July 21, 2010
Weir's star is fadingFacts say Canada's only major winner in twilight of his career
By STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency
The site of this week’s RBC Canadian Open, the St George’s Golf and Country Club, is named after the second century warrior-saint, who, as the legend goes, slay a dragon to save a princess.
Mike Weir, Canada’s foremost golfer, has his own dragon to slay. But it’s a battle he just can’t win.
“You gotta take a little extra care of yourself, there’s no question,” said Weir, when asked about turning 40 this year. “You have to spend a little extra time warming up and stretching. Staying fit and limber and all those things are important to prolong your career.”
The Brights Grove native, who was forced to withdraw from Wednesday’s Pro-Am after 15 holes because of tendonitis in his arm, isn’t quite ready for a walker. But age certainly appears to be getting the best of him. His diminishing results and deteriorating statistics over the past few seasons suggest that his days as a prominent member of the PGA Tour are fast coming to an end, though his popularity with Canadian golf fans remains constant.
On the basis of his eight career PGA victories (tied with the late George Knudson for most by a Canadian), as well as his 2003 Masters victory and his stunning win at the 2007 Presidents Cup over Tiger Woods, Weir firmly established himself as the greatest Canadian golfer, all-time. But now the party is close to being over, if it isn’t already.
He is currently ranked 118th on the PGA Tour money list. He has posted one top-10 finish this season — a sixth at the Bob Hope Classic — and has missed the cut five times, including last week’s British Open. His last win on the Tour was in 2007 at the Fry’s Electronic Open.
Pretty well every major scoring stat reveals that Weir’s game is heading south. His average score this season is 71.58 — 144th on the Tour. Last year his average score was 70.23, 29th, and in 2003, the year he won the Masters as well as the Nissan Open and Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, his 68.97 average was the third best in the PGA.
Weir was never one of the big drivers in golf, but in his heyday, he was at least middle of the pack in that regard. In 2003, he drove for an average of 289.2 yards (68th). The past three seasons, those numbers have dropped consistently; 284.8 yards in 2008 (119th overall), 279.3 yards in 2009 (163rd) and 274 yards this season (174th).
In his prime, Weir was one of the top golfers in terms of overall number of birdies. In 2003, he averaged 4.03 per round, 14th best on the Tour. In 2009, that number dropped to 3.54 (93rd) and this year 3.30 (127th).
His putting, always one of his stronger suits, is still strong but, unfortunately for Weir, you need more than a putter to win on the Tour.
Weir resorted to hiring his former coach Mike Wilson this season in hopes of finding his swing, but that move has yet to pay off to any real degree. And physical challenges, such as tendonitis, which flared up last week at the British Open, only increase with age.
Still, Weir insists that he has some good years left and expects to make the Canadian team for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, when golf returns to the Games for the first time since 1904, when Toronto’s George Lyon won the gold for Canada.
“As long as you’re fit and healthy, there’s no reason you can’t play really well into your 40s,” he said. “There’s been plenty of guys who have.”
Unfortunately, Weir has yet to show that he can walk the walk. And at 5-foot-9, 155 pounds, he certainly isn’t getting any stronger.
The good news is, three young Canadians seem primed to make a name for themselves in the pros. Graham DeLaet, 28, of Weyburn, Sa., already posted a third-place finish this season at the Shell Houston Open and has recorded four top 25 finishes on the PGA Tour. He has earned $564,040 on the Tour this season, more than Weir.
Nick Taylor, 22, of Abbotsford, B.C., the No.1 ranked world amateur for 20 weeks in 2009, and the low amateur at the 2009 U.S Open, is expected to turn pro later this year, while 21-year-old Matt Hill of Brights Grove, the 2009 NCAA individual champion, has already left the amateur circuit. All three appear to have a bright future.
And with Weir fading like the evening sun over the 18th green at St. George’s, their arrival comes just in time.