Mike Weir of Bright's Grove, Ont., edged American Len
Mattiace in a sudden death playoff Sunday to become the first Canadian to win
the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia.
The tournament came down to a final
playoff hole for just the sixth time in Masters history and the first since Nick
Faldo edged Raymond Floyd in 1990.
Mattiace crumbled in the extra hole after a magical day. The 35-year-old runner-up pulled his approach to the 495-yard 10th hole left off the green and behind a tree.
He then failed to convert his next three shots, leaving Weir two putts for the championship.
Weir missed his first attempt for the victory, but drained his second from about one foot away. Mattiace never finished the final hole.
Weir's victory marked the first-ever win by a Canadian man at a major golf tournament. Canada's George Knudson came close in 1969, finishing tied for second at Augusta.
"Hopefully, some young kid back in Canada watching will be inspired to be in Augusta wearing the green jacket," Weir said upon receiving his champion's jacket from two-time defending champion Tiger Woods.
"It's tough to grasp that right now, but I know it's special," Weir said of what the win meant to Canadians.
Despite the defeat, Mattiace had no reason to hang his head. He put in remarkable final round Sunday, finishing the afternoon with a seven-under 65 to force the extra hole. He previously shot rounds of 73, 74 and 69 the first three days of the tournament.
Mattiace had a shot at the green jacket on the 18th hole. But he missed a par putt, settling for a bogey and playoff date with Weir.
Like Mattiace, Weir was consistent all day long. His conservative approach paid off, as he sunk four birdies and saved par on each of the other 14 holes.
The performance made up for his only slip of the tournament, Saturday's disappointing Round 3 in which he shot a three-over 75 to fall two strokes off the pace behind veteran Jeff Maggert.
But it was Maggert who quickly fell out of contention Sunday. The 39-year-old American carded a triple-bogey and a quintuple-bogey to finish with a three-over 75. He placed fifth overall.
Phil Mickelson, another lefty, finished third for the third consecutive year. Mickelson posted a four-under 68 to come within two strokes of the playoff.
Tiger Woods, who was seeking his third straight Masters title, was never a factor Sunday.
The two-time defending champion struggled with a double-bogey six at the fourth hole and never recovered.
He shot a three-over 75 on Sunday and finished tied for 15th.
Along with the honours earned Sunday, Weir also became just the second left-hander to capture a major golf title. New Zealand's Bob Charles was the only other to achieve the feat, triumphing at the 1963 British Open.
Oddly enough, Weir almost switched to a right-handed stance as a teenager. At 13, he wrote a letter to golf great Jack Nicklaus asking he if should make the switch, but Nicklaus encouraged Weir to stick with his natural swing.
After his historic victory on Sunday, Prime Minister Jean Chretien called Weir to congratulate him.
"You don't know how proud we are," Chretien told Weir after the prime minister, his wife Aline and their aides watched Weir's win on television.
"We were cheering. We were toasting you. You're so cool and so good we were jumping in the room when you won," Chretien said to Weir.
The prime minister also invited the champion for dinner at his official residence.
"Thank you. It means a lot," replied Weir. "I really appreciate the call."
with files from Canadian Press