Seriously, Weir is one tough nut

IAN HUTCHINSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:23 AM ET

In so many words, the common opinion on Mike Weir is that he is a classy guy who gives everyone a warm fuzzy when he succeeds on the PGA Tour.

Well, appearances can be deceiving.

Before the nasty e-mails start, that is not to insinuate that Weir is not genuine. He is every bit the smiling, polite guy you see interviewed after setting so many Canadian benchmarks such as his 2003 Masters win.

Weir's class and talent are his trademarks, but hidden in the shadows is a very important and underrated factor that has contributed to his success, which continued on Sunday with his one-shot victory at the Fry's Electronics Open in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Weir is one of the toughest dawgs in the yard, a trait usually attributed to Tiger Woods, who is known to glare down anyone approaching one of his bones. Like Weir, Woods has reconstructed his swing over the years and even tripped up from time to time, but never in an extended period.

MENTALLY TOUGH

Weir has more mud on him than the big dawg, which is what makes his three-plus years without a win a testament to his mental toughness. It has been speculated that giving up the lead at the 2004 Canadian Open and losing to Vijay Singh was the beginning of his struggles, a theory Weir quickly dismissed.

"That has nothing to do with my struggles," Weir said. "I lost that tournament, but that has zero to do with my struggles. My struggles had to do with my back injuries.

"When you're not 100%, you're trying to play and you can't practice as much and you get off the mechanics of your golf swing. You start making compensations and you can get into a funk. Hey, I've lost plenty of tournaments before. I've lost more than I've won. That goes away quickly."

What doesn't go away are the injuries that were becoming more prevalent as the 2005 season wore on.

"It was frustrating the way I was hitting the ball and frustrating when every time I tried to go work on it, I wasn't seeing results, then it kind of set me back a couple of days," Weir said.

"My neck would be really sore. I couldn't stay on top of it."

If this dawg was to stay in the yard for a long time, there would have to be some serious changes to his swing and that meant conversion to the now popular stack-and-tilt theory.

"Basically, it's swinging in a circle, not any movement off the ball, no lateral shift at all, just staying centred over the ball, which most of the great players in the history of the game have done," Weir said.

"It's just easier to practice. It's easier on your joints. It's easier on your spine," Weir said. "It's a combination of longevity in the game, which I wanted, injury prevention and better ball-striking and more power."

The swing changes seemed to be kicking in as this season progressed, but not enough to make Weir anything but a controversial captain's pick by Gary Player for the Presidents Cup at Royal Montreal. Despite his detractors, Weir stole the show, particularly in his thrilling singles victory against Woods.

"I think this Presidents Cup could change his whole career," Player said.

It is showing signs of doing just that. Two weeks ago, the momentum from Montreal continued as Weir posted a tie for 10th in Las Vegas before his win in Scottsdale.

Weir has made a habit of coming back from adversity.

In 1999, he crashed and burned from contention at the PGA Championship only to pick up his first tour win a few weeks later at the Air Canada Championship in Vancouver.

In 2002, he couldn't manage a top-10 finish, but came back with three wins the following year, including a low-profile event played at Augusta National.

Weir feels a new chapter has begun, comparing his win in Scottsdale to the Air Canada Championship.

"Since it has been awhile, it felt similar to my first win and, with the changes I made, it is, in a way, a first win for this method I'm working on."

Said Jon Mills of Belleville, who will join Weir on tour next year: "I think (Weir's win) will be huge, especially if he is going through a few swing changes."


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