Mike Weir makes his 2012 debut on the PGA Tour Thursday at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and it will be interesting to see if his repaired elbow and game will hold up long enough for him to make the cut.
But the biggest news surrounding the beleaguered Weir comes from an event he won’t be playing.
Despite winning twice at Riviera (in 2003 and 2004 when it was the Nissan Open), Weir was not granted a sponsor’s exemption into the Northern Trust Open there next week.
Weir reportedly was surprised by the snub, and it is somewhat of a slap in the face for a two-time champion, but you have to wonder if the bloom is off the rose for the lefty from Bright’s Grove, Ont., who will be 42 in May.
Next year will mark a decade since his Masters victory and five years will have elapsed since his last PGA Tour victory come October. He has plummeted to 1,033 in the official world golf ranking, the 18th ranked Canadian.
To be fair, Weir has battled injury the past couple of years, but he no longer can rest on his laurels, and has to prove he still can play, and be a draw.
The awarding of sponsor’s exemptions for the Northern Trust Open may be a sore spot for Canadian golf fans, but you can’t help but feel good about a least a couple of those who were given spots in the field.
While golf isn’t necessarily a popularity contest, getting sponsor exemptions, as Weir discovered, is just that.
The Northern Trust Open invited another two-time winner at Riviera, the amiable Fred Couples.
Jason Gore, who grew up in the area, also received an exemption and he actively pursued it with a Twitter campaign that forced the organizers’ hand.
“Just signed up for the @ntrustopen qualifier, but you have NO IDEA how stoked I’d be to get a sponsors exemption! #myhometown #mymajor,” Gore said on Twitter early in the new year.
But the nicest story is the exemption given to Andy Walker, filling the spot given to someone who advances diversity.
Walker told QMI Agency last year, as part of a feature about the lack of black golfers on the PGA Tour, that, at 36, he was almost ready to quit golf because of the financial hardships of trying to make it.
The former Canadian and Nationwide Tour player — who won a national championship as a teammate of Gore’s with Pepperdine in 1997 — finally will get his shot in his first career PGA Tour event.
Walker was runner-up on last year’s Big Break Ireland and he was wistful on his chances of ever fulfilling his dream.
“I’ve always said that the day I feel I can’t win on the PGA Tour is the day I can walk away and say, ‘OK, I gave it my run,’” he told QMI. “I damn sure don’t feel like I’ve hit that spot yet.”
Adam Hadwin’s dream season of 2011 has carried over as far as positive press goes.
Hadwin was named by the PGA Tour as the No. 2 player to watch this season on the Nationwide Tour.
Citing the Abbotsford, B.C. native’s impressive stats on the PGA Tour last season — five cuts made in five starts, including a tie for 39th at the U.S. Open and a 4th-place run at the Canadian Open that captured his country’s imagination — writer John Dell said that Hadwin’s experience on the top circuit “will only help him this season on the Nationwide Tour.”
Hadwin, 24, also boasted impressive driving distance (297.5) and scoring (69.48) averages.
His 2011 campaign got him an exemption into the final round of PGA Tour qualifying school, where he tied for 100th, good enough for the Nationwide Tour playing privileges.
Last year’s success will be tough to follow up, but if there’s one thing Hadwin does not lack, it’s confidence. Now that he’s had a taste of being in the hunt in big events on the PGA Tour, his desire to get back will be strong.
And his tweet Tuesday reflected his commitment:
“Honored (sic) to be @NationwideTour’s #2 player to watch this year... Lots of hard work ahead! Excited for the challenge.”
It’s about time for the PGA Tour to address the long-putter debate.
It has been saying it’s looking into it, but if it doesn’t act soon, that horse may be too far out of the barn.
Tiger Woods shared his thoughts during his news conference Tuesday at Pebble Beach.
“I believe it’s the art of controlling the body and club and swinging the pendulum motion. I believe that’s how it should be played. I’m a traditionalist when it comes to that,” Woods said.
“My idea was to have it so that the putter would be equal to or less than the shortest club in your bag. And I think with that we’d be able to get away from any type of belly anchoring.”
PAVIN’ THE WAY
Another gem from Woods when asked about the prevalence of gym rats and long-hitters on the tour today, a trend he helped establish. Tiger says he can see a day when he won’t be able to compete with the heavy hitters like he once did:
“I’ll be shrimping it down the fairway and trying to do it a different way,” he said. “I’ll be the Corey Pavin of that generation.”
Wonder what kind of odds you’d get in Las Vegas for Tiger Woods winning at Pebble Beach, combined with a win for John Daly at the European Tour Dubai Desert Classic this weekend?
Daly surprised many with his fourth-place finish last week at the shortened, three-round Qatar Masters. He fired a couple of tidy 67s, which book-ended a 73.