Mattiace Falls Rises for Masters Return

By Mercer BaggsApril 7, 2004, 4:00 pm
When the little birdies stopped tweeting around his head, he thought: Oh, no!
His wife had warned him: Dont you come back and make me have to take care of you as well as the kids.
And what does he do? He takes a head-over-heels, double-ACL-shattering, knee-cap-rupturing fall right into Gimpville.
I wasnt really thinking about anything when I was tumbling in the snow, said Len Mattiace. But afterwards I was thinking: Now I have to call my wife and tell her what happened.
In December of last year, a spry and anxious Mattiace went on a skiing trip in Vail, Col., with five of his buds. He came back home to Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., double bound at the knees, unable to walk without the support of crutches, and in the doghouse with his wife.
He tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in both of his knees and dislocated his right kneecap.
My legs went in kind of a split position, and I went end-over-end, said the self-assessed 14-handicap skier. It wasnt like I was jumping or going fast.
I was playing the white tees. Ill move up to the forward tees now.
It wasnt the worst thing that had ever happened to Mattiace, but he could think of a million things more that ranked higher on his happiness scale ' and few things more so than what transpired a year ago at Augusta National.
Youre probably all-to-familiar with that story by now: Mattiace, playing in his first Masters Tournament in a decade and a half, shoots 65 in the final round to force a sudden-death playoff with Mike Weir, which he eventually loses on the first hole when he makes double bogey.
I would have rather won, but that was a special day, he said. That was probably my best day in golf. Ive won two times, but Ive never felt the feelings that I felt around there.
Mattiace wept openly that Sunday. Not at his defeat and not at what could have been.
I really cant explain it, that Sunday night when I broke down, Mattiace said. I had a buildup of a lot of feelings and dreams that came through that day.
There were a lot of things going on: I probably had my best day of golf at Augusta that Sunday; I hadnt been there in 15 years; I had to wait and see what Mike was doing ' whether there was going to be a playoff or not; and then the playoff; and then it just came out of me.
His loss ' of tournament and composure ' proved to be his gain.
Today, as he walks around at an event ' and walking is the best therapy for his recovery ' and signs autographs, he cant help but see, hear and feel the encouragement his play and his emotions have elicited from fans and peers.
After the Masters I had probably over 1000 letters, a lot of support. All the guys out here were slapping me on the back, he said, adding that he got letters from the likes of Byron Nelson and Greg Norman.
When people write letters like, Thanks for the performance on Sunday, you made it a thrill for us. We enjoyed watching you perform. Those are great things for people to say.
People would go on to say things like, I was with my family watching you play Sunday. My father has leukemia. We cheered the telecast with you. It was special, and we are closer for it. Things like that, Im like, Wow, thats really cool; thats some really cool stuff. And Ive gotten a lot of that.
Mattiace had plenty of time to read all of those immensly supportive and inspirational missives while laid up for about two months.
After his fall, he underwent successful surgery to repair the damage. He then needed time to heal, and was put in double-lock leg braces for six, seven weeks, before going to a smaller brace for about four weeks.
He finally dropped the crutches in early February and gradually started walking properly on his own. He began putting Feb. 10, and then progressed to chipping, irons and, by March, his driver.
The early prognosis was for a full recovery in late April, meaning he would have missed the Masters: That was extremely depressing, he said.
But thanks to a dedicated therapeutic routine, he was able to curb that timetable.
In January, the thought was: Maybe I could play Augusta, because things were going better than normal, Mattiace said. And then the thought was: If I can play Augusta, then only two weeks earlier is the Players, I can make that. And then about mid-February things just kept progressing and Bay Hill was definitely in the picture.
And then, like the end of February I thought: The best thing the doctors said I could do is walk. And I had no pain in my knee from hitting golf shots, nothing in the swing back and through. So I thought I might as well play (Honda).
Mattiace has played in three events since his return. He missed his first two cuts, but tied for 33rd at The Players Championship, near his Ponte Vedra home.
Just like his game, his physical condition, through extensive exercising, which includes the on-course walking, is getting better by leaps and bounds each and every day.
I need to walk as much as possible. My knees feel real great; I dont have any pain, he said.
I really have to take it one day at a time. Im doing a lot of rehab to increase the strength of my knee.
Now the two-time PGA Tour winner will test more than his body as he returns to the site of both his greatest defeat and his greatest triumph.
After going 15 years between my first Masters (while attending Wake Forest University in 1988) and my last, I wasnt going to miss this one, if I could help it, he said.
Mattiace doesnt really harbor expectations of being able to repeat his performance of a year ago. And moreover, he doesnt spend a lot of time living in the world of What If ' What if he had parred 18? What if Weir had missed that six-footer? What if he had hit just a couple of good shots in that playoff? What if Tiger had put the green jacket on his shoulders?
Sometimes I think about it. It doesnt really consume me though, Mattiace said. Ive moved on; theres so many other things to do and to be able to improve on that I dont really think about the What ifs.
Mattiace is all about pressing forward, achieving goals, and challenging myself.
And dont think for a slippery second hes retired from the slopes.
Last years trip was with the fellas. And even though he says he wasnt going very fast, he admits there was a bit of bravado involved in the crash. This year he plans on taking another skiing escapade with the family ' where his wife can presumably keep an eye on him.
He will ski again! But definitely at a different venue.
Not Vail, he said. Maybe Utah.
You just can't keep this good man down.
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    Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

