The Word

Ken Fidlin -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

DULUTH, GA. -- If Mike Weir's body language had a voice, it would have shouted "Get me outta here!!" Weir came to the BellSouth Classic to give his game a little fine-tuning before the Masters, at Augusta National, just a couple of hours down the road.

What he got, instead, was frustrated.

"It's a week I'd just as soon forget about," Weir said.

After a promising start, Weir fell out of contention during the last two rounds, played in 40 km/h winds at quirky TPC Sugarloaf, which winds its way through a community of million-dollar mansions. He finished the tournament at three-over-par, in a tie for 45th place.

Everything seemed to go south midway through the third round. Still in touch with the leaders, Weir went to the ninth tee on Saturday having played the first 44 holes of the event at four-under-par.

Over the course of the final 28 holes of the tournament he made six bogeys and two double-bogeys, eventually finishing at three-over-par.

LOUSY KARMA

Lest anyone read too much lousy karma into this result, be aware that a year ago, Weir played so poorly he missed the cut here, the week before he won the Masters. He sees no relevance between what happened this weekend and what will happen at Augusta.

Of course he doesn't, because if he did, he'd probably go skiing instead.

"Under normal conditions, this course is pretty good preparation for Augusta," he said. "The greens are similar, but with this wind it's a bit freakish. You can hit good shots and not be at all rewarded. I did get a lot of work in, trying to get up and down in situations that are similar to the ones I'll be facing next week.

"It's tough to put much stock in the results. It's difficult in these conditions to assess where your game is. All I know is I'm hitting the ball in the middle of the clubface and that's a good thing. Hopefully that's where I'll be hitting it (in Augusta)."

Weir also is a competitive realist. Once the golf gods turned against him this weekend, he saw no compelling reason to fight them.

"I didn't really grind too much," he said. "I want to conserve my energy for next week. I didn't have much to grind for (yesterday). It would have been different if I was in contention. But the difference between 30th place and 50th place is not a whole lot."

Weir genuinely is excited about his special week at Augusta. While the competitor in him expects to be a multiple Masters winner before he's done, he appreciates that there is no guarantee. Weir may never get to come to Augusta National as the reigning title-holder again, so he wants to savour the experience.

"I'm anticipating having a fun week, with the dinner Tuesday, the par-3 with Steve (Bennett, the pro at Huron Oaks, the Sarnia golf course where Weir learned the game) as my caddie, all my family coming in. I'm really looking forward to it. It's a special experience."

While he'll be drinking in the unique atmosphere, Weir has no illusions. He is not going to Augusta for a party. He will be combining serious preparation with his fun.

BOTTOM LINE

"Once I get on the golf course, inside the ropes, it's business as usual,' he said. "That's just the bottom line.

"I'm on my own schedule. As far as practice partners go, I don't really line anything up. I get out there and do things when I want to do them. I practise when I want to practise and play on my own schedule. If somebody wants to play at the same time I do, that's who I'll be practising with."

Fellow Canadian Glen Hnatiuk, who began yesterday's final round at six-under-par, in ninth place, struggled in the difficult conditions, shooting a 76 to slip into a tie for 20th at two-under-par. Aurora native David Morland shot 74 yesterday to finish in a 30th place tie at even-par 288.

At the end, Weir looked like a guy who couldn't wait to get on the road and leave this bad experience in his dust. Twenty minutes after his round was over, he threw his clubs in the trunk of his rental and climbed behind the wheel, closing the door on BellSouth.

Hello, Augusta.


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