SALT LAKE CITY — A couple of transplanted Utahns, who have each lived in the state for at least two decades, are experiencing special anniversaries as the Masters golf tournament gets under way Thursday in Augusta, Ga.
For Mike Weir, a Canadian who played golf for BYU and then stuck around to make Utah his home with his wife and two children, it’s the 10th anniversary of his victory at Augusta National, where he beat Len Mattiace in a sudden-death playoff.
For Dan Forsman, who met his future wife, Trudy, at the 1979 Pacific Coast Amateur in Provo and later made it his home and raised a family, this marks the 20th anniversary of his near-miss at the Masters where one bad hole late in the final round spoiled his chances of donning the green jacket.
The following is a look at the 1993 and 2003 tournaments where Forsman and Weir were each on the biggest stage, not only in golf, but the entire sports world. One made it to the top and fulfilled every golfer’s ultimate dream, while the other came oh, so close.
Weir, who lives in Sandy, is not 100 percent this week, coming off a rib injury he suffered during the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Florida last month. He had to withdraw from that tournament and missed last week’s event in Houston and as of Wednesday was still deciding whether he can play this week.
Forsman, meanwhile, will be watching the tournament from his home in Provo, relishing the special memories of his five appearances at the Masters.
— — — — —
In April of 1993, Forsman was coming off his best season as a pro when he won $763,190 and ranked No. 10 on the PGA Tour money list. He won the Buick Open the previous August and the unofficial JC Penney Classic in December and finished second twice. Prior to Masters week, he had made five of seven cuts and had tied for 11th in the Players Championship two weeks earlier.
He had played in the Masters twice previously — in 1986, the year Jack Nicklaus made his big comeback at age 46, and again in 1990, but missed the cut both times. Forsman came to Augusta in ’93 confident, but not expecting to contend for the title. He got a thrill when he was able to play with both Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer in a practice round on Tuesday before the tournament, which gave him some added confidence.
Forsman opened with a 69, two shots off the lead, and added another 69 on Friday, which put him alone in second place, one behind Jeff Maggert. He finished the third round in a tie for second behind eventual champion Bernhard Langer after a 73, but was disappointed about a poor finish that included a double bogey at 16 and a bogey at 18.
— — — — —
Weir was having a strong season when he arrived at Augusta in April of 2003. He had already won two tournaments, the Bob Hope and Nissan (L.A.) Open and was ranked No. 10 in the world golf rankings. Still, not many folks had the shorter-hitting Weir on their favorites list just after the course had been lengthened by a few hundred yards. But Weir felt he had a good chance to win even if no one else did.
“In 2003 I was so confident in playing well that it seemed like any golf course I was going to play well on,’’ he said. “I did feel under the radar, even though I felt like I was one of the favorites in my own mind. I think maybe because of the rain and how long the course was playing after they made the changes that a lot of the longer players were guys that were in contention. It kind of worked to my favor a little bit even though I was under the radar.’’
The overwhelming favorite was Tiger Woods, who had won at Augusta the two previous years, and with rain postponing play on Thursday, it was supposed to give big hitters like him an advantage on the wet course.
Weir opened with a 70 and followed with a 68, most of that round on Friday and the final six holes Saturday morning, which gave him a four-stroke lead after 36 holes. After a 75 in the third round Saturday afternoon, he fell two shots off the pace, set by Jeff Maggert.
“For myself, I always felt like the way that tournament played out, I was the player in control of that tournament from day one,’’ Weir said. “I was leading right off the bat. I was in control of that tournament, and that's the mentality I took into the Sunday round, that I've been in control of this tournament.’’
— — — — —
Shaking off the disappointment of his finish Saturday, Forsman came out on fire Sunday, making birdies at Nos. 2, 5 and 7 and just missing a short birdie putt at 8, and moving to 8-under-par, one behind Langer, who was in the group behind Forsman.
After 11 holes, Forsman was still one behind Langer when disaster struck at the tricky 165-yard par-3 called “Golden Bell.”
