Weir Winds His Way Back to Augusta

By Associated PressApril 4, 2004, 4:00 pm
Mike Weir tapped in his only bogey putt on the final day at Augusta National, then raised his arms to celebrate his playoff victory. His wife ran onto the 10th green, arms outstretched, unleashing memories that reminded him just how far he had traveled to become a Masters champion.

They spent weeks at a time on opposite ends of the world when he played the tiniest of tours.
There were times Bricia worked as his caddie to save a few bucks.
They rented storage units for $50 a month so they wouldn't have to pay for an apartment while traveling.
'I think that was the most satisfying moment of the whole tournament, having my wife run out there on the green, the sacrifices she's made and the belief she had in me,' Weir said.
The Canadian fits right in with recent Masters champions who had times in their careers when they could not picture themselves in a Green Jacket.
Jose Maria Olazabal spent 18 months confined to his bed with a mysterious foot injury, wondering whether he would ever walk again, much less play golf. A German doctor finally diagnosed the problem in his back, and two years later the Spaniard strode purposefully up the 18th fairway of Augusta National in 1999 to a two-shot victory.
Vijay Singh was exiled to the rain forests of Borneo in 1985, earning minimum wage plus $10 for lessons at Keningau Club, then hitting balls under a blistering sun in his spare time. Fifteen years later, he was a model of poise on his way to victory in the 2000 Masters.
Mike Weir successfully defended his Nissan Open title in February. Weir was no different.
It wasn't the multiple tries at Q-School before he finally earned his PGA Tour card.
It wasn't the time he warmed up on the practice range next to Nick Price at the '95 Bell Canadian Open, hearing the crisp sound coming off Price's irons that made Weir realize how inadequate his own game was.
Weir traces his despair -- and his resilience -- to the Indonesian Open in the mid-1990s.
He was on his own, struggling to keep his hopes alive. The golf course was an hour from the hotel, and Weir had to get a cab. Worse yet, the cab broke down on the flooded back roads of Jakarta.
Ah, the glamorous life of a touring professional.
'I carried my bag through all this muddy water, hitchhiking back to the golf course,' Weir said. 'I got through it and shot 80, making a 9 on a par 3. I think probably then, I had a tough time thinking I would win the Masters.
'But those times made me tougher and makes it even more rewarding, the six or seven years I've spent playing smaller tours and driving everywhere, finding a way just to make ends meet to keep going,' he said. 'I appreciated it as much as the other guys who came from a different background to get there.'
Weir returns to Augusta National as the first left-hander, and first Canadian, to have won the Masters.
If his journey to a green jacket sounds extraordinary, so was his final round. He went from a one-shot lead to a three-shot deficit when Len Mattiace showed that the longer, stronger back nine at Augusta still left room for a dramatic charge.
Weir answered with precision wedges and clutch putts -- the 12-foot birdie putt on No. 13, a wedge into 5 feet for birdie on No. 15 to pull into a tie, then one of the most nerve-racking putts anyone can face in a major championship.
After leaving a long birdie putt on the final hole some 6 feet short, Weir steeled himself and holed it for par to force the first sudden-death playoff at Augusta National in 13 years.
The playoff ended quickly when Mattiace pulled his approach on No. 10 to the left, behind a tree, leaving him no chance to get it close. He eventually made double bogey, leaving Weir two putts from 6 feet to win the Masters.
It was the third victory of the year for Weir, who emerged as an instant star, and the highest-ranked lefty in golf. He has won seven times on Tour, including a Tour Championship, a World Golf Championships and twice at Riviera, where he successfully defended his Nissan Open title two months ago.
'Any time you win a major, I think there's probably a different level of respect because the players ultimately know how hard it is to win one,' Weir said.
Coming off a poor season in 2002 -- no victories, 78th on the money list -- he spent hours working on his swing in the basement of his Salt Lake City home, and emerged better than ever.
Weir returned to Augusta National last week for the first time since his Masters victory, playing a practice round with his father and his caddie, Brennan Little, a long-time friend. He spent the night in Bobby Jones' cabin, found his locker in the Champions Room (he shares one with Doug Ford) and played the course.
'I had a chance to take my dad and play,' he said. 'Each hole, we went around and I just reminisced about a certain shot, showed him where I was on a certain hole and what I was thinking. That was cool to relive that.'
Cooler yet is to remember what it took to get him there.
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    Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

    By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

    Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

    She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

    Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

    After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

    “The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

    Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

    It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

    “I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

    Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

    Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

    “The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

    Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

    It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

    “I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

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    Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

    By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

    CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

    The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

    ''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

    She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

    ''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

    Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

    ''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

    Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

    Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

    Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

    Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

    Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

    ''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

    She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

    ''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

    Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

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    DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

    By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

    AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

    Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

    “He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

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    Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

    The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

    It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

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    Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

    By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

    BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

    Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

    ''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

    He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

    Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

    ''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

    Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

    ''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

    Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

    ''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

    Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

    Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

    Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.