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Last Updated: Monday, 14 April, 2003, 11:30 GMT 12:30 UK
Tiger slump gives rivals hope
By Matt Majendie
BBC Sport

Tiger Woods struggles during his final round
Woods struggled for much of the tournament
The build-up to this year's Masters was all about Tiger Woods and when, not if, he would move to the top of the leaderboard at Augusta.

Woods was still poised to make his mark on the final day of play before an error-strewn 75 saw him plummet to two-over par and into a tie for 15th place.

The result was much to the bookmakers' delight as Woods, an overwhelming pre-tournament favourite at 6-4, failed to win his third consecutive green jacket.

While not encouraging people to revel in another's demise, it is hard to see his rare slip and the inspired golf of eventual winner Mike Weir and play-off rival Len Mattiace as anything other than good news for the game.

Weir had only been fleetingly mentioned before the delayed start as an outside chance - bookies backing that with odds of 50-1.

Mattiace was even less fancied, a 125-1 hope before teeing off on day one.

Despite their heroics, there is no doubting Woods remains the class act in world golf but Sunday's outcome revealed the increasingly forgotten side of golf.

PRE-TOURNAMENT ODDS*
Mike Weir (winner): 50-1
Len Mattiace (second): 125-1
Tiger Woods (15th): 4-6

*Odds courtesy of William Hill

Simply put, one man cannot continually dominate all the big events.

Ernie Els' early season glory run showed signs that Woods might be more closely challenged this season.

And Weir's success, as much as Woods' capitulation, is testament to the fact that too much can happen over four days at a course to mark a golfer down as an odds-on favourite.

Woods' 15th place was hardly the biggest disgrace in sporting history and the world number one will undoubtedly bounce back in style.

But victory by the 30-year-old Weir could yet be a sign of things to come in golf.

The Canadian has been brought up in the Woods era of focusing on nutrition and fitness in a bid to be at the peak of his game.

This year's four days of Augusta showed the importance of such a regime as the bulkier players in world golf faltered.

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Among them Colin Montgomerie and Darren Clarke complained of having to play two rounds on one day and struggled with the required fitness levels.

In stark contrast, Weir got better as the tiredness scuppered the Masters ambitions of many of his rivals

Throughout his final day he looked at his physical peak, was superbly consistent over the 18 regulation holes and showed little mental frailty.

Whether this proves to be the left-hander's sole Major success remains to be seen.

But more important than becoming the first left-hander to win a Major since Bob Charles clinched the Open in 1963, is what it may pave the way for.

Although apparent before this year's Masters, what is certain is that Woods can be beaten, even by his beloved Augusta, and is certain to falter again.

Less certain, but increasingly likely, is the gulf between Woods et al is closing.





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