Mike Weir isn't painting a pretty picture of the state of his game. For a good portion of this season, he says, the only thing he could rely on was the fire in his belly.
Now, in the league where Weir plays, a bulldog mentality is an asset, but without a reliable set of fundamentals all you get at the end of the weekend is a pat on the back.
"It hasn't been that great," Weir said yesterday, after his last tuneup for the start of The Tour Championship at Atlanta's East Lake Country Club.
"I've struggled with my ball-striking. At times it has been on but, more often than not, it hasn't been.
"It has been a struggle. More of a search each and every week, whereas last year I just showed up and didn't have many thoughts going on.
"This year was different, but again, I think it's due to playing almost two years straight without having the time to stop and work on the things that need to be fixed."
Playing without much of an off-season after his successful 2003 season, Weir had three excellent weeks back-to-back-to-back in California (including his only win, at the Nissan Championship) at the start of this season, but when the PGA Tour came east, Weir's game went south. In his past 15 tournaments, he missed six cuts and finished in the top 20 only three times.
Granted, they were three important tournaments. He tied for fourth at the U.S. Open, tied for ninth at the British and lost the Canadian Open in a playoff to Vijay Singh, a gut-wrenching result in a tournament that should have been his.
Weir took a three-shot lead into the final round at Glen Abbey and led by two with three holes to play.
"I'm not saying I still don't think about it, because I do," he said. "It was a tough one to take. At the same time, I believe a lot of it was smoke and mirrors.
"I think if you look at my stats I didn't make any significant putts at all. Coming into Saturday, it got worse and Sunday it got worse again. I ended Saturday three-up and if I'd had a decent putting day, it would have been six or seven and it wouldn't even have been a golf tournament on Sunday. But that's golf."
In the meantime, Weir has solved his putting problems, but admits his irons are still a bit shaky.
"I'll be glad when this week's over and I can spend a whole lot of time breaking things down the way I did after the 2002 season and then get ready for next year.
"I just need that time away from tournament golf just to get the reps in. My iron play has not been very good."
Weir takes generous vacations during the golf season. He played only 21 tournaments this year, which is about average for him. So it's natural to wonder why he can't solve his swing problems during his down time.
"People may think, 'Hey, he has had a couple of weeks off here and there to change it.' But in the back of your mind, if you know you have a tournament to play in the near future, you never want to let your swing get that far from playing condition."
Weir is his own harshest critic. He has a laundry list of issues he is determined to address during the off-season. He doesn't much like the results of this season as an artistic exercise, but he has had his moments and is hoping he can capture lightning in a bottle again this weekend.
"It really hasn't been a great season, all things considered," he said. "But I've been able to get back into this (elite-field) tournament even though I haven't been playing very well. It seems I have had a lot of tournaments where I felt I was playing very poorly, like the U.S. Open, where I was able to figure out a way to compete.
"I'm very hopeful this weekend. When I set my mind to it, I can get it done. I'm optimistic I can get my mind in the right place for four more days to finish off this year well. I just want to battle hard this weekend, no matter what."
That's generally a given, as far as Weir is concerned. It's just not always enough.