|Mike Weir watches his tee shot on the seventh hole during first round play at the Canadian Open at St. George's Golf and Country Club in Toronto on July 22, 2010. (MIKE CASSESE/Reuters)
TORONTO - The guy who held out the green jacket that spring day back in 2003 and the guy who happily shrugged it over his shoulders have much in common eight years later.
Tiger Woods keeps slipping down the world rankings and Mike Weir’s problems are underscored by that bloated 22-over score he posted at the Honda Classic.
In five tournaments he had through a medical exemption to regain full status, Weir had four missed cuts and a tie for 77th, but he’ll still play on exemptions and such. That’s the consolation prize, but hardly a badge of honour.
Their recent failures are compounded first by their own competitive natures and pride, but secondly by the fishbowls in which they play, with Woods eyeballed around the globe and Weir scrutinized across Canada, something Dick Zokol touched upon recently when talking about his own experiences on tour.
“The Canadian microscope is very difficult because there’s not many (Canadian players) and there’s such a demand and passion,” Zokol said.
Weir magnified that attention when he tied George Knudson for most wins by a Canadian and, of course, by winning the Masters, where Woods will have all eyes on him next month at Augusta.
So, the pre-Masters analysis of both players’ games is coming from all quarters, with some curious theories, much of it surrounding their respective swings. The first reaction is to blame mechanics, but errant shots are just as often the result of confidence that has bottomed out.
Both Woods and Weir know how to use a golf club and while it isn’t unusual to see a player tweak his swing, it can also be difficult to find their swings because of clutter between the ears
In Woods’ case, his swing coach Sean Foley told me last week that the adjustments they’re working on are minor and that he would play only a small role if Tiger returns to form.
When something such as Weir losing his full-time playing privileges occurs, the questions intensify. Fair enough, but what’s noticeable in Weir’s case, is the obituary tone that’s being taken in respect to his career.
There was the infamous “Washed up?” headline in the Toronto Sun last summer and yesterday, colleague Steve Simmons noted, “the strange part of Mike Weir being all but done. He’s only 41.” Actually, he’s still 40 for a couple of months.
Meanwhile, Wes Gilbertson of the Calgary Sun was forecasting which player would replace Weir as the pride of Canada going forward.
Realistically, Weir can’t be expected to be as successful as he was seven or eight years ago, but the taps being played on his career seem a trifle premature too. After a disappointing couple of seasons by his standards, Vijay Singh has a couple of top five finishes so far this year at the age of 48.
What will be a successful comeback for Weir? A win? Two wins? A top 10? Simply regaining his status? Nobody has defined that, but the term “washed up” is harsh and a step forward from his current dilemma is not an unrealistic expectation.
For Tiger, the bar is set much higher. Success will be defined by reaching Jack Nicklaus’ 18 major championships.
Time will tell, but there is time. Weir and Woods stay fit and their abilities haven’t suddenly disappeared, but their problems aren’t physical.
How they deal with what’s going on inside their craniums will determine future success.
THE SHORT GAME
Former PGA Tour player Jim Nelford of Vancouver has been named director of academy experiences for ClubLink … Former Ontario PGA associate director Scott Pritchard has joined the Canadian Tour as its director of business development and communications. The tour has also announced that its Canadian Tour Championship will be played Aug. 25-28 at the Ambassador Golf Club in Windsor after taking place at the St. Catherines Golf and Country Club the past two years.