OAKVILLE, Ont. — When Mike Weir rolled in a sliding putt on his 16th hole of the day at the RBC Canadian Open, those nearby could be forgiven for thinking the years had been rolled back and it was 2004 all over again.
It was nearly a decade ago that Weir, Canada’s most successful male golfer with eight PGA Tour wins, nearly won the Canadian Open at Glen Abbey Golf Club. This year, with the tournament returning to Glen Abbey, Weir lit up the course with a 5-under 67 that vaulted him up the leaderboard to 26th place at the end of play Friday. Only three bogeys late derailed what could have been a truly special round by Weir, the 2003 Masters winner.
“It was one of those rounds that could have been really anything,” Weir explained. “I could have been 10-under pretty easily I think. But I played great and it was exciting to do that for the fans.”
Since injuring his elbow in 2010 and having surgery a year later, Weir’s game has been moribund. He missed the cut in all 14 tournaments he played in 2012, but started to claw his way back this year, including a tie for 27th at last month’s U.S. Open.
In the first round of the Canadian Open Weir hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation, but his putter went quiet. In his second round, wielding a hot driver and some deft putting, Weir recorded eight birdies, at one time pulling himself into a tie for third. Unfortunately he struggled on his final holes, making bogeys on three of the last four holes.
Despite that, Weir said the round demonstrated his game is recovering. In fact, he talked about going low on the weekend with the potential of winning, something that hasn’t been mentioned about the Canadian left-hander in several years.
“I was close,” Weir said. “I’ve been dancing around really good numbers here for a while, and that was a nice solid one for sure. It could have been a really good one. But it was up there with one of the better rounds this year so far.”
With 18 Canadians in the field, there was a lot of hope that one of them might make a breakthrough. Few expected it of Weir, despite the cheers of fans who came out by the thousands and roared when he made birdies.
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“It’s wonderful,” Weir said. “There’s not really anybody on tour that kind of has anything like this, to have the support like that. It’s up to us Canadians when we come out here. To see the gallery support today as I got going and got rolling, you can really feed off that.”
Unfortunately his countrymen in the field struggled. New pro Eugene Wong, formerly one of the best amateurs in the world, was 5-under par at one point on the round, but missed the cut by making back-to-back double-bogeys in his final holes. Others, like Calgary veteran Stephen Ames, and perhaps playing his final Canadian Open before joining the Champions Tour when he turns 50 next year, faded as the winds picked up over the round. Amateur Corey Conners, from Listowel, Ont., also looked like he might potentially make the cut, but faltered to a second round 2-over 74 to miss playing on the weekend.
Brantford’s David Hearn will play the weekend after saving his round with a dramatic final hole birdie, but emerging star Graham DeLaet won’t be playing on the weekend after missing the cut.
Another who did sneak through was Manotick’s Brad Fritsch, who struggled as the wind came up to a 1-over 73 to finish at 2-under at the end of the second round.
The PGA Tour rookie said he was hoping the Rivermead Cup, presented to the low Canadian at the event, wouldn’t be awarded by default.
“I think it is important not to have a Rivermead Cup winner by default,” he added. “If people in this country are going to get behind young golfers even more they are going to have to see them play on the weekend. So it is important in my opinion.