July 21, 2011
Weir's biggest challenge is confidence
By IAN HUTCHINSON, QMI Agency
One of the great moments in Canadian sports was highlighted by Tiger Woods slipping a green jacket over Mike Weir’s slight shoulders eight years ago when both were at the top of their games.
Both are in the same place again — well, not physically, but in respect to their games.
The only noise Weir is making on the PGA Tour sounds like a sputtering engine that won’t turn over and he’s in Vancouver trying to get it going at the RBC Canadian Open, while Woods is elsewhere, dealing with his current challenges by firing his caddie and pal.
One joker mentioned he can’t wait to read Steve Williams’ tell-all book about Tiger’s indiscretions that led to the break-up of his family, loss of endorsements and the downward spiral in his career, compounded by injuries.
Somebody replied that Tiger probably had Stevie sign a confidentiality agreement, so there would be no such book. Everyone’s a cynic when it comes to Tiger, but not at all with Weir, always the focus at Canadian Open time, the way Woods is all the time,
The latest scuttlebutt around the Weir fishbowl is that he’s returned to stack and tilt, a swing method in which weight is kept on the front foot to avoid swaying and the upper body is centred for more consistent shotmaking, although some believe it lessens swing speed to take away power, which Weir doesn’t need.
Oddly enough, Weir politely abandoned stack and tilt in early 2009 after working a couple of years with its proponents Andy Plummer and Mike Bennett. Weir’s decision ignited controversial words from tour player Charlie Wi, who called Weir one of the worst ball-strikers on tour before taking up stack and tilt.
Weir says this time around is different, calling it “a little bit of a step in progress, just trying to simplify it a little bit more this time around. Being away from those guys, they’ve done a great job of simplifying their method for myself.
”I’ve got to find what’s right in that technique for me because I do like it. That’s kind of what I’m pushing here to find, one or two things to concentrate on and keep it simple as I can,” said Weir, adding he wants to have more feel on shots instead of being so focused on technique.
In search of a new swing, Weir has also worked with Mike Wilson, another former coach, and sought the advice of the renowned Jim Flick in efforts that appear more desperate than designed.
Like Woods, his indecisiveness and sudden shifts in opinion indicate a lack of confidence that wasn’t present when both were champions.
In Thursday’s first round, Weir seemed to be tense as he ran into the familiar problem of missing fairways, a crusher at Shaughnessy. Only a magical short game allowed him to make the turn at one over, but that bloated to four over by the end of the day and he’s already in danger of missing the cut.
Whether Weir’s return to stack and tilt or Woods’ decision to can Williams are the right calls remain to be seen, but both will need the confidence they once had before all cylinders are firing and that doesn’t appear to the case right now.
The question for Weir is which comes first? The swing or the belief that he can pull it off?
IS THAT IT?
The TSN/Golf Channel coverage sure left viewers of the national Open hanging with hours of play left once it cut out … Is it any wonder you draw a blank when you see someone like Kris Banks contending at the Open with recent champs including Chez Reavie, Nathan Green and Carl Pettersson? Even with the best field in years at Shaughnessy, don’t be surprised if another lesser-known name wins again … The one exception to that rule was Jim Furyk, the back-to-back champ in 2006 and 2007, but the 2003 U.S. Open winner was four over on Thursday and came into the Open with five missed cuts in his past seven events … Apparently, Rickie Fowler didn’t learn from the hand-slap he got from Masters officials for wearing his hat backwards earlier this year because there he was again after the first round doing the same thing during an interview. Good on him. What would you rather see — his face or that corporate cat on his flat-billed cap? It depends on whether you’re a marketing suit or not.
WELCOME TO THE WET COAST
Friday is supposed to be 20C with a mix of sun and clouds and players who were at the British Open last week must be wondering if it really is July. “The weather is a little bit better here than it was in England,” said Fowler, who was one under on Thursday, earlier this week and he was backed up by Masters champ Charl Schwartzel. “Is this summer?” asked Schwartzel, who was one over in the first round … Schwartzel admitted, however, that he could go back to a more normal ball flight at Shaughnessy. “The biggest thing with the bad weather we had at Royal St. Georges was to find a golf swing. I can hit the ball high again coming out here, so I think that was part of the biggest adjustment for me is to find my golf swing again,” said Schwartzel.