Sad day for Mike Weir

Canada's only golf major champion Mike Weir lost his status as a fully-exempt member of the PGA...

Canada's only golf major champion Mike Weir lost his status as a fully-exempt member of the PGA tour Friday. (ANDY LYONS/Getty Images)

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:14 PM ET

I know Canadians pride themselves on being a patient bunch, but are we still waiting on all those kids that grew up wanting to be like Mike?

On April 13, 2003, golf fans across the Great White North were glued to their TV sets as Mike Weir clawed his way to a historic victory at the Masters.

Fast-forward almost eight years, and only a few could likely stand to watch coverage of Friday’s second round of the Honda Classic in Palm Beach, Fla., where Canada’s only major champion officially lost his status as a fully-exempt member of the world’s top tour.

Friday’s unceremonious exit — when he walked off the course after his morning round, he was in last place — doesn’t mean you’ve seen the last of the diminutive lefty from Bright’s Grove, Ont.

Although he failed to cash in on his five-event major medical exemption, Weir will still earn tournament invites as a part-time member and a past winner. He still owns two special exemptions based on career earnings and can count on the occasional sponsor’s invite, too.

But as the 40-year-old slogs through his return from an elbow injury, what can’t be expected is wins.

It’s somebody else’s turn.

Weir seems optimistic he’ll eventually recapture his old form but even if he doesn’t, he’s done his bit.

He’s tied with George Knudson as Canada’s all-time leader with eight PGA Tour titles, and nobody else has come close to Weir’s US$26.8 million in career on-course earnings.

When Tiger Woods draped the green jacket over his shoulders in 2003, he earned fully-exempt status as a folk-hero is this golf-crazy country.

Weir arrived that Sunday morning at Augusta National trailing leader Jeff Maggert by two strokes. It was anybody’s game. In fact, six major champions were within five shots of the lead after three soggy rounds, a star-studded group that included Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Vijay Singh, Jose Maria Olazabal and David Toms.

Weir was unflappable under the pressure, though, sinking a dramatic seven-foot putt at No. 18 to force a playoff against another lesser-lite — American Len Mattiace — and then winning with a bogey on the first extra hole.

Of course, bogeys are usually a bad thing. In two gusty rounds at PGA National this week, Weir had a dozen of them, plus five doubles and a triple, as he posted an ugly two-day total of 22-over.

As he hands over his full-time tour card, the question is ... who’s left to fly the flag?

Calgary’s Stephen Ames is a four-time PGA Tour title-holder and is only 16 months removed from a victory at the 2009 Children’s Miracle Network Classic, but he’ll turn 47 next month and doesn’t exactly count as an up-and-comer.

Perhaps the most intriguing prospect is Graham DeLaet of Weyburn, Sask., who won three Canadian Tour events during an 11-month span in 2008-09 and then finished third at the 2010 Shell Houston Open during his first year in golf’s heavyweight division. He can crush a drive with the sport’s biggest bombers and seems to have star potential, but DeLaet is recovering from back surgery and has been hesitant to even speculate about his return.

The rest of the PGA Tour’s current Canadian contingent is a trio of relative unknowns — Chris Baryla, David Hearn and Matt McQuillan — with 60 career starts and just one top-10 finish between them.

And then there’s the dozens of others trying to climb the ladder. Matt Hill, the latest bright spot from Bright’s Grove, and Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, B.C., both had stellar amateur careers, but that certainly doesn’t guarantee success in the play-for-pay ranks.

Then again, Weir survived several summers on the minor-league circuits before celebrating his first PGA Tour title at the 1999 Air Canada Championship. Less than four years later, he was a Masters champion.

It’s an improbable journey, but not an impossible one.

Canadians, I guess, will just have to be patient.

- - -

Mike Weir's career

PGA Tour stats

Events played: 335

Cuts made: 244

Major victories: 1

Total victories: 8

Top-three finishes: 25

Top-10 finishes: 68

Career earnings: US$26.8 million

Canadians on tour

Stephen Ames, 46

Calgary-based pro is actually six years older than Weir. He’s a four-time winner on the PGA Tour, thanks mainly to his superb ball-striking abilities.

Chris Baryla, 28

Nationwide Tour grad from Vernon, B.C., had major hip surgery last season and has missed the cut in five straight events during his comeback campaign.

David Hearn, 31

Smooth swinger from Brantford, Ont., struggled as a PGA rookie in 2005 and waited five years for another chance to prove he belongs on top tour.

Graham DeLaet, 28

Finished 10th in driving distance during his freshman campaign, averaging 293.1 yards per smack. Pride of Weyburn, Sask., also earned enough cash to keep his card.

Matt McQuillan, 29

Canadian Tour grad from Kingston, Ont., was pleasant surprise at Q School last fall, becoming first Canuck in a decade to advance through all three stages without bye.

Canadians on the way?

Cam Burke, 24

Two-time Canadian amateur champ from New Hamburg, Ont., is hoping his success translates to the professional ranks.

Adam Hadwin, 23

Native of Abbotsford, B.C., made a splash on Canadian Tour in 2010 and had an eighth-place finish on Sunshine Tour in South Africa last week.

Matt Hill, 22

The second-most famous golfer from Bright’s Grove, Ont., Hill joined pro ranks last summer. Won NCAA individual title as sophomore at North Carolina State in 2009.

Nick Taylor, 22

Up-and-comer from Abbotsford, B.C., climbed to top of world amateur golf rankings after record-setting round at 2009 U.S. Open. Turned pro last year.

Eugene Wong, 20

Rising star from Vancouver and current University of Oregon star won Jack Nicklaus Award as NCAA’s best golfer and was named Canada’s top amateur in 2010.


Videos

Photos