Mike Weir: Ten Years After

Mike Weir isn’t a reflective guy. He’s not the type of player who ponders the good ol’ days when he was among a handful of golfers at the top of seemingly every leader-board, winning at fabled courses like Riviera and Valderrama. That’s when his all-world short game compensated for anything he lacked off the tee, and he made up the rest with hard work and digging it out of the dirt. It all culminated with his victory at The Masters, an event that is now a decade in the rear view. These days Weir is still trying to recover some of the form that made him a regular on the International Presidents Cup squad. Heck, he’s the little guy who managed to knock Tiger Woods off his pedestal at the 2007 Presidents Cup at Royal Montreal, a battle that gave him the confidence to record his last win at the Fry’s Electronics Open a couple of weeks later. Now he’s just trying to make cuts, playing on a Top 25 all-time money exemption after seeing an elbow injury limit his time on Tour for the past two years. His struggles – he missed 17 straight cuts at one point – would lead you to expect there might be some reminiscing about his career highlights, but Weir says he didn’t think much of The Masters anniversary until recently, when a documentary film crew started following him. “My agent brought it up and I thought, ‘Wow it has been 10 years,’ ” Weir said while walking during a practice round at the Northern Trust Open earlier this year. “In some ways it feels like it has been 10 years, but in other ways it doesn’t. Some days it feels like a distant memory because I don’t dwell on it. I don’t sit and think about it. But other times I can remember shots and the feeling.” Every Canadian golfer remembers. Sean Foley, Tiger Woods’ swing coach, can tell you the bar he was sitting in when Weir made the six-foot putt to join Len Mattiace in a playoff. Graham DeLaet was still an amateur when he sat in front of the screen pulling for his fellow Canadian. And then-teenager, now-Web.com Tour golfer Matt Hill sat in the clubhouse at Huron Oaks, the club Weir grew up playing, as a group of friends chewed on their fingernails praying the left-hander would become the first Canadian male to win a major championship. Weir came into the tournament full of confidence, having won twice already in 2003. Everyone picked Woods as the favorite – he had won three times already that year – but he had a rare Sunday slump and dropped down the leader-board. Weir also came to the final hole full of confidence despite needing to make a medium-length putt for par. He says it was never in doubt. “I remember the feeling on the 18th green, the satisfaction of doing it for four straight days, of keeping my mind where it needed to be,” he explained. “I was pretty calm. I was rolling them in all day and talked to myself that no matter what, if I did the same thing I’d be happy with the outcome. That helped keep me calm.” After Mattiace made a mess of the first playoff hole, Weir had his major. The win made Weir a superstar in hockey-mad Canada. He flew to Toronto the next day to launch a clothing line, an event scheduled well before his Masters win. Thousands of people showed up to see him – attention with which Weir, shy and restrained by nature, hasn’t always been comfortable. “When I came around the corner I couldn’t figure out why all these people were there,” he said. “I thought the Sears must have been closed down. Then someone said they were all there for me. It kind of hit me at once.” These days Weir still represents professional golf to most Canadians. Sure, David Hearn has emerged as a fine player, and long-hitting DeLaet has star potential, but it is Weir whom the casual sports fan recognizes. For most of the past decade a country’s hopes rested on the back of the slight golfer. That has been tough in the past couple of years as Weir battled through the recurring elbow injury that eventually required surgery. “A smart guy told me that you’re only as good as your weakest link,” Weir said. “And my weakest link was my elbow, and I was hurt and protecting (it) and playing the best players in the world. You can’t do it. But now it doesn’t hurt, I’m getting better range of motion. And that combination is why I started to feel better. I haven’t thought about it once this year. I’ve not had to limit my practice at all.” That is until he pulled a rib muscle at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and had to withdraw. That’s raised questions of whether he’ll play at Augusta. His agent says he’d have to be hospitalized not to tee it up, but it’ll be the third straight year Weir has gone to The Masters injured. “I’m going to be going no matter what,” Weir said on a recent conference call to talk about The Masters. “I’m going to be there.” No one expects him to be competitive at Augusta. No one expects him to contend. But for Canadians who remember where they were when Weir clinched the playoff and flung his arms in the air, maybe just remembering the glory is enough.


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