabin, then headed to the practice range. The bleachers were nearly empty, the sun setting behind him, as he struck a few balls to stay loose. Then, accompanied by his caddie and coach Jim McLean, he headed to the practice green, already set up for the champion's ceremony.
 
About wedge away, the gallery roared when Weir sank a testy six-foot putt to save par at 18, forcing the playoff. Fans scurried down the fairway to get in position, but Mattiace never looked up. He took a few more putts before a security guard summoned him to the 10th tee.
 
'I was ready to go,' he said, insisting that he wasn't hurt by the 45-minute layoff. 'I knew one of us was going to win, one of us was going to lose. I was OK with that.'

Related Links:
  • 2003 Masters Tournament Mini-Site
  • Tournament Coverage
  • Photo Gallery
  • Augusta National Course Tour
  • The Augusta National Membership Debate: A Chronology
     
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    Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

    John Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge, and moved to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

    Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

    What it means:

    This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff. Rahm had missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18, his birdie bid found the cup.. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

    Best of the rest:

    A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt slid by on the right side of the hole. This is his best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

    Round of the day:Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

    Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

    Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

    Quote of the day:

    "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on
    Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

    Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

    By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

    Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

    The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

    "The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

    He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).


    Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship


    Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

    “Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

    Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

    Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

    Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

    The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.