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Can Weir Resurrect Former Glory on Home Turf?


For a five-year period between 2001 and 2005, Mike Weir was among the best golfers on the planet. Indeed, during this stretch the native of Sarnia, Ontario, spent over 110 weeks ranked among the top-10 players in the Official World Golf Rankings.

The diminutive left-hander's heydays were highlighted by his 2003 victory in the Masters, one of eight PGA Tour titles he accrued between 1999 and 2007. But since his last win at the 2007 Frys.com Open, Weir, now 42, has endured swing changes and a series of injuries that caused him to start the 2011 season on a major medical exemption.

In 2012, Weir needs to earn $644,854 on a non-exempt major medical extension or will play out of the Past Champion category the rest of the year. In other words, one of Canada's most popular athletes needs to start racking up some high finishes in a season in which he has yet to earn any prize money.

Weir, who played collegiate golf at BYU, is hoping his luck changes this week in the Canadian Open. The $5.2 million PGA Tour event starts Thursday at Hamilton Golf & Country Club near where he grew up in Ancaster, Ontario.

Now finally healthy, Weir is hoping his turnaround happens at a tournament that he's played for over two decades. He's never won his country's national championship, though he notched his first win the 1999 Air Canada Championship in British Columbia, a PGA Tour stop from 1996 to 2002.

On Wednesday, Weir met with reporters and discussed his health and chances for a good finish this week. Here's his full Q&A with the media.

MODERATOR: Okay. We'd like to welcome Mike Weir to the RBC Canadian Open. Thanks for joining us for a few minutes. If I looked at the numbers correct, I think you're making your 21st consecutive start here - or 21st consecutive, 22nd overall. So obviously a lot of history here. So just some comments.

MIKE WEIR: You're not saying I'm old, are you, Doug?

MODERATOR: I think you and I both are. But with that being said, just some comments on being back here, obviously a place very near and dear to your heart.

MIKE WEIR: Obviously the Canadian Open is the first professional tournament that I saw live, in person. I think it was probably about 1985, maybe even earlier than that. '83. I've relayed this story before, being on, there was a junior clinic with Andy Bean and Tom Kite at Glen Abbey and being on the range and that really I started playing the game, but seeing those guys up close, in person got me really inspired to start thinking it's something I'd love to do some day. So I look forward to this event every year. It's an event I don't want to miss, and even though last year I probably shouldn't have been playing, but I didn't want to miss it and didn't want to miss it again this year. So looking forward to it.

MODERATOR: With that, we'll take some questions.

Q. Jim Furyk and Ernie Els were in here earlier talking about your incredible work ethic and we know you've always grinded it out pretty hard on the range. So first of all, what's the state of your game, and secondly, what's it going to take to get back on track?

MIKE WEIR: The state of my game hasn't been very good at all. It's been poor. But I'm a worker. That's what I do. And when you get it back, I said this to Robert earlier. It doesn't happen by osmosis. You gotta get out there and put the work in. Now I'm able to do it, the last three or four months I've been able to practice quite hard. I hadn't been able to do that, building back, coming off the injury, kind of slowly working my workload up, I guess, and especially the last couple of months I've been able to hit a lot of balls, and I have hit a lot of balls. And that's kind of the process to get back, you know, just to get that workload up and start building some good habits again and start taking it to the course and hopefully start playing some better rounds of golf.

Q. I watched the drill at the range with you yesterday where you were just teeing up your driver and hitting, I guess, stingers off the tee. What's that all about?

MIKE WEIR: Little field drills. You know, attacking my tendencies, so I won't get in a long story about it, but just to see what the club is supposed to be doing through impact. It's like learning anything. If you try to do it slow sometimes, just to feel it, and then you ramp up the speed. So that's what I do. Sometimes I hit them like 50 percent just to feel what I'm trying to feel in my swing and then I try to do it full speed.

Q. Just wondering what the state of where things are at for you now. Is it tougher this week to come here and be in the spotlight when you might not be feeling as good about your game as you have in the past?

MIKE WEIR: Not really. I mean the expectations aren't there. But you know, it's no fun to play poorly, but this week is I see some encouraging signs, you know. As I said, all the balls I've hit, I'm seeing some good things. So you know, that's the way I look at this week. I gotta start seeing some good things on the golf course. Hopefully it'll happen.

Q. Are you working with Grant still?

MIKE WEIR: Yeah.

Q. And how often do you see him and what's he got you doing, and maybe what he has you doing different from what you've done in the past?

MIKE WEIR: Well, I guess Grant being a former player, I think that's one good thing. He knows a lot. He's a very smart guy. And he's able to just relay kind of what I need at the time. And he knows that this is going to be a process. I've only been working with him probably I think three months, a little over three months. So a very short window so far. So it's a process. We both have an end game, where I see my swing going. It's a bit of an evolution. He's not going to tell me to do 100 things right now. We try to nail one part and move on to the next and then keep going. There's some similarities of things I've done in the past and then there's some different things he's telling me to do.

I think being a player he knows that he's trying to keep some athleticism in my swing again, or get some athleticism back in my swing again. That's the biggest thing I'm trying to get back, kind of lost that a little bit when I was injured. I didn't feel like I could hit the ground. You get tentative. And now trying to build that athleticism back up in my swing is kind of the best way to describe it really.

Q. And just to sort of follow up on that, did you give much consideration you played last week; you're playing this week. Are you playing next week too?

