REMEMBER LEN MATTIACE? The player who tragically posted a snowman on the 71st hole of the 1998 Players Championship and lost by four shots to Justin Leonard?
The guy who won twice in 2002 (Nissan Open and FedEx St. Jude Classic)? The tour pro who shot a 65 in the final round of the 2003 Masters and lost to Mike Weir in a sudden-death playoff?
That Len Mattiace, a player who virtually disappeared for the last five years, shares the first-round lead at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in Mpumalanga, South Africa. His seven-under-par 65 ties him with Michael Jonzon.
So what happened to Len and why is his best finish in the last two years a tie for 34th on the Nationwide Tour?
In December 2003 in Vail, Colorado, Mattiace tore both ACLs, requiring extensive surgery. He spent three months in a wheelchair. Then he tried to come back too soon.
Len was ranked 24th in the world at the end of the 2003 season. By 2006 he had plummeted to No. 898. He wants to come all the way back and rejoin the PGA Tour.
“I’m not done,” Mattiace has said.
There’s still a long way to go on the comeback trail. First-round leader is a good start.
−The Armchair Golfer
A year ago at ARMCHAIR GOLF:
Ernie Els Describes Dunhill Collapse