LONDON: Len Mattiace can be assured of a hero’s welcome when he defends his St. Jude Classic title this week at the TPC at Southwinds course near Memphis.
The 35-year-old American, who fired a closing seven-under-par 64 to win last year’s tournament by a stroke, narrowly missed out on victory at this April’s US Masters and now enjoys a greatly enhanced stature in the game.
Mattiace was hardly a household name in the golfing world 12 months ago, but he thrilled the Masters crowds at Augusta National, firing a final-round 65 before being edged out by Canada’s Mike Weir at the first playoff hole.
“I take a lot from the Masters, no question about it,” Florida-based Mattiace told reporters.
“That was one of my goals a few years ago, to be a competitor in the majors, and that proved to me that I can do some great stuff.
“But I look to keep improving and continuing to move up the ladder and compete more,” he added.
The Jacksonville-based professional, who won his first PGA Tour title at last year’s Nissan Open on his 220th start, followed up with victory at the St. Jude Classic before ending the 2003 season with earnings in excess of $2 million.
He came back from seven strokes behind on the last day to secure his St. Jude triumph in June, finishing at 18-under-par 266.