The season has ended for Canadians, except for British Columbians, who like to say they live in the Hawaii of Canada. But a new season is will start Dec. 8 for the golfer who has been the most popular Canadian player the last 15 years or so. That’s Mike Weir, who will return to competition at the Shark Shootout in Naples, Fla., after nearly four months off due to a torn ligament in his right elbow.
Weir, 40, is coming off the most unproductive season since he became a mainstay on the PGA Tour. He won $559,092 to stand 151st on the money list. He has dropped to 155th in the world ranking. He had but one top-10 finish this year, that in the Bob Hope Desert Classic, where he started his season. He missed the cut in the Open Championship and PGA Championship, and also in the RBC Canadian Open, which he has always said is his fifth major.
It is understandable that Weir would continue to fall on the money list and the world ranking, given that he has not played since missing the cut at the Wyndham Championship in mid-August in Greensboro, N.C. An MRI after the first round there revealed his torn ligament. He had been nursing it since feeling some pain while hitting balls off the dry linksland during the Open Championship at the Old Course in St. Andrews in July.
Weir was surprised to find out he had been playing with a torn ligament. But it is good that he did find out exactly what was happening. He wanted to avoid surgery, and so far he has been able to do that. Weir has been doing what is necessary through a rehab program as part of the usual hard work he has put in throughout his career.
That hard work has brought Weir the 2003 Masters title and victories in seven other PGA Tour events. He has been inducted into the Ontario and Canadian Golf Hall of Fames in the last couple of years. He has been made an Order of Canada, his country’s highest civilian honour. He is grateful for the recognition he has received off the course.
But more than anything, Weir wants to recover his winning ways on the course. The Shark Shootout seems the ideal place for him to judge where he is in his rehabilitation as he prepares for the 2011 PGA Tour season. Weir will play on a medical exemption and have five tournaments to earn the $200,000 or so he will need to equal the earnings of the player who finished 125th on the money list this year. Weir can also use one of the two year-long exemptions he has off his position on the career money list.
Weir will partner with K.J. Choi in the three-day Shark Shootout that features 12 teams. The atmosphere will be competitive but hardly the grind of a PGA Tour event. Weir and Choi have represented the International team in the Presidents Cup, so they are familiar with one another. Moreover, they have been good friends on the PGA Tour for years.
Weir said recently in an e-mail that he was progressing nicely in his rehab. By mid-November, he was able to swing away freely, although he still needed a day’s rest between practice sessions to ice his elbow. His ligament was strengthening and he has been able to hit balls off the ground. He had not wanted to contact the ground and had been hitting balls off a tee.
Weir’s ligament problem was not his only issue this year. He had the proverbial two-way miss going off the tee. Did his elbow problem cause him to lose control of his driver so frequently? Was he holding back from making full, aggressive swings? He will learn more about that this week at Tiburon Golf Club at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples.
There was also the matter of his being caught between swings. Weir had worked with Mike Bennett and Andy Plummer on their Stack & Tilt approach since late 2006, but he had trouble taking their ideas to the course. He went back to Mike Wilson, who teaches in Palm Desert, Calif., and with whom he had won The Masters. But Weir then backed off Wilson as well, and even went down to consult with David Leadbetter at ChampionsGate in Orlando.
In the end, Weir has decided to seek his own counsel for the most part.
“I really don’t think I need a teacher,” Weir told the Canadian Press. “I need a set of eyes – whether it’s Mike (Wilson) or someone else – to keep an eye on what I know and give some feedback. I’m taking ownership of what I’m trying to accomplish when I make a swing. I feel like I don’t need anybody to tell me what to do. I know what I need to do.”
These are the words of an experienced golfer who has been through some self-searching.
“Do what you gotta do to get healed up,” a fellow wrote on the bulletin board on Weir’s website. “We are all behind you 110 percent.”
Canadians from Newfoundland to British Columbia feel the same way.