Weir hitting his stride

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:15 AM ET

Two days after one of the great ball-striking rounds of his life, Mike Weir was back out on the practice range, tweaking and cajoling the mechanism.

Having played the way Weir did at Pebble Beach on Sunday, most every golfer in the world, pro or amateur, would be afraid to change a thing, especially during a week when he's going for a rare triple: Three consecutive Nissan Open titles.

"It has been a long time since I had a ball-striking round like that one," Weir said, thinking back on his 67 in the wind and rain on the Monterey Peninsula on a day when nobody else in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am broke 70. "It has been awhile since I was in such control. It's fun to have that kind of round. It doesn't happen very often."

Yet yesterday, with swing coach Mike Wilson eye-balling Weir's every move, he spent nearly two hours tinkering on the range here at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles. What on earth could he possibly be working on?

"It's just a few little fundamentals that, when you play a few weeks in a row, old habits kind of creep in, so I just get (Wilson) to keep an eye on them ... grip, posture, certain things like that," Weir said. "Nothing major."

As well as he hit the ball last weekend, it was Weir's improved putting that made the difference between another disappointing tournament and a second-place finish behind Phil Mickelson. He has been trying to get comfortable with a few subtle changes in his putting stroke and, for the first time, it began to feel natural.

"I think I'm just starting to get the feel for it, more than anything," he said. "It was a case of sticking with it and it was bound to come around."

Weir was still wondering yesterday how Sunday's pursuit of Mickelson would have turned out if Weir had been playing alongside his rival in the final group. The Canadian lefty started the day 10 strokes behind Mickelson but cut that margin to four strokes after 11 holes, playing two groups ahead. He could get no closer, however.

"I would definitely have liked to have been there and see how he would react if I was making a bunch of birdies and making a charge," Weir said.

Earlier this season, playing on desert courses in Palm Springs and Phoenix, where the putting surfaces are about as perfect as they can be, Weir struggled. But at Pebble Beach, with its unpredictable, bumpy greens, he was draining putts from everywhere.

"Maybe I'm just good on bumpy surfaces, I don't know," he said. "It's kind of like putting in the spring in Canada: The snow melts and you get things bouncing all over the place.

"Desert greens are so perfect that you feel like you have to stroke it perfectly. Maybe you get on some bumpier greens and you're not quite so concerned about your stroke but just trying to get it in the hole. That was a bit of a breakthrough last week. I found myself just trying to get the ball in the hole and not worrying about my stroke. It comes down to a little more feel and a little more trust."

Weir's second-place finish last week and his arrival here as the two-time defending champ, has him thinking in terms of making up ground on the players he wants to be compared with. Off that result, he jumped to sixth from ninth in the world rankings. Only Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Mickelson and Retief Goosen are ahead of him. Each of them, with the exception of Els, has a win this year. Weir hasn't won since last year's Nissan and is hungry to do it again.

GOOD SHAPE

"Last week was close," he said. "I feel like my game is in good shape to do it again. I need a win. This would be a special time to do it, to get a win under my belt and get after Tiger and Vijay and Ernie."

This will be Weir's fourth tournament in a row, with still two more weeks before a break. In years past, that kind of work schedule was rare.

"I feel good," he said. "After a big (off-season) break I wanted to play a bunch of weeks in a row to test the stuff that (Wilson) and I have been working on. I still feel good and pretty fresh so, I think I'll probably make it through six weeks."


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