AUGUSTA, Ga. — It’s been 20 years since Mike Weir became the first Canadian and second left-hander to win a major golf championship when he triumphed at the 2003 Masters at Augusta National.

“It was a dream come true to win a major championship and to win at Augusta National of all places is special because so many things go along with being a champion there. It’s like winning Wimbledon or the Stanley Cup in hockey — it’s the greatest thing in golf, really.” — Mike Weir on his Masters victory

Weir shot a 7-under 281 and defeated Len Mattiace in a one-hole playoff to claim the coveted Green Jacket.

While Weir is a proud Canadian through and through, he’s actually lived in Utah for most of his life — more than 30 years since he played collegiate golf for BYU in the early 1990s. He’s still a diehard BYU and Utah Jazz fan, often attending games, and makes his home in Sandy with his wife, Michelle, after living in Draper for many years.

“It’s become home,” he said last week, just before departing for Georgia. Then he ticked off the reasons for staying in Utah 30 years after graduating from BYU.

“Going to college here ... loving the outdoors ... skiing. ... I’ve got a lot of friends here. ... I  like the four seasons.” Then Weir backtracked a bit, acknowledging the long, wet winter “has been wearing on me a little bit.” 

He gets away to play in Arizona or Palm Desert, California, and has played in five Champions Tour events already this year.

Weir’s 2003 victory came in between Masters victories by two of the best golfers of the era, Tiger Woods in 2002 and Phil Mickelson in 2004. For those who don’t believe Weir belonged in such company, he reminds you that he was perhaps the best golfer in the world when the 2003 Masters rolled around.  

Weir didn’t miss a cut in the first seven events of the 2003 season and had won twice, at the Bob Hope Desert Classic and Nissan Open; he also tied for third at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

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“I was the hottest player in the world at the time,” he says flatly. “I won in L.A. and Palm Springs and was in the mix at several others. The media may not have said that, but I was (the hottest). No one was playing better than me in that small window of time. I was very confident. I had strong belief in myself going into (the Masters).”

But what about missing the cut the week before at the BellSouth Classic in Atlanta, his only missed cut of 2003 prior to the Masters? Weir looked at it as a positive because he was able to refocus his game and get some extra rest.

“I missed the cut because I was really undisciplined that week,” he recalls. “I remember chasing pins and my strategy wasn’t very good. It reminded me the way I play golf is to have a good game plan on each and every hole. I didn’t have the fine detail I usually prepare with. I was able to get in (to Augusta) a bit early after missing the cut and do the extra work and get back to the kind of golf that makes me successful.”

Weir started off with a 70 at Augusta in the first round, which was played on Friday because of rain on Thursday. That left him in a tie for fourth, four shots behind Darren Clarke, but in his second 18 holes Friday afternoon, Weir shot 68 to grab a four-shot lead at the halfway point. A 75 Saturday dropped Weir two shots behind Jeff Maggert, whose 66 put him at 5-under 211.

In the final round, Weir grabbed the lead early when Maggert made a triple-bogey at the third hole, but Mattiace was on fire, going to 8-under for the day before making his only bogey of the round at 18. Weir needed a par at the final hole to force a playoff and calmly rolled in a 7-footer. 

Mike Weir reacts to his birdie on the 15th hole during final round play of the 2003 Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., Sunday, April 13, 2003. The former BYU standout went on to win the Green Jacket. | Amy Sancetta, Associated Press

The playoff was a dud as Mattiace got in trouble, hitting his ball behind a tree and carding a double-bogey, allowing Weir to win with a bogey.

“It was a dream come true to win a major championship and to win at Augusta National of all places is special because so many things go along with being a champion there,” he said. “It’s like winning Wimbledon or the Stanley Cup in hockey — it’s the greatest thing in golf, really.”

He remembers after all the rain that week how the sun came out for the green jacket ceremony in front of the Augusta patrons.

“It ended up being a beautiful night,” he said. “I’ll always remember the fans  — there were a lot of Canadian fans singing the national anthem, a lot of excitement. When you win you have a nice dinner with the members, so I didn’t leave the club until about midnight that night. The whole day was pretty memorable.”

Over the next seven years, Weir won twice and had 34 top-10 finishes, but he struggled with injuries on and off after 2011 when he had a hard time making cuts. He joined the Champions Tour in 2020 and after a couple of runner-up finishes he won at the Insperity Invitational in Texas in 2021. He’s won nearly $3 million and sees a bright future on the old guys’ circuit.

“I’ve really enjoyed the Champions Tour,” he said. “It’s perfect when you’re 50. You’re competing against players who don’t have the power that they have on the regular tour, so it’s a good place to compete and to have three rounds instead of four. It’s not as much of a grind as the regular tour and for me and my status, I have a little more security out there and that I’m exempt as long as I want to play, which is a nice feeling.”

Weir flew into Augusta Saturday and looks forward to playing as a former champion and participating in all the events that go along with it, such as the Champions Dinner Tuesday night.

Thursday’s pairings

6 a.m. MDT: Mike Weir and Kevin Na
Noon MDT: Tony Finau, Tommy Fleetwood and Jordan Spieth

Even though he has only made the Masters cut twice in the past dozen years, Weir believes he can still make a good run, even at age 52. He knows he can’t expect to win against the younger, stronger players, but believes he can finish in the top 10.

As for the future, Weir would like to play the Champions Tour and the Masters as long as he’s healthy and able to compete, pointing to Bernhard Langer, who is going strong at age 65. 

“As long I’m still healthy and competing at a high level, I’ll keep doing it,” he said.

A year after winning his own Green Jacket, Mike Weir helps Phil Mickelson put on the jacket at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., Sunday, April 11, 2004. Mickelson won the Masters with a 9-under score. | Dave Martin, Associated Press