    By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

    PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

    She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

    “I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

    Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

    Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

    “Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

    She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

    “I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

    Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    “Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

    She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

    “They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

    Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

    While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

    “Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

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    Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

    By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

    PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

    In fact, she named her “Mona.”

    For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

    While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

    And that has her excited about this year.

    Well, that and having a healthy back again.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    “I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

    Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

    “Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

    Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

    She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

    Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.

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    Clanton rides hole-out eagle to lead at Founders

    By Associated PressMarch 17, 2018, 1:47 am

    PHOENIX - Cydney Clanton holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par-4 13th and closed with a birdie Friday to take the second-round lead in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

    Clanton shot a 5-under 67, playing the back nine at Desert Ridge in 5-under 31 to reach 9-under 135.

    Clanton's wedge on the 13th flew into the cup on the first bounce. She also birdied the par-5 11th and 15th and the par-4 18th. The 28-year-old former Auburn player is winless on the LPGA.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    Ariya Jutanugarn, Marina Alex, Karine Icher and Mariajo Uribe were a stroke back on a calmer day after wind made scoring more difficult Thursday.

    Jessica Korda and Mo Martin were 7 under, and Michelle Wie topped the group at 6 under.

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    Ko's struggles continue with Founders MC

    By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:26 am

    PHOENIX – Lydia Ko loves the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and its celebration of the game’s pioneers, and that made missing the cut Friday sting a little more.

    With a 1-over-par 73 following Thursday’s 74, Ko missed the cut by four shots.

    After tying for 10th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in her last start, Ko looked to be turning a corner in her quest to find her best form again, but she heads to next week’s Kia Classic with more work to do.

    “I just have to stay patient,” Ko said. “I just have to keep my head high.”

    It was just the fifth missed cut in Ko’s 120 career LPGA starts, but her fourth in her last 26 starts.

    Ko’s ball striking has been erratic this year, but her putting has been carrying her. She said her putting let her down Friday.

    “It seemed like I couldn’t hole a single putt,” she said. “When I missed greens, I just wasn’t getting up and down. When I got a birdie opportunity, I wasn’t able to hole it.”

    Ko came to Phoenix ranked 112th in driving distance, 121st in driving accuracy and 83rd in greens in regulation. She was sixth in putting average.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    Cristie Kerr saw the struggle playing two rounds with Ko.

    “Her game’s not in good shape,” Kerr said. “She seemed a little lost.”

    Ko, 20, made those sweeping changes last year, starting 2017 with a new coach (Gary Gilchrist), a new caddie (Peter Godfrey) and new equipment (PXG). She made more changes at this year’s start, with another new coach (Ted Oh) and new caddie (Jonnie Scott).

    Ko doesn’t have to look further than Michelle Wie to see how a player’s game can totally turn around.

    “It always takes time to get used to things,” Ko said. “By the end of last year, I was playing solid. I’m hoping it won’t take as much time this year.”

    Ko had Oh fly to Asia to work with her in her two starts before the Founders Cup, with their work showing up in her play at the HSBC in Singapore. She said she would be talking to Oh again before heading to the Kia Classic next week and then the ANA Inspiration. She has won both of those events and will be looking to pull some good vibes from that.

    “This is my favorite stretch of events,” she said. “And I love the Founders Cup, how it celebrates all the generations that have walked through women’s golf. And I love the West Coast swing. Hopefully, I’ll make more putts next week.”

    Ko, whose run of 85 consecutive weeks at Rolex world No. 1 ended last summer, slipped to No. 12 this week.