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Masters Takes On a Canadian Tinge

Darkness had already started to spread across the 10th green when Mike Weir won the 2003 Masters. He was in a playoff with Len Mattiace, and Mattiace was having a terrible time getting the ball on the green.
By the time Mattiace had cuffed it around for double bogey, Weir was the winner. The boy from a small Canadian town in Ontario had grown up to become a Masters champion, and Canada would never again be quite the same.
Sure enough, Jean Chretien, then the Prime Minister of Canada, was one of the first to call and offer his congratulations.
He was with the President of the Dominican Republic, recounted Weir, and he said they were watching and he was jumping up and down, and his wife was jumping up and down, and they were very excited. He said he was very proud of me.
Now its a year later, and Weir returns to Augusta as the defending champion. And, Weir says, this year is much different.
I think I'm more recognizable than maybe what I was before, said Weir, who was born in Sarnia, Ontario. I've said before, I think even the casual golf fan tunes into the Masters. Whether it's the beauty of the place and music and everything else that they enjoy, people enjoy watching The Masters. So me winning last year, I think I'm recognized maybe more by the casual fan than the die-hard fan who did know me before. That's the big difference.
Weir lives now in Draper, Utah. Yes, hes Drapers most famous citizen. Hes one of golfs most famous, too. And being famous gives way to high expectations, he has learned.
Yeah, I think any time you win a major, expectations rise probably, said Weir. It probably gave hope to a lot of medium-range hitters that it wasn't going to be all long-ballers out there last year. It proves that you can find other ways to get it done in this game.
I've always had high expectations of myself, but I think there is probably a little bit more expectations.
Weir already has won on the PGA Tour this year, repeating as the champion of the Nissan Open. Its the seventh time he has won on the tour, and Weir has the uncanny knack of getting them in the big tournaments. Hes won a World Golf Championship event, the American Express, at Valderrama. Hes won the Tour Championship. And in addition to the Masters and Nissan, he originally won as a native son, taking the Air Canada Championship.
Along the way, the slightly built left-hander has endeared himself to fans of all nationalities. Both personally and professionally, hes the guy that most of the fans genuinely appreciate.
I think maybe the average amateur can relate to my game a little more, because I play with a lot of amateurs that hit further than I do, he confesses. Not many guys can hit it as far as Tiger and Vijay and Phil and Davis, and that's a different game that they play than even I play and amateurs play. So maybe they can relate to my game a little more.
Repeatedly last year, Weir dug deep inside during the final round at Augusta to find an inner will, something to combat the feelings of nerves, some way to get over the myriad hurdles that were laid out before him. Hes 33 now, and he doesnt think he would have succeeded five years ago.
Experience in this game is a huge factor, Weir said, and I've been through a lot of situations in the game my seven years on the tour - and other years that I was on some smaller tours - and you use all those experiences to pull yourself through tough situations.
And now hes learned what he has to have to play the majors.
The game has so many ebbs and flows, he said, and you just try to peak for the majors. You try to get your game so it does peak at that right time, because you know you can't stay there the whole time. It's too demanding physically and mentally to stay there for that long of a time.
I want to do a lot of similar things that I did last year. I'll probably stay at the same place. My preparation will hopefully be a little better. The weather conditions played a big factor in that last year. We weren't able to get on the golf course very much before the tournament.
Weir is an excellent putter, and his work with the short stick was one of the major factors in his winning last year. But just as important was his ability to concoct a good game plan and stick to it. That is what he will have to do if he is to be successful this time.
I always felt like I have a good strategy for the golf course, and that's important, said Weir. Iron play, distance control with your irons, and putting it on the smart side of the hole is at least for me the most important thing, and that's what I base my plan around playing the golf course. Whether I'm able to do that, hopefully I'm striking my irons well enough to be able to control them. But that's how I go about that place, trying to attack it.
Weir goes back to Augusta this year as the champion. He has a green jacket now, he will take advantage of the champions locker room. As defending champion, he will attend the champions dinner, even hosting this one since he is only one year removed from the ceremonies in Butler Cabin.
What will be on the menu? Weir is looking forward to having something typically Canadian ' maybe something as Canadian as coffee and doughnuts.

Yeah, he said with a laugh. Thats Canadian, for sure!
Related links:
  • Full Coverage - The Masters Tournament
  • Masters Photo Gallery
  • Tee Times
  • Arnold Palmers 50th Masters