Putter woes winding up Weir
By KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- In the diagnosis and treatment of whatever it is that ails his golf game right now, Mike Weir might be well-advised to consider the cardinal rule of physicians everywhere. First, do no harm.
"Maybe I should just catch a movie and relax," said Weir yesterday after the third round of the Bob Hope Classic, as he contemplated his third consecutive day of putting woes.
"Maybe I've been working too hard."
Maybe it's simply that he's trying too hard.
For the third consecutive day, Weir's putter turned what could have been an extraordinary round of golf into something routine. And he wasn't missing by a bunch. Usually the ball hung tantalizingly on the lip.
His 68 recorded at Indian Wells -- the same golf course where Robert Gamez dealt out a scorching round of 60 yesterday -- was about as bad a score as he could have managed, given the high quality of his ball-striking.
"I was in there close a lot and I don't think I had anything outside 15 feet on the front nine," he said. "But I made only one birdie.
"The confusing thing for me is that I'm hitting my putts exactly where I want to hit them but they won't go in. That just isn't my game. Normally, I make everything within five or six feet and a few from way out there."
Weir got so frustrated that he started asking caddie Brennan Little to join him in the reading of his putts during the middle holes of his round. Normally, Weir does not consult on putting issues, but this was a confounding issue.
"I brought him in to see if a different pair of eyes could see something different but it didn't change much," he said, tossing off a playful needle at his caddie and friend. "Maybe I should go looking for somebody else out of the bullpen."
Mostly, he should just keep stroking the ball the way he has. On some level, he understands that's the approach he must take.
"The problem right now is that it's golf," he said. "It's just the nature of the game."
Weir is at 11 under par, tied for 41st in the field, 10 strokes behind leader Phil Mickelson. Typically, after yesterday's round, Weir was still trying to compute what it would take to successfully defend the title he won here last January.
"Probably a couple of 63s," he said. "The way I'm hitting the ball, that's still possible. I just have to get some putts to start falling. Any one of the past three rounds could have been really low -- I'm talking 60, 61, 62 -- if I'd had my normal putting day."
As it stands, Weir isn't even the low Canadian heading into today's fourth round. That distinction belongs to Calgary's Stephen Ames, who dialed up a 64 yesterday to sit at 12 under.
"I feel like I'm starting to sort it out," Ames said. "I missed the first green this morning, then hit every other one in regulation."
He wasn't too impressed with his score.
"Sixty-four? That's even par, isn't it?" he said with a laugh.
"It will take at least two more of them to get into contention. Could happen."
Glen Hnatiuk, a third Canadian, is at 10 under after shooting a 65 at Indian Wells yesterday. He has been fighting his putter as well, but hit the ball so close yesterday that he couldn't miss.
"When I got to the 11th hole," said Hnatiuk, "I hit my shot in there and I had 18 feet to the hole and I realized this was going to be the longest putt I had all day.
"Everything up to that point had either been a kick-in or at least inside eight feet. When you hit it that close and you make a few putts, it takes a lot of pressure off the rest of your game."
It's easy to get obsessed with putting at this tournament, because the entire event is a glorified putting contest. The weather is perfect, the courses are short and, with no rough to speak of, most holes are defenceless.
The only thing standing between a good ball-striker and the low-60s are putts that hang on the lip. Which leads us to the smartest thing Weir said yesterday.
"I can't let it eat me up. It's just golf."