|Mike Weir will return to golf in two weeks after an elbow injury ended his 2010 season prematurely. (QMI Agency/Michael Peake)
Mike Weir is "100% confident" he can, and will, regain his spot in the upper echelon on the PGA Tour.
But he also is resigned to the fact it may take some time.
Weir, who was upbeat in his 2011 season-opening conference call Thursday, will begin his campaign in two weeks at the Bob Hope Classic in California.
"I'm going to be back as one of the best players in the world," said the 40-year-old, who was in the top 10 of the official world golf ranking for much of the time from 2001 and 2005 and is 12th in career earnings on the PGA Tour."
Weir finished 151st on the 2010 money list, after having to shut down his season in August because of a partially torn ligament in his right elbow.
Weir has a five-tournament medical exemption to make up the $227,885 separating him from the 125th player on the 2010 list. Should he make up the difference, he will regain his full playing privileges for 2011. If he does not, Weir will have to rely on a variety of exemptions.
He's hoping his elbow will respond and says his progress has been encouraging.
"I'm feeling pretty good," Weir said. "I still get occasional soreness, but no pain."
Weir's hoping he jells with new caddie Pete Bender, a longtime member of the fraternity and two-time major winner.
But Weir, who has committed to Bender for the first handful of events of the season, is mostly hoping that he can get off to a good start and regain his full playing status so he doesn't have to rely on past success to get into tournaments.
"Coming off an injury like that throws you for a loop," Weir said. "You have to get your confidence back."
He hasn't had to worry about it for a long time, but Weir knows what it's like to have to grind for his PGA card.
"2003 didn't come around overnight," Weir said of his dream season, during which he won three times, including the Masters. "It started in 1993 when I turned pro. I'm not back to that stage, but I just need to build my confidence back up."
Weir spent last week in Hawaii and played and practised every day. He also was encouraged by his performance at the Shark Shootout in December. He said the month since has only made his arm stronger and he has "no reservations at all."
The Hope tournament seems a fitting place for Weir to start on his road back to prominence.
He always has played well early in the season. He won the Bob Hope Classic in 2003 and four of his eight career victories have come in February and April.
Weir will test his elbow by playing two weeks in a row, teeing up at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines the week after the Hope. He will skip Phoenix the following week and then play two weeks in a row again with the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and the Northern Trust Open (formerly the Nissan Open, which Weir won in 2003 and 2004).
He hasn't yet committed to the fifth and final event on his medical extension, but given his record on the west coach, he may not need to worry.
"I've played well and won a number of events on the west coast. I expect to do well but I still have to have a little patience."
While he has sights set on his first five tournaments, Weir has another lofty goal for this season.
"I want to be (on the Presidents Cup international team) this year when it's all said and done."