Watch: Mike Weir 1-on-1
At last year’s RBC Canadian Open, Mike Weir looked like a golfer searching for a lost swing.
Weir, coming off surgery on his right elbow, may be Canada’s greatest golfer, the winner of eight PGA Tour events including the 2003 Masters, but when he arrived at Hamilton Golf and Country Club last July, he was a shadow of the golfer who spent 110 weeks in the Top 10 of the World Golf Rankings.
At Hamilton, playing in a marquee group, he snapped drives into trees, swamps and other areas more typically frequented by weekend hackers than PGA Tour pros.
He would end the year missing the cut in all 14 tournaments he played in.
At the time, Weir described his game as “awful.” There were few that would argue with him.
Now playing on an exemption for all-time money leaders – Weir has more than $27-million in career earnings – he continues to battle to find the form that once made him among the best in the world, once able to better Tiger Woods head-to-head at the Presidents Cup.
Weir is currently ranked 586th in the world, behind some Canadian golfers most people couldn’t pick out of a lineup.
He comes into the Canadian Open healthy for the first time in three years, and is pleased with the progress he’s making with coach and former PGA Tour pro Grant Waite.
“I’ve said that to Grant a few times this year when I’ve been on a range at a particular tournament, and said ‘look where I was last year at this tournament,’” Weir said yesterday.
“The confidence level and the way I’m playing from a year ago is a big change. I feel confident when I tee it up on Thursday every week now.”
And he’s not content to simply make the cut at Glen Abbey, a course where he lost a playoff to Vijay Singh in 2004 and tied for fifth in 2008. Weir expects more, even if it might be unrealistic considering the highest finish the 43-year-old has had since early 2010 is a tie for 27th.
“So I’m hoping this week I feel good about my game, and I think if I can get some momentum going early in this tournament and get rolling, I’ll have a good chance.”
Despite his stumbles and difficulties recovering his game, Canadian fans still flock to Weir.
Though Graham DeLaet is now Canada’s top golfer, and others like David Hearn and Brad Fritsch have solid credentials on the PGA Tour, spectators at the Canadian Open still line the fairways for Weir.
“It is great to have support like that,” he says, adding “they know what I’ve done and know how hard I’ve worked and they follow what I’m doing.”
What does the future hold for Weir? He’s healthy and admits his confidence gained a boost by his performance at the U.S. Open where a final round 69 moved him into a tie for 28th.
Weir expected he could build on that performance, though he says it hasn’t quite gone according to plan.
He isn’t currently in a position to play in the FedEx Cup, golf’s playoffs that start in a month’s time, and given the PGA Tour’s new qualifying structure, Weir has some tough decisions to make.
He can use his final money exemption if he doesn’t finish in the PGA Tour’s Top 125 on the money list, but that’s a last resort.
If he’s under the gun, Weir isn’t admitting it.
“I don’t feel that much pressure because if I had to I could use one of my all-time money exemptions and have a good full year and hopefully not have any setbacks,” Weir says.
“I think I’ll be good next year,” he adds.
Some may say he’s been overly optimistic. Pessimists will add Weir is a short hitter on a tour full of bombers, many of whom are two decades younger than he is. But golf is also a game where confidence breeds further confidence.
For Weir, maybe this is the week that turns things around.
“It is great to have support, especially close to home,” Weir says. “It’s good to have people behind you – I’ll say that.”