Resurgent Mike Weir finishes second at Byron Nelson
WATCH: Highlights from final round of Byron Nelson Championship
He’s Canada’s greatest professional male golfer, but until this weekend there were significant questions about Mike Weir’s future in the sport.
The left-hander, tied with George Knudson as the Canadian with the most wins on the PGA Tour, hadn’t had a Top 10 finish for four years. His last win came seven years ago before injuries and issues with his swing saw his career go into a tailspin.
But this week saw Weir play like the golfer who was once ranked as high as No. 3 in the world, especially in the years 2003 and 2004 when he was without question one of the game’s greats.
Weir, playing at the Byron Nelson Championship, finished second, two shots behind winner Brendon Todd. With the finish, his highest since coming in second at the AT&T National Pebble Beach Pro Am in 2009, Weir takes home $745,200, and moves to 87th in the FedEx Cup standings. He had $91,414 in winnings through 18 tournaments this year.
“I played really good golf, best golf I played in a long time,” Weir said after his round. “I was happy with the way I played today. I was really happy with the way I struck the ball today especially and got off to a great start.”
Weir, 44, has seen his share of adversity coming into the Byron Nelson Championship. Even his putting—typically a strength of his game—has been an issue this year. But at the Byron Nelson he looked very much like the golfer who has eight victories on the PGA Tour, scrambling for pars, deftly making putts throughout all four rounds, and capitalizing on his remarkable short game.
Weir opened the tournament with a 2-under 68 before coming back in the second round with a 66. He held the lead for part of the third round and started the final day of the Byron Nelson one shot out of the lead. He had four birdies in this first five holes to move into the lead, but two bogeys near the end of the front nine put him behind leader Todd for the rest of the tournament. Weir birdied 16 and looked like he might grab a share of the lead on 17, but his short birdie putt on the par three caught the lip of the cup but failed to fall. He finished with a 3-under par 67.
“I was nervous,” says Weir. “I hadn’t been there in a long time. Even though it was bunched together and I knew that anything could win this tournament, it was so close. But I was nervous starting the day and to be able to handle those nerves and hit shots right out of the gate.”
Weir’s last Top 10 finish came at the 2010 Bob Hope Classic. Since then he’s been derailed by an elbow injury that required surgery and kept him away from golf for six months, with a return in the spring of 2012. Since that point he’s struggled to find his form, seeking answers from a handful of instructors before deciding to go it alone late last year after working with former PGA Tour pro Grant Waite.
Even then Weir struggled to find any semblance of form, leading some to question whether his career was finished.
“No doubt about it, I was down,” Weir said earlier this week. “There were plenty of times I was very down and maybe wondering what I was going to do next. You start to question if you want to keep doing this. Especially, you know, I have two young daughters that are teenagers now and being away from home gets harder. If you’re playing good golf that’s one thing, but if you’re playing bad golf and missing cuts that’s another thing.”
Weir, the winner of the 2003 Masters and seven other PGA Tour events, had fallen to 1540 in the world, according to the World Golf Rankings, and came into the tournament ranked 605, seventh among Canadian professional male golfers.
Coming into the tournament the left-hander had managed to make the weekend in only six of 18 events. Weir is playing the season on the second of two all-time money exemptions.
He said his two daughters—now teenagers—kept him motivated.
“Definitely was difficult and had plenty of talks and my kids are old enough now, they’re 16, 14, they’re like, ‘Dad, get out there’ and if they would have said we want you home, I probably would,” Weir says. “But they want me out there. They’re encouraging and I’m having fun and enjoying the process right now.”
There’s no doubt he had more fun playing this week than he has in recent years. And his second-place finish is perhaps a sign of things to come, and a suggestion that, regardless of how far he’s fallen, he might find his way back again.
“In the end I love the game and I love to compete and I guess I said this earlier, I know hard times, I’ve had plenty of hard times in my career,” Weir said following his final round. “It took me seven years out of college to get on the PGA TOUR, missing cuts on the Asian tour, Canadian Tour, all around the world. So I knew I could rely on that and I knew I could dig deep within myself to pull myself out of things. This has taken a long time and it’s only one week but this week was great and very satisfying. I look forward to the rest of the year.”
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