MIKE WEIR: Yeah.

Q. Did you feel the need to get back to playing competitive golf or did you give some consideration to staying away for a longer period of time? I mean I suspect if you didn't play this stretch, you could have basically taken almost the rest of the year off until Frys or something later on. Is that part of the process you're working through, within two years or a time line here's where you'd like to be at at a certain period?

MIKE WEIR: Yes and no. I guess, yeah, I had an idea that I just wanted to take time off and keep working on the things that I need to work on, and then test it out. That's kind of how I'm using these three weeks. And then as you said, after Reno next week I'll have another good stretch and reevaluate and see what broke down, what was good; take what was good and keep moving forward and throw some of the other things and keep moving forward. I'm really looking to next year. This is a three month into process with Grant, and if I play some great golf, that's a bonus. But I'm taking the process, Grant's my guy, and if it happens now, that's just a bonus, but I'm really looking down the road here.

Q. I think before this last weekend a lot of people may have written Ernie Els off, but when you see what he did and you see where you are at this point in your game, does it give you more confidence knowing if you put in all this work, you can get back in the winner's circle?

MIKE WEIR: First, it was great for Ernie. I think he'd been playing well for pretty much the whole year. He'd been knocking on the door, almost won Tampa, U. S. Open he was in there. So he's been playing well. Yeah, I'm in a little different scenario than that, but yeah, it gives you encouragement. There's lots of guys that have come back from injuries and different things that, you know, that takes a little time, and that you can draw from, I guess, some guys that I know and know their games and know they've come back from things. So I guess I could take some encouragement, yeah. But even without that, I believe in myself, bottom line. So I believe I'll be back.

Q. I guess you can get pretty insular when things like this are going on and not really see the people looking into your career from the outside, media, fans, that type of thing. Sort of get your reaction on something. Jim Furyk was in here a little while ago, he said he was in a store when he arrived here and he ran into a Canadian who came over and wished him well. He said, by the way, this is the week that Mike Weir pulls it out. So I just wanted to get your reaction and how are the fans acting out there to you? Is it any different than it has been in previous years?

MIKE WEIR: I said this the other day. It's great to have that kind of support, really, especially when times are tough. I got a ton of encouragement out there, from marshals, not only this week. Wherever I've been playing. It's really great. It's heartwarming really to feel that kind of support and people wishing you well and wanting you to come back and they see your work ethic and they know you're digging hard and trying to get back. So I'll know more especially this week. So yeah, I'm glad they have confidence in me this week. Now, if I can get myself in contention that would be pretty good. But I'm glad to be back playing healthy. As I said, I'm able to practice a lot now. It's just a matter of time before I start to see results again. I feel like all that stuff is behind me now.

Q. With 23 Canadians in the field, arguably many of them have looked up to you as they were growing up. How do you feel about the state of the game in this country?

MIKE WEIR: It's great. In the last years it's really ramped up, the number of guys in Q School. I see 23 guys playing this week. We'll get the numbers in our favor. When I was going to Q School, there was only five or six guys going. We have a lot of talent in this country. I've said that for a long time and now you're starting to see it. David's kind of come into his own and Graham is healthy again. He's going to be a good player for a lot of time and a lot of amateurs. So I think we'll see some good things going forward. Just need some of these guys and I don't think it's too far away from David, Graham, maybe even Matt Hill and some of the guys that will get on the Tour that will get a PGA Tour victory here hopefully soon.

Q. Earlier you spoke about how this week the expectations aren't there like they were in the past, but at the end of the week what would you be satisfied with? Do you have any results or any goals in mind or is it more just about how you play?

MIKE WEIR: Yeah. It's kind of how I play. I'd love to make the cut obviously and play four days. The more tournament rounds I can play, the more I can kind of assess what's going on and converse with Grant on what I feel is working out there and maybe what's not. So the more golf I can play, the better. And you never know. It's so kind of up and down right now. I've played some really nice rounds where I string a bunch of good holes together and then some I fall back into some bad habits I've gotten myself into. So hopefully I can just string some of the better ones together, because my good ones, I'm hitting a lot of great shots. And my bad ones are bad. I gotta keep shaking those out.

Q. Mike, in the last year or two, how much have you worn maybe some of the frustration with how you're playing? Have you had a lot of low moments or have you been able to kind of mostly keep yourself on even playing and keep as positive as possible?

MIKE WEIR: I've been positive. I think if this would have happened maybe when I was 30 years old, it may be a little tougher. But you know, I think you gain perspective when you get a little older and you have children and you're home. And even though I'm working hard, I'm able to go to soccer games and do all those things and enjoy my life. And golf, I love the game and I enjoy working at it. It means a great deal to me, but it's not everything to me. Kind of like when I was coming up, you have to be pretty selfish and pretty focused on one thing. And that's just not how it is for me anymore. I have a lot of other interests and young children, and if golf doesn't work out, it's frustrating, but it doesn't bother me too much.

I mean it bothers me. It's still I don't know the best way to put that. It hurts. I guess perspective is the best way to say it, just perspective as you're a little older, you can say, oh, man, this is hard. That's the way I look at it. This stinks. I never get to the point where I think I'm not going to do this anymore because I love the game and I love working at it and I love the challenge. I still love the challenge. I'm still motivated and positive that I'm going to get this thing figured out.

MODERATOR: All right. Well, with that we will wish you luck this week.

MIKE WEIR: Thank you.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.