Bring it on, Mike saysWeir 18 holes from history and ready to 'embrace it'
By KEN FIDLIN, TORONTO SUN
Big-time golf is enough of a head game without all the outrageous expectations that are piled on Mike Weir's diminutive shoulders. Team Canada has nothing on this guy. He's his own Team Canada, dragging decades and decades of history with him on his solitary walk around the fairways and greens of Glen Abbey today.
It has been 50 years since a Canadian citizen won the Canadian Open and 90 years since somebody actually born in this country was its Open golf champion.
Now, with the Canadian Open in its 100th anniversary year, Weir stands 18 holes from ending that drought, three shots clear after 54 holes but with a pack of ravenous hyenas nipping at his heels.
There will be 35,000 on the grounds today and just about every one of them will be rooting for a homegrown victory, adding even more pressure to the mix.
A man could wilt under the weight of it all.
"I welcome it," said Weir. "I embrace it. I'm not afraid to be in that situation. I'm not afraid to do well. I want to be there.
"It probably comes from years of playing smaller tours and having to battle and Monday-qualify. It just seems like I've always been under the gun, been able to do well when it needs to be done."
It is that touch of the bulldog that endears Weir to Canadian fans. He has no pretense, no arrogance. Just a burning desire and a major-league talent.
"I've enjoyed myself the first three days and no matter what happens I'm going to have fun out there. we all know this is a crazy game. For me, it's not like winning a regular event. It means as much to me, almost as a major championship. That's the feel I have for this tournament."
It may seem like a monumental task for Weir to try to absorb all that history and try to do something that hasn't been done in such a long time. But this is a guy who stood up to the back-nine pressure at Augusta last year and emerged with a green jacket.
"I can definitely draw on that," he said. "That's the most pressure-packed day I've ever had in the game and I went bogey-free. I can draw on the five-shot lead I had at L.A. this year and when Shigeki Maruyama made a run at me, I was able to hold him off."
None of it, not the past or the future or the consequences will register, except perhaps in his subconscious mind. Weir will simply focus on his game and his game plan.
"I can't think about all the distractions. I have to just play my game. Hopefully the golf gods are with me and we can erase this thing.
"As I said (Friday), with the crowd getting excited and everybody getting excited, I have to be careful because it's very easy to lose your focus and get caught up in what's going on."
Today he will be paired with little-known Cliff Kresge, an engaging sort of guy without any major credentials. His greatest claim to fame was that, once during PGA Tour Q-school four years ago as he was reading a green next to a pond, he backed up and fell into the pond. He emerged soaking wet and missed the putt.
"I was thinking about it on 18," said Kresge. "I was wondering if anybody in the crowd knew the story and was waiting for me to fall in. I was laughing about it with my caddie and thinking, 'hey, don't get too close there.'"
This time, Kresge made a birdie putt to get himself into the final pairing and a chance to join Mike Weir's travelling zoo.
"I played with Tiger (Woods) last year at the Western Open and I guess (today) will be similar. We were laughing when I heard a huge roar on nine. I said, 'I didn't know Tiger was playing this week.'"
Tiger isn't but Mike Weir is and in these parts, he's big news. When he won the Masters last year, he became the first Canadian ever to win a major championship.
Today, he gets a chance to tie up a loose end on the home front that has been gnawing at Canadians for many generations.
Can't think of a better guy to send out for the job.