Weir's waggle working

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:55 AM ET

Four years ago, Mike Weir tried to abandon his trademark waggle, but the change just didn't take. He welcomed it back just in time to win a green jacket at Augusta.

This year, Weir is tinkering with it again. The result is a mini-waggle and a three-shot lead at the halfway point of the ATT Pebble Beach National Pro Am on California's Monterey Peninsula.

Weir finished off a second-round 67 yesterday with three consecutive birdies at Poppy Hills to sit at 14-under-par.

He opened the tournament Thursday with a red-hot 63 at Pebble Beach, matching his career-best competitive round. He is three shots clear of Aaron Oberholser and four ahead of Jonathan Byrd, Luke Donald and Fredrik Jacobson.

Weir wasn't the only Canadian sharpshooter yesterday. Oshawa's Jon Mills also shot 67 and sits in a tie for 20th place at six under.

For Weir, this turnaround couldn't have happened at a better time. After a decent start to 2005, Weir's season disintegrated after a fifth-place finish at the Masters. From the first week of April until the end of the season he missed eight of 13 cuts.

To start this year, he missed the cut at the Sony Open in Hawaii, played decently at the Bob Hope but missed last week's cut in Phoenix.

The abbreviated waggle is one of several technical changes Weir has been working on since November. Sometimes they work as planned, sometimes not. Obviously, this week he is in sync.

"Well, coming off the year I had last year, it's not the start I wanted," he said. "I took some time off, and at the Hope I played well. The other two weeks, not so good."

Previously, just before starting his backswing, Weir would take his club back almost parallel before his final address. Now the waggle is about half as long as it was.

"I've just shortened (the waggle) up a bit," he said. "Just trying to get a feel for the shot rather than the longer waggle, which was just not setting me up for the shot I wanted to hit. With a little smaller waggle, I can feel the shot in my hands a little better."

He says this time the waggle change makes sense, rather than just being change for change's sake.

"It wasn't with a specific purpose, it wasn't with the intent that I'm doing it now."

In the 36 holes he has played this week, Weir has made 17 birdies and 16 pars to go with three bogeys. He is splitting the fairways, hitting precision irons and has used only 51 putts in two rounds, lowest in the field.

Weir has a true affinity for this tournament. Last year he finished second. In 2004, he was fourth. In 2003 he was third, eighth in 2001 and seventh in 2000.

"I've been knocking on the door of this tournament the last few years and I would love to win it," he said. "I like the format. I like the casual atmosphere, the relaxed atmosphere between the players and the amateurs. And, of course, the golf courses I love."

Most important, though, is to regain the form that made him a top-10 player until last season. Success and confidence go hand-in-hand and it's impossible to define which comes first.

Weir cautiously is optimistic that both concepts are not far away and isn't trying to analyze his game too much.

"It's tough not to be (anxious)," he admits. "But I just keep telling myself how much I like what I'm working on, I like what I'm seeing when I'm practising but whether that translates into being comfortable right away on the golf course is a bit iffy.

"All I know is I'm hitting some quality shots, a lot of shots right at the flag and that keeps me encouraged.

"You can't think of this game in terms of urgency. I've always looked at the game in a long-term way and tried not to put too much heat on myself. The times I have put too much heat on myself, it hasn't worked out."

So, with his game looking better than it has in at least a year and perhaps longer, Weir heads into the weekend with a substantial lead, but he knows better than most how fragile an advantage that can be.

See, the last time he took a lead into the final 36 holes was at the 2004 Bell Canadian Open.

And we all know what happened there.


Videos

Photos