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Weir's Win Marks Masters' Firsts

From weird to Weir, there's never been a Masters like this.

It started with the rain, which washed out the first round for the first time in 64 years and left muddy Augusta National Golf Club smelling like a barnyard.

Then came Martha Burk, whose protest against Augusta's all-male membership threatened to overshadow the golf. In the end, the head of the National Council of Women's Organizations and other protesters were confined far from the club.

Finally, the green jacket - which had never been won by a left-hander or a Canadian - was claimed by a left-handed Canadian.

Mike Weir won the first Augusta playoff since 1990, winning the green jacket after Len Mattiace self-destructed on the extra hole.

"It's been a little bit odd, obviously," Weir said. "There were a bunch of things going on outside the gates, and with the weather and everything, it's been a little bit of a hectic week. But I didn't pay much attention to that. I was here to play a golf tournament."

That he did, getting through a Sunday at Augusta without making a bogey until the very end. By then, it didn't matter - Weir tapped in to win on the first playoff hole while Mattiace was taking a double-bogey.

"Unbelievable," Weir said. "It's something I've dreamt of, something I worked very hard at. I'm having a hard time putting it into words because words won't do it justice."

The green jacket that Tiger Woods had hoped to slip on for a record third straight year is going north of the border.

Tiger put himself in position to make history by shooting a 66 in the third round. But Woods was out of contention before making the turn on Sunday, his slide beginning with a double-bogey at No. 3.

"It was just one of those weeks where I couldn't get anything going for an extended time," Woods said.

The same could be said of Weir for much of his career.

Like most Canadians, he grew up playing hockey. When the other kids shot past him in height - Weir is 5-foot-8 - he turned his attention to golf.

At age 13, Weir sent a letter to Jack Nicklaus asking whether he should try to hit the ball right-handed, the route taken by many lefties. The Golden Bear told him there was no reason to change his swing.

Weir kicked around the bush-league tours and had to go back to the dreaded qualifying school after a miserable 1997 season on the PGA Tour.

Two years later, Weir was in the final group of a major for the first time, paired with Woods in the PGA Championship at Medinah, Ill. Weir shot 80, but the lessons from that day would come in handy five years later.

"It was a difficult day for me then, but at the same time, I did observe how Tiger managed his victory there," Weir said. "The tough putts, the ones around 8 feet that you need to win, I missed almost every one at Medinah."

At Augusta, Weir didn't miss any down the stretch. He saved his two biggest putts for the final two holes of regulation, both to save par.

Mattiace brought drama back to the final nine holes with phenomenal shots that took him to the edge of a stunning victory with a 65 - one short of the Augusta record for a final round.

Mattiace could have won with a par on 18, but he pushed his tee shot onto some wood chips along the right side of the fairway. Forced to pitch out from the trees, he wound up with bogey.

Weir still had four holes to play, pulling even with a birdie at No. 15 while Mattiace was signing his scorecard.

Weir and Mattiace finished at 7-under 281, the highest winning score at the Masters since 1989.

Afterward, Mattiace choked back tears when he realized what he had lost in the first Augusta playoff since Nick Faldo beat Raymond Floyd 13 years ago.

"I hope to draw on this experience for a long time to come," Mattiace said. "I look to keep improving and continuing to move up the ladder and compete more.

"This day proved to me that I can some great stuff."

Bob Charles was the only left-hander to win a major, the 1963 British Open. He played a practice round with Weir two years ago at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

"It's nice to win one for the lefties," Weir said.

By Paul Newberry