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introduced himself to Rory McIlroy on the range and asked if they could play a practice round together. Mc- Ilroy agreed—he recognized Weaver from watching last year’s U.S. Amateur finals— and they soon headed off to play the back nine with Robert Garrigus. Weaver started by pulling his tee shot on No. 10, nar- rowly missing the trees along the left side of the fairway. McIlroy immediately an- nounced to the large gallery, “That’s perfect. I’ve been way left of that!” The crowd laughed,


knowing all about McIlroy’s ultra-wayward tee shot on No. 10 in the 2011 Masters, launching his final-round implosion. Weaver couldn’t help but ask exactly where that ball landed two years earlier, and McIlroy pointed toward the pristine white cabins—way, way, way left of where Weaver expected. “Garrigus was ripping on him a little bit, but Rory was a really good sport about it,” Weaver said. After nine holes with


McIlroy and Garrigus, it was time for the Par-3 Contest. Weaver played with Zoeller and Hubert Green, which made for a leisurely and entertaining stroll. Zoeller constantly signed autographs and pulled five or six kids out of the crowd to putt for him. He also enjoyed hassling


Weaver’s dad/caddie, Bill. Every time Michael Weaver missed a putt, even from 20 feet, Zoeller shouted, “Nice read, Bill!” Weaver’s tee shot landed short of the flagstick on a few holes, prompting Zoeller to quickly yell, “Good club, Bill!” The crowd went along


and good-naturedly booed Bill Weaver. “Every miscue was all my


fault,” he said later, chuckling.


“It was just so much fun. I’m sure I had a smile on my face the entire time.”


••• TOURNAMENT


(EDT). Bill Weaver figured he would hear his son’s name announced on the No. 1 tee—about to hit his inaugu- ral shot in the Masters—and start crying, right there in the crowd. Michael Weaver just wanted to stay composed


THURSDAY T


he long-awaited moment arrived at 11:18 a.m.


his ball in the left bunker, and then his next shot flew long right—the worst possible spot, as he put it. He soon found himself tapping in for double bogey. “A quick six,” he said. That became Weaver’s


least favorite number of the day. He made four 6s in all— two double bogeys on par 4s and bogeys on No. 8 and No. 13, both par 5s. Weaver also made two birdies, including a slick, double-breaking, 20- foot putt on No. 9. “I didn’t feel like I played


that poorly,” he said. “It’s just the course is hard if you hit it in the wrong spots— and it seemed like I was great at finding the wrong spots today.”


•••


and hit a good shot. He was grouped with 1982 Masters champion Craig Stadler and 2003 British Open winner Ben Curtis. Stadler went first, then Curtis. And now on the tee… “It was a little over- whelming when it was my turn to hit,” Weaver said. The good news: He chan- neled his abundant adrenaline and smacked a great drive, more than 300 yards and safely in the fairway. The not- so-good news: It was one of his best drives of the day. Weaver posted an


opening-round, 6-over-par 78. He struggled with dis- tance control, given all that adrenaline—many shots sailed longer than intended. He also quickly learned how even small mis- takes can turn into big num- bers at Augusta National. One prime example was


No. 3, a short and treacher- ous par 4. Weaver plopped


FRIDAY S


TOURNAMENT


uddenly, the nerves disappeared. All the


excitement and anxiety of Thursday gave way to curious calmness Friday (his 22nd birthday). Weaver woke up in a tie for 82nd, so he needed a spirited surge to make the cut—either climb into the top 50 or end the day 10 or fewer shots off the lead. “When I got to the


course, it felt like I was play- ing a college tournament,” he said. “I wasn’t nervous. Part of it was I knew I had to go out and play really well. So I was kind of carefree.” Weaver enjoyed play-


ing alongside Curtis and Stadler, even if “The Walrus” struggled mightily and never seemed in the mood for idle chatter. Curtis (who played at Kent State) and Weaver talked about college golf, and Curtis shared his thoughts on the changes over the years at Augusta National.


Not surprisingly, given


his newfound serenity, Weaver played better in the second round. His 2-over 74 included another good tee shot on No. 12, the famous par 3 over Rae’s Creek (much like Thursday, his mid-range birdie putt slid past); and his second consecutive birdie on No. 15, the par 5. That momentarily kept


alive Weaver’s faint hope of reaching the weekend—he figured he needed to make birdie on each of his final four holes to have a chance. So when he settled for par on No. 16, he all but knew his Masters was coming to a close.


But he still had time for


one great memory. Weaver hit a good tee shot on No. 18, leaving himself 142 yards, slightly downwind and uphill, to a front-right hole location. His caddie, Beckner, sug- gested hitting the approach shot left of the flagstick, but Weaver had nothing to lose at this point—so he went right at it. The ball soared straight


and true, landed a few feet past the hole, spun and start- ed trickling back down the hill. The crowd roared louder and louder in anticipation, as Weaver—unable to see the elevated green—stood in the fairway listening and, well, begging. “Everyone started cheer- ing and I was thinking, ‘Please go in! One time!’ ” he said. “That would just be sick.” Alas, the ball crawled


past—no more than three or four inches wide of the hole, according to Bill Weaver. Mi- chael was left with a 4-foot birdie putt, and he poured it home to punctuate a memo- rable week in Augusta.


RON KROICHICK covers golf for the San Francisco Chronicle. SUMMER 2013 / NCGA.ORG / 41


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