May 20, 2014 8:38 am

Weir’s rebound leaves golfer looking to the future


Mike Weir has no doubt there are golf fans that gave up on him. He recognizes that for the past four years there haven’t been many reasons to cheer. Injuries. Swing problems. More injuries. Missed cuts.

But golf is a fickle game. As quickly as your hold over it disappears, it can just as readily reemerge. And for Weir it did just that.

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On Sunday at the Byron Nelson, Weir finished second, just two shots behind winner Brendon Todd. It was Weir’s highest finish in five years, moving him to 87 on the FedEx Cup list and almost assuring him of his tour status next year.

The day after, at home in Utah, Weir said he had the chance to talk to his two daughters, Elle and Lili, about his success. Weir’s wife, Bricia, flew in for the final round of the Byron Nelson, while his daughters watched with friends.

“When I missed the putt on 17, apparently they fell off the couch,” Weir says. “It means so much for me to have them see me play well. We’ve had plenty of discussions in the past few years about whether they’d like me to stay home more, and they always told me, no, they wanted me to continue doing what I’m doing. They’ve pushed me in their own way.”

Weir, now 44, is more than a decade removed from his best golf, an incredible run in 2003 when he won three times, including the Masters. That moved him to No. 3 in the Official World Golf Rankings. Coming into the Byron Nelson Weir was ranked 609, but the second-place finished vaults him up to 238. That makes him the third-rated Canadian PGA Tour regular, behind David Hearn and Graham DeLaet.

And while the Canadian golfing world began to tire of Weir saying his game was coming together, the golfer always had confidence he was heading in the right direction. The problem was, as his ball striking improved this season, his putting slumped. Finally at the Byron Nelson he sensed it was coming together.

READ MORE: Brendon Todd wins Byron Nelson for 1st PGA Tour title, beating Mike Weir by 2 shots

“I’ve been saying for a while I’ve been showing signs but haven’t put it together,” Weir says. “I’ve played plenty of rounds where I’ve played well, but have come off the course frustrated by missing putts. Finally I was able to get a roll going. I just haven’t been able to do that. My expectations weren’t high, I just wanted to see what was going to happen. I made a little adjustment to my putter and started rolling a few in. And once you get your putter down others things happen. You take dead aim with your irons because you’re putting well. It goes through the whole game.”

Which is exactly what happened. Weir shot his way toward the top of the leaderboard and was there throughout the week. When he came to the first tee on Sunday Weir had the chance to do something that eluded him for the past seven years—win. But there was more than that hanging on the round. After two dismal seasons Weir used the final all-time money exemption to play this year. If he didn’t manage to stay with the Top 125 money leaders by the end of the year, Weir would face returning to the Tour or eking out an existence on the PGA Tour by begging for sponsor’s exemptions.

But Weir says those thoughts never weighed on him.

“I was more nervous and excited by the moment,” he says. “I hadn’t been there in a while and I was curious as a player and competitor to see how I’d respond. I met with Peggy Nelson on the tee and I felt calmer and it felt familiar. And I hit a 290-yard 3-wood right down the middle and make a birdie. I didn’t think about ‘what ifs.’ I was more curious about how I’d handle the day and not worry about repercussions of tour cards and what it would do for my career.”

READ MORE: The hefty cost of chasing a golf dream

By the final holes on Sunday, with eventual winner Brendan Todd only holding a two-shot lead, Weir asked caddie Danny Stahl where he stood. At that point he made the decision to play for broke, smashing a driver and 3-wood at the par-5 16th where he made birdie and then firing straight at the flag on the par-3 17th. His birdie putt caught part of the cup on 17 but failed to fall.

Throughout it all Weir was surprised at how he reacted to the challenge on battling for a PGA Tour win.

“I think it is the feel,” he says. “The nerves get going and the adrenaline gets going and your body responds to it. You need to slow your body down and your breathing. And you can’t get distracted by things out of your control. The feeling comes to you and you recognize you need to slow down, take a drink of water and focus.”

READ MORE: Mike Weir continues to struggle to find his game

He flew home to Utah Sunday night, and caught up with his daughters at breakfast. After years of watching their father struggle with injuries and swing problems, the girls, who were too small to remember his greatest successes, finally had the chance to watch their dad at his best.

“It was neat to hear their reactions at breakfast,” Weir says. “They gave me a big hug and told me they were proud of me. That was really cool because it had never really happened before.”

And Weir is hoping it won’t be the last time.

This week on the PGA Tour: Crown Plaza Invitational at Colonial

Global Saturday, May 24 and Sunday May 25 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Who to watch

Paul Casey: The English golfer is playing a nice stretch of tournaments, with three consecutives Top 20 finishes. He was once one of the game’s best—and he’s trending in the right direction.

Dustin Johnson: The bomber closed the Byron Nelson with a 4-under 66 to finish T7. Expect him to be in the mix this week, even if the shorter Colonial doesn’t exactly play to his strengths.

Matt Kuchar: Colonial seems like a perfect fit for a golfer who is seemingly in the Top 10 in every tournament he enters. That includes five Top 10 showings in his last six tournaments.

Canadians in the field: Graham DeLaet and David Hearn. Mike Weir was turned down for a spot in the field prior to his showing at the Byron Nelson.

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