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
     
    Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

    By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

    Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

    Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

    What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.


    Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


    Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

    Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

    Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

    Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

    Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

    Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

    In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

    "It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’


    Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


    Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

    “Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

    “That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

    Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.

    The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 6:01 pm

    Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.

    Lexi Thompson:

    Baking time!!

    A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

    David Feherty:

    Jack Nicklaus:

    GC Tiger Tracker:

    Steve Stricker:

    Golf Channel:

    Frank Nobilo:

    Ian Poulter:

    Tyrone Van Aswegen:

    Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

    By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

    Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.