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Every so often Len Mattiace and his wife, Kristen, will watch the tape, a reminder of the day one of them made it to the top and the world stopped and took notice. No, Kristen didn't win The Price Is Right all those years ago, but she was on the show, there on the big stage with Bob Barker and the rest of them. She did come within $35 of winning, and she and Lenny still smile at the memory.
"Sometimes you ask yourself," Len says, "did that really happen?"
They watch the replay of the 2003 Masters less often, but not because they're afraid of what is coming. "It was 98 percent a fantastic day," Mattiace says of his final-round 65, followed by an interminable wait in the clubhouse, followed by Mattiace's making a mess of the first playoff hole, which Mike Weir won with a bogey. Hey, somebody wins, somebody loses—that's the way playoffs go.
Mattiace, 45, wasn't in the field for the 2013 Masters. And though he likes to watch the majors to see who is playing well and how the course is set up, he didn't catch much of round 1. He was at his home course, TPC Sawgrass, as Len's Friends, his charity, participated in a concert to benefit Wolfson Children's Hospital in Jacksonville.
Weir, the only Canadian to win a major and the first lefty to win the Masters, teed it up at Augusta last week but shot 72--79 and wasn't around for the weekend. At 42, he has seen his scores soar after swing changes and a right elbow injury that required surgery. He missed the cut in all 14 events he played in last year and is competing in 2013 on a one-time exemption available to the top 25 career money winners.
"It's human nature to try to judge from the outside," says Weir, whose game has shown signs of turning despite his results—three made cuts in nine starts and earnings of $27,000 in 2013. "No one knows what I do behind the scenes. How hard I work. I've learned that I can't fight that battle of public perception. My plan is to leave no stone unturned, and when I decide to hang it up, I'll have no regrets."
If you want to catch up with golf's legends and mythmakers, you've come to the wrong place. You missed the 10th anniversary for the 2002 Masters, won by Tiger Woods (again), and it's not yet time to relive the '04 Masters, won by Phil Mickelson (finally). The '03 Masters is representative of what happens when mere mortals hit the pinnacle of human achievement: They come down unwillingly and, in some cases, swiftly.
MATTIACE'S DESCENT began on skis. A native of Jericho, N.Y., on Long Island, he went to Vail with his agent and some friends for a guys' trip in December 2003. The slopes were thick with powder. Mattiace was unaccustomed to so much new snow, and during one run he fell hard and heard two loud pops. He tried to get back on his skis but fell down again, and he had to be dragged down the mountain on a stretcher. He'd torn both ACLs and MCLs, dislocated his right kneecap and fractured a bone in his left knee. Kristen was summoned to Vail, where Richard Steadman, a renowned orthopedic surgeon, performed arthroscopic surgery. Mattiace went through two weeks of rehab before he was strong enough to fly home to Jacksonville. It was a somber Christmas.
After being cut open once more to clean out scar tissue, Mattiace returned to the Tour in March 2004, three months after the accident. He barely broke 80 during two rounds at the Honda Classic, missed the cut by a shot at Bay Hill and finished 33rd at the Players.
"I could hit it 260, but I could barely walk," he says. "Stabilitywise I wasn't even close, and I was making accommodations in my swing for a body that wasn't healed. I had no muscles in my legs, no drive. I was like a baby deer trying to walk. Shots were flying outside the ropes."