Being like Mike no easy task

Mike Weir's crowning achievement remains his 2003 Masters win. (Sun Media/Ernest Doroszuk)

Mike Weir's crowning achievement remains his 2003 Masters win. (Sun Media/Ernest Doroszuk)

KEN FIDLIN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:34 AM ET

OAKVILLE -- For years now, Mike Weir has been watching one crop of talented Canadians after another beating practice balls on the range at the Canadian Open, wondering "Who could? Who might?"

It isn't so much that the Maple Leaf he wears proudly weighs like an anvil. Less than a year away from his 40th birthday, Weir still proudly accepts the mantle as his nation's best hope to win a title that has eluded a native-born son in 95 years but when he looks over his shoulder the cavalry always seems a good way off.

"It's surprising," Weir said yesterday on the eve of his 19th Canadian Open appearance.

"I'm surprised because every time I come to the Canadian Open and watch the different players from the Canadian Tour practising on the range, I'm watching their games and I see a lot of talent.

"It's a little confusing to me why we haven't had more (Canadian) guys in my 10 years on the tour."

Just now, Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, B.C., and Matt Hill of Weir's hometown of Bright's Grove, are the No. 1 and No. 2-ranked amateurs, respectively, in the world and Weir recognizes that both could very well have what it takes to break through in the pro game. Both will be getting their feet wet at Glen Abbey this week.

"They're very similar players," Weir said. "You don't see many flaws in their games. They just seem very consistent. These are the kinds of players who do well on the PGA Tour."

The same thing could have been said of Weir when he teed it up for the first time in the Open in 1989 at the age of 19. It would take Weir 10 tries before he even made the cut and another four before he cracked the top 10.

"It's a big hump to get over," he said. "It took me six years to get from the Canadian Tour and Asian Tour and Australia to get to the PGA Tour, and that was a big hurdle.

"It's definitely an evolution. They seem to have the maturity, these two guys, to do that but if they don't they've just got to stick with it, persevere.

"I guess the best advice I could give (to Taylor and Hill) is just: 'Figure it out.' Figure out what's holding you back. Don't keep beating your head against the wall doing the same things. It's easy to work on your strengths, but you need to work on your weaknesses."

Weir's crowning achievement remains his 2003 Masters win. At times since then, he has struggled with his game and with his health. Two years ago, he left long-time coach Mike Wilson to try the stack and tilt approach being taught by Andy Plummer and Mike Bennett. Now he's back with Wilson, with no regrets.

"In 2004-2005 I was not very healthy and I needed a change," Weir said. "My golf swing wasn't very good. I made a change and I learned a lot. I learned a lot from Mike and Andy. Now I've gone back to Mike Wilson.

"The best way I could put it is that (Plummer and Bennett) helped me. I was having a lot of neck and back pain and they helped me get rid of that. I don't think I'm throwing Mike Wilson under the bus at all. We talked about it: We were at a stalemate. We weren't coming up with the answers we needed. The (two-year) break was good for both of us. Now I'm back and it's good."

He's also older, and wiser, especially as it pertains to his own swing and his own game.

"I feel more self-reliant," he said. "Golf is learning, adapting; you go down the wrong path sometimes, you bring it back. That's part of why I've been able to stay in the top 25-30 in the world for a long time because I've been able to adapt and adjust.

"The challenge for me is to figure out how I'm going to beat these young studs who can hit it 50 yards longer. My game is not that. My game has to be precision."

Precision is what it takes for a medium hitter like Weir to shoot 28 on the back nine at Glen Abbey, as he did on Monday during his own charity tournament.

"It was just one of those things where I got on a nice roll on the back nine. I birdied 13 through 15, eagled 16, birdied 17, eagled 18. I wish I could do that in a tournament."

Millions of Canadians would share that wish this weekend.


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