Fans' silence empowers Weir
By KEN FIDLIN, TORONTO SUN
There is no denying the vibe between Mike Weir and his Canadian Open fans. It is there, it is real and it is a powerful force. It is felt not so much in the rowdy moments when he's walking down the fairway, or moving from green to tee and the Tigeresque cheers and yells of encouragement are raining down around him.
The real power, the real extra sensory combustion, is felt in those eerily silent moments that, among the major sports, belong to golf and golf alone. In those moments when Weir stands over a sticky little putt or a crucial iron shot, despite the presence of thousands of souls mere feet away, you get the feeling you could hear a maple leaf hit the ground a hundred yards down the fairway.
The eloquence of those few seconds of silence, amid a crowd bursting with high anxiety and anticipation, willing his success, speaks directly to Weir himself.
For some, such a realization would bring unbearable pressure. To Weir, it means an extra dose of resolve.
"I can feel it," he said after fashioning rounds of 68 and 65 at Glen Abbey to grab the lead among players who have finished 36 holes.
"These crowds are not like any others that I play in front of. It's only halfway through but I'm still excited about it. I haven't been in this position in the tournament before."
Normally, Weir is impervious to his surroundings, as are most of his professional peers. It has nothing to do with being unfriendly or aloof and everything to do with maintaining a level of concentration most of us can't even fathom.
But his Canadian Open appearances are different, perhaps because he knows the people outside the ropes want it as badly as he does, aware that no Canadian has won the title in 50 years and no native-born player has done it in 90 years.
For the past few years as he progressed as a world-class player, the galleries have swept him around the course on waves of encouragement, even when he wasn't in contention.
"Especially the last few years, the support I've gotten here has been incredible, even when I'm struggling," he said. "It's nice to give them something to cheer about."
He did that multiple times the past two days, including the par-5 fifth hole late yesterday afternoon. He arrived there tied for the lead at six-under. After a good drive, he smashed a 230-yard 3-iron. As it landed on the front of the green and continued its journey toward the hole, the roar was deafening. He left himself about four feet for an eagle that put him at eight under.
Seldom in his dozen years of playing in the Canadian Open has he ever been in a position to deliver on the hopes that follow him every year. In that regard, something special happened on his final hole of the day yesterday, the par-4 ninth.
COULD SENSE IT
"When I feel the pressure and the crowd and everything, I'm able to handle that a lot better than four or five years ago.
"Now, I really enjoy it. Today I could really sense it. On the last hole, I could sense that after hitting a good drive, I could feel I was going to hit a good 5-iron. It was the perfect number and the amphitheatre surrounding the ninth hole, I wanted to give them something to cheer about. I thought I could hit a good shot in there."
How about a 196-yard 5-iron that settled three feet from the cup, producing one last birdie and one last mighty roar?
"I have to watch myself," he cautioned. "Each and every shot is a challenge not to get too revved up. Before every shot I have to take a second and calm myself down a bit.
"I'm determined to enjoy the next couple of days," he said. "No matter what happens, I'm going to try my hardest and hopefully I can find the magic that I found today."
The magic will be there, desperate to be discovered. It will be there in those moments of mystical connection when you can hear the breeze and the birds and nothing else. Weir knows where to find it.