As he approached the tee, he received a thunderous ovation from the large group of patrons in the stands behind the tee. Then Forsman and his caddie took an inordinate amount of time trying to decide which club to hit. The tee was back further than he expected and the wind was swirling and he was in between clubs. He finally decided to hit a 7-iron, but in mid-swing worried about hitting it too long and instead let up and hit it right into Rae’s Creek.
“When I got to the tee that day, (the gallery) all came to their feet when I climbed the hill from the 11th green to the 12th tee. They were pulling for me, saying ‘you can win it, you can win it,’ ’’ he recalls. “It was quite a realization for a guy who started out as a caddy and aspired to be a pro and became one and qualified for the Masters and had a chance to compete there and all of a sudden was in position to win the championship. That was a long journey for me and I got swallowed up in the moment emotionally there.’’
Rather than dropping near the green, Forsman moved back to the 100-yard mark for a solid wedge shot. His ball disappeared into the rye grass and this time his shot hit the bank and rolled back into the water. Finally he hit the green, two-putted and walked away with a quadruple-bogey 7.
The ironic thing, Forsman noted, was that while he was having his troubles at 12, Langer came within a couple of feet of plunking second shot in the lake at No. 11.
“He could have gotten a double or worse — you get a break or don’t get a break.’’
If Forsman could have hit the green and parred and Langer made double, Forsman would have been in the lead by one, heading into 13 and 14, holes that he ended up birdieing. From there, who knows what would have happened, but Forsman’s chances were washed away in the water at No. 12.
— — — — —
Heading into Sunday’s final round, Weir trailed Maggert, the same guy who had led the tournament in ’93 as a Masters rookie, with former champion Vijay Singh, just a shot behind and Woods and Phil Mickelson only two shots back. It was a stellar leaderboard.
Weir played steady golf — he was the first champion in 46 years to play a bogey-free final round — to stay near the top of the leaderboard all day. He birdied the par-5 2nd hole and took the lead after 3 when Maggert made a triple bogey. However, several groups ahead, Mattiace was ripping up the course with birdies and charging to the lead.
After making it past No. 12 at Amen Corner, Weir was suddenly three down to Mattiace, who after going 4-under through 12 holes, eagled 13 and birdied 15 and 16.
Weir sank a must-putt from 15 feet at No. 13, then added a birdie at 15. When Mattiace got in trouble at No. 18 and bogeyed, the two were tied at 7-under.
When he came to 18, Weir faced a long putt, which he left eight feet short. That’s when he hit the most important stroke of his life.
“That putt on 18 — that's the most memorable and the one that sticks out, obviously,’’ he said. “It had a kind of finality to it. Either I make it and we move on, or I miss it and the tournament is over. That one really stands out in my mind.’’
Weir made the putt that he said later he “wouldn’t wish on anyone” and moved onto the sudden-death playoff with Mattiace, which was anticlimactic when Mattiace got in trouble behind a tree and all Weir needed was a three-putt bogey to win. “On a regular day, a Thursday morning on the 18th hole, an eight‑footer straight up the hill, you're going to make quite a few of them,’’ Weir said. “But a do-or-die putt at a major championship, win or lose it was a big moment, so to be able to step up there — I was proud to be able to do that.’’
— — — — —
Today, Forsman looks back on his Masters experiences with fondness as well as with a twinge of regret at what might have been.
“That was exciting obviously, and disappointing,’’ he says now. “But it was a great memory and to be able to go to Augusta and meet and mingle with the greatest players in the world.
"I miss going down and spectacle of the Masters and all it represents. There’s nothing like it, there’s no way you can possibly describe it. You have to go and see the beauty and the whole spectacle of the Masters, one of the greatest sporting events I could even imagine, let alone being a participant in. I’ve been there, done that, and now I’m happy to sit back and enjoy it on my HD TV.’’
— — — — —1 comment on this story
Thanks to his 2003 win, Weir gets to return to the Masters every year for the rest of his life, even long after he has stopped playing. When he’s 81, like another transplanted Utahn, Billy Casper, Weir will still be invited to attend the Tuesday night Champions Dinner every year and to hobnob with all the other great Masters’ champions.
“To win that tournament has been such a thrill,’’ he says. “It is hard to believe it's been 10 years, and obviously it was a thrill of my golfing career to win at Augusta National. Winning the Masters was great for me.’’