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.
  • Getty Images

    Lincicome grouped with two rookies in Barbasol

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 17, 2018, 9:54 pm

    Brittany Lincicome will tee it up with a pair of rookies when she makes her first start in a PGA Tour event Thursday at the Barbasol Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

    Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, is scheduled to go off the 10th tee at 9:59 a.m. ET in the first round with Sam Ryder, 28, and Conrad Shindler, 29. They’re off the first tee Friday at 2:59 p.m. ET

    Lincicome will become just the sixth woman to play in a PGA Tour event, joining Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie.

    “The first three or four holes, I’ll be a nervous wreck, for sure,” Linicome said.

     

     

    Getty Images

    Lincicome thrilled by reception from male pros

    By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 8:31 pm

    Brittany Lincicome wondered how PGA Tour pros would greet her when she arrived to play the Barbasol Championship this week.

    She wondered if there would be resentment.

    She also wondered how fans at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky., would receive her, and if a social media mob would take up pitchforks.

    “I can’t stop smiling,” Lincicome said Tuesday after her first practice round upon arriving. “Everyone has been coming up to me and wishing me luck. That means a lot.”

    PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, husband of LPGA pro Gerina Piller, welcomed her immediately.

    Other pros sought her out on the practice putting green.

    She said she was also welcomed joining pros at a table in player dining.

    Fans have been stopping her for autographs.

    “It has been an awesome reception,” said Dewald Gouws, her husband, a former long-drive competitor. “I think it’s put her much more at ease, seeing the reception she is getting. There’s a lot of mutual respect.”

    Lincicome, 32, wasn’t sure if she would be playing a practice round alone Tuesday morning, but when she made her way to the first tee, Domenico Geminiani was there, just about to go off.

    He waved Lincicome over.

    “He said, `Hey, Brittany, do you want to join me?’” Gouws said. “Come to find out, Dom’s a pretty cool guy.”

    Geminiani made it into the field as a Monday qualifier.

    “The two of us were both trying to figure things out together,” Lincicome said.

    Keene Trace will play to 7,328 yards on the scorecard. That’s more than 800 yards longer than Highland Meadows, where Lincicome finished second at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic last weekend. Keene Trace was playing even longer than its listed yardage Tuesday, with recent rains softening it.

    Nicknamed “Bam Bam,” Lincicome is one of the longest hitters in the women’s game. Her 269.5 yard average drive is 10th in the LPGA ranks. It would likely be dead last on the PGA Tour, where Brian Stuard (278.2) is the last player on the stats list at No. 201.

    “I think if I keep it in the fairway, I’ll be all right,” Lincicome said.

    Lincicome is an eight-time LPGA winner, with two major championships among those titles. She is just the sixth woman to compete in a PGA Tour event, the first in a decade, since Michelle Wie played the Reno-Tahoe Open, the last of her eight starts against the men.

    Lincicome will join Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Wie in the elite ranks.

    Zaharias, by the way, is the only woman to make a 36-hole cut in PGA Tour history, making it at the 1945 L.A. Open before missing a 54-hole cut on the weekend.

    What are Lincicome’s expectations?

    She would love to make the cut, but . . .

    “Just going to roll with it and see what happens,” she said. “This is once in a lifetime, probably a one-and-done opportunity. I’m just going to enjoy it.”

    Lincicome grew up playing for the boys’ golf team at Seminole High on the west coast of Florida. She won a couple city championships.

    “I always thought it would be cool to compete against the guys on the PGA Tour,” Lincicome said. “I tend to play more with the guys than women at home. I never would have gone out and told my agent, `Let’s go try to play in a PGA Tour event,’ but when Tom Murray called with this opportunity, I was really blown away and excited by it. I never in a million years thought I would have this opportunity.”

    Tom Murray, the president of Perio, the parent company of Barbasol and Pure Silk, invited Lincicome to accept one of the tournament’s sponsor exemptions. Lincicome represents Pure Silk.

    Lincicome said her desire to play a PGA Tour event is all about satisfying her curiosity, wanting to know how she would stack up at this level. She also wants to see if the experience can help take her to the next level in the women’s game.

    As a girl growing up, she played Little League with the boys, instead of softball with the girls. She said playing the boys in golf at Seminole High helped her get where she is today.

    “The guys were better, and it pushed me to want to be better,” Lincicome said. “I think playing with the guys [on the PGA Tour], I will learn something to take to LPGA events, and it will help my game, for sure.”

    Lincicome has been pleased that her fellow LPGA pros are so supportive. LPGA winner Kris Tamulis is flying into Kentucky as moral support. Other LPGA pros may also be coming in to support her.

    The warm fan reception Lincicome is already getting at Keene Trace matters, too.

    “She’s already picked up some new fans this week, and hopefully she will pick up some more,” Gouws said. “I don’t think she’s putting too much expectation on herself. I think she really does just want to have fun.”

    Getty Images

    Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown

    By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 4:00 pm

    There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.

    Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.

    She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.

    It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.

    Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.

    "It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”

    Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.

    Getty Images

    Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

    By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

    Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

    “I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

    “It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

    The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

    “All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”