2004: The Masters - Triumph puts Weir - and his home - on map

Victory at the 2003 Masters brought Mike Weir a green jacket, $1.08 million and a higher step on golf’s ladder. It also brought a stranger to Weir’s Draper, Utah, doorstep two days later.

When Weir answered the knock, he saw a man standing there holding five Masters flags. Weir remembers him as “Jim or whatever his name was” from Calgary. The visitor was a zealous fan who went a bit out of his way to see Weir and get some autographs. The man was driving home to Canada from Augusta, Ga., and decided to take the Utah detour, a road less traveled. His wife stayed in the car’s passenger seat and waved at Weir from the driveway.

“You’d think his wife would say, ‘Don’t you think, honey, this is a little odd to be going to the guy’s house?’ ” the Masters champion says now. “But, no, he thought it was OK.”

This was determination. Just a different kind than Weir had shown on the last nine at Augusta National.

“Somehow he found my house,” Weir said, smiling. “I guess he went to some neighborhoods, asked if I lived in that neighborhood. They said, ‘No, we think he lives up here.’ He drove around and asked some construction workers, and they told him (where) I lived.”

Bottom line, “Jim or whatever his name was” met his hero, got five flags signed and thought enough to send an apology just in case his visit was deemed offensive.

So it is that Mike Weir returns to the Masters in 2004 a tad more famous. And with his game even a bit better than a year ago, when he defeated Len Mattiace on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff for his first major championship title.

“It’s been important to get off to a good start and get some momentum going into the Masters,” Weir said.

Weir revved up with a fifth at the FBR Open, a fourth at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and a successful title defense at the Nissan Open in three consecutive West Coast starts. Last year, he won twice out West before holding off Mattiace’s final-round 65 charge and taking the extra hole with a bogey.

Weir drove the ball well on Masters Sunday but won largely because of his marvelous short game. One of golf’s best wedge players and putters, he hit only 38 of 72 greens in regulation but still shot 7-under-par 281. The last round alone he made seven putts longer than 4 feet, including a “gut-wrenching” 7-foot par save at 18. In the second round, he hit eight greens and shot 68.

You can do that when you take only 22 putts.

“The thing I did well in even before last year was my short game,” said Weir, who tied for 28th, 27th and 24th in his first three Masters. “The first three years I didn’t strike the ball very well, but I was able to be really creative with my short game.

“I’ve always felt comfortable with little pitches and the different types of bunker shots and bump-and-runs and long shots that you have to hit around there. I always felt like if I could get my ball-striking at a little bit better level that I’d really be able to contend around there, and last year it did get a lot better.”

For years it has been said Augusta National favors a long hitter who hits a high ball that curves right to left. Weir defied the stereotype and beat the odds, for he is medium-long, primarily has a left-right shape and has a low trajectory.

Working to overcome that might have been the most impressive part of his victory. Particularly since the course has been lengthened more than 300 yards in recent years and did not play firm and fast last year because of rain.

“My ball play is a disadvantage,” Weir said. “That’s why I worked really hard leading into Augusta last year trying to hit that high fade, because for me I have to use it on quite a few holes (he listed Nos. 2, 5, 9, 10, 14 and 17). I went in there really trying to hit some high fades and was able to do that.

“To be able to adjust your swing for different golf courses, that’s something I’ve really worked on. I think it is a major factor there that you do. As long as I can make it move a little bit right to left, that’s just going to help me a lot there.”

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