Woods, Weir eye big wins

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

There isn't a whole lot Mike Weir has that Tiger Woods wants or needs. A Nissan Open championship would be one thing.

Los Angeles is Tiger's hometown and it is one of those strange oversights in the golf messiah's storybook career that he has never won the PGA Tour stop at Riviera Country Club.

Weir, on the other hand, is gunning for his third Nissan title third in a row, a lofty aim never before achieved. Five others -- including Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan and Corey Pavin -- have won back-to-back Nissan championships before Weir, but none was able to nail the trifecta.

"Basically, I don't look at records too much but I've thought about this one," Weir said. "This would be a pretty cool one. Looking down the list of the guys who have won twice here, there's a lot of history and I'd just like to have a little piece of it if I could."

His chances got a bit of a boost yesterday when Retief Goosen, the No. 5 ranked player in the world, was disqualified because he arrived late for his 6:40 a.m. Pro-Am tee time. Even though the Pro-Am officially is not part of the tournament, a PGA rule instituted last year to deter players from taking the Pro-Am too lightly provides for disqualification for players who fail to show on time for the Pro-Am.

Ironically, Goosen had hosted a cocktail party the previous evening at Riviera on behalf of Grey Goose Vodka, a product he endorses. The connection between the reception and Goosen's late arrival on the tee 13 hours later was cause for some mirthful circumstantial speculation sadly unsupported by the facts.

"Retief Goosen is a model citizen who simply didn't get a wakeup call," said Mark Russell, a PGA official who made the call. "I told him I wished there was something I could do, but it's right there in black and white. He had requested that time but he just didn't get a wakeup call."

Goosen's travails aside, playing in his own backyard, so to speak, Woods would like to add this bauble to his monstrous trophy case.

MEMORIES

"I played my first Tour event here when I was 16," said Woods, who will turn 30 later this year. "I have some great memories, some nervous memories. It's my hometown. There are always friends and family here who don't get to see me play that often so it's a special event for me.

"No doubt about it. I'd like to win. Hopefully this will be the year."

Woods hasn't played since he won the Buick Invitational in San Diego on Jan. 23. Weir on the other hand, is making his fourth start in a row and is motivated just walking the fairways of Riviera.

"It would be pretty cool to win here three times in a row,' Weir said. "The first two were totally different. The first one I was coming from seven shots behind and I had to wait around for a while before winning the playoff. Last year, I was out front and then Shigeki (Maruyama) put on a charge and the game was on."

Because of his size and compact swing, Weir often is compared to Hogan, especially on this golf course often referred to as Hogan's Alley.

NICE COMPLIMENT

"It's a nice compliment," Weir said. "I don't think my game is anywhere near his, but it's just a nice compliment."

Golf wasn't the only thing on Weir's mind yesterday. As a nervous hockey fan, he was on the golf course when Gary Bettman pulled the plug on the NHL season.

"We (Weir and caddie Brennan Little) were checking the time and we called to find out," Weir said. "I'm really shocked. My gut instinct told me they had something under their hat and they were going to make a good announcement.

"I was surprised it was called off. I thought it would be a great thing for the NHL if, after going this far, they could come to a solution and get everybody excited about hockey again.

"As a fan I'm disappointed. I was talking to some of (the hockey players) in Phoenix last week and they were disappointed with the offer that was on the table at that point. As a fan, you get excited at this time of the year, March, April when the playoffs start. Now there's nothing to watch on TV."


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