(AP) -- Mike Weir tapped in his only bogey putt on the final day at Augusta National, then raised his arms to celebrate his playoff victory. His wife
ran onto the 10th green, arms outstretched, unleashing memories that reminded him just how far he had traveled to become a Masters champion.
They spent weeks at a time on opposite ends of the world when he played the tiniest of tours.
There were times Bricia worked as his caddie to save a few bucks.
They rented storage units for $50 a month so they wouldn't have to pay for an apartment while traveling.
"I think that was the most satisfying moment of the whole tournament, having my wife run out there on the green, the sacrifices she's made and the
belief she had in me," Weir said.
The Canadian fits right in with recent Masters champions who had times in their careers when they could not picture themselves in a green jacket.
Jose Maria Olazabal spent 18 months confined to his bed with a mysterious foot injury, wondering whether he would ever walk again, much less play
golf. A German doctor finally diagnosed the problem in his back, and two years later the Spaniard strode purposefully up the 18th fairway of Augusta
National in 1999 to a two-shot victory.
Vijay Singh was exiled to the rain forests of Borneo in 1985, earning minimum wage plus $10 for lessons at Keningau Club, then hitting balls under a
blistering sun in his spare time. Fifteen years later, he was a model of poise on his way to victory in the 2000 Masters.
Weir was no different.
It wasn't the six tries at Q-school before he finally earned his PGA Tour card.
It wasn't the time he warmed up on the practice range next to Nick Price at the '95 Canadian Open, hearing the crisp sound coming off Price's irons
that made Weir realize how inadequate his own game was.
Weir traces his despair -- and his resilience -- to the Indonesian Open in the mid-1990s.
He was on his own, struggling to keep his hopes alive. The golf course was an hour from the hotel, and Weir had to get a cab. Worse yet, the cab broke
down on the flooded back roads of Jakarta.
Ah, the glamorous life of a touring professional.
"I carried my bag through all this muddy water, hitchhiking back to the golf course," Weir said. "I got through it and shot 80, making a 9 on a par 3.
I think probably then, I had a tough time thinking I would win the Masters.
"But those times made me tougher and makes it even more rewarding, the six or seven years I've spent playing smaller tours and driving everywhere,
finding a way just to make ends meet to keep going," he said. "I appreciated it as much as the other guys who came from a different background to get
Weir returns to Augusta National as the first left-hander, and first Canadian, to have won the Masters.
If his journey to a green jacket sounds extraordinary, so was his final round. He went from a one-shot lead to a three-shot deficit when Len Mattiace
showed that the longer, stronger back nine at Augusta still left room for a dramatic charge.
Weir answered with precision wedges and clutch putts -- the 12-foot birdie putt on No. 13, a wedge into 5 feet for birdie on No. 15 to pull into a
tie, then one of the most nerve-racking putts anyone can face in a major championship.
After leaving a long birdie putt on the final hole some 6 feet short, Weir steeled himself and holed it for par to force the first sudden-death
playoff at Augusta National in 13 years.
The playoff ended quickly when Mattiace pulled his approach on No. 10 to the left, behind a tree, leaving him no chance to get it close. He eventually
made double bogey, leaving Weir two putts from 6 feet to win the Masters.
It was the third victory of the year for Weir, who emerged as an instant star, and the highest-ranked lefty in golf. He has won seven times on tour,
including a Tour Championship, a World Golf Championship and twice at Riviera, where he defended his Nissan Open title two months ago.
"Any time you win a major, I think there's probably a different level of respect because the players ultimately know how hard it is to win one," Weir
Respect hasn't always come easily.
In his second year on the PGA Tour, the 33-year-old Canadian wound up in the final group with Tiger Woods at the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah,
only to shoot an 80 on Sunday while being heckled by a ruthless Chicago gallery.
A week later, he won his first PGA Tour event in Vancouver.
Coming off a poor season in 2002 -- no victories, 78th on the money list -- he spent hours working on his swing in the basement of his Salt Lake City
home, and emerged better than ever.
Weir returned to Augusta National last week for the first time since his Masters victory, playing a practice round with his father and his caddie,
Brennan Little, a longtime friend. He spent the night in Bobby Jones' cabin, found his locker in the Champions Room (he shares one with Doug Ford) and
played the course.
"I had a chance to take my dad and play," he said. "Each hole, we went around and I just reminisced about a certain shot, showed him where I was on a
certain hole and what I was thinking. That was cool to relive that."
Cooler yet is to remember what it took to get him there.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved.