McMillan's simple lifeGolf pro knows hard work key to success
By PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun
Upon first glance, it would appear Rob McMillan's career is on a one-way street -- headed in the wrong direction.
But remember, they could have said that about Mike Weir a couple of years ago, too.
OK, comparing McMillan, the Winnipegger who's back on the Canadian Tour, with Weir, the Canadian who became an international star by winning the Masters last year, is a little like comparing apples and oranges.
But don't think Weir's breakthrough at Augusta doesn't breathe at least some life into every young Canuck slugging it out at Sault Ste. Marie Country Club, Windemere or Pine Ridge.
"I think it gives a lot of guys a lot of hope," McMillan was saying yesterday. "You don't want to take anything away from Mike ... but there's a guy who's just worked his tail off, and hasn't done anything Earth-shattering. He just worked his tail off and got better."
It's a simple approach, one McMillan has always believed in. And it took him to the cusp of the PGA Tour two years ago, when he became a regular on what was then the BUY.com, now the Nationwide Tour.
But after earning close to $50,000 US that season, McMillan took in less than $20,000 last year, making the cut in just seven of 18 events.
Entering his eighth year as a pro, he's back on the Canadian Tour, which is kind of like being sent from the AHL to the East Coast Hockey League. Suddenly, you feel like you're miles away from the majors.
The thing is, McMillan insists he doesn't.
"I'm excited to play," he said. "Last year was a long year. I'll be the first to say I didn't play as well as I would have liked. How you get better, and how you move on, is learning from your mistakes. I think I've always learned more from my mistakes than I have from good experiences.
"I definitely know that I'm capable of playing at that level and beyond. I just have to keep working at it, and keep getting better."
Which brings us to this off-season.
After a month of taking it easy here at home, McMillan has spent the last couple of weeks in the gym or with his personal trainer.
He hasn't transformed himself into a fullback, though. Again, he's reading from Weir's playbook, which says 150-pounders can compete with the big boys.
"I'm not going to downplay strength, I think it's really important," McMillan said. "But I don't think it's the end-all, be-all that people make it out to be. He's the best example of that. Two years ago, he didn't have a very good year, and he attributed it to his wedge game and his putting."
BACK TO THE BASICS
Which is exactly what McMillan is going to start working on when he leaves for southern Alabama next week.
After spending a couple of years working on his swing, he's getting back to basics: getting the ball into the hole.
"I'm a huge believer that if you're good from 100 yards and in, you're going to be a pretty good golfer. Especially at the high levels, because basically everybody hits it pretty good."
By the end of February, McMillan hopes to have knocked all the rust off his game in time for the Canadian Tour's first two events in Texas.
His plan is to squeeze in a few Nationwide events between stops on the Canuck Tour, at least if he can qualify. If he can get things rolling, who knows where it'll take him?
McMillan just turned 28 a few weeks ago. At 28, Mike Weir was playing his first season on the PGA Tour.
"A lot of times as golfers, or people in general, they try to make things harder or more complicated than it has to be," McMillan said. "Sometimes, everybody's looking for the mystical, magical answer, when it's just staying with it and working at it."
So, no, there's no turning back in Rob McMillan, even though it might appear some of the street signs are facing the wrong way.
After all, there's some strong evidence suggesting it's the only road to take.