|Mike Weir's game has been on the decline since the summer of 2010. (RICHARD LAM/QMI Agency file photo)
TORONTO - The easiest thing in the world would be to sit back and begin this column with the words ‘I told you so.’
But I’d rather stand. My lower back has been kind of sore lately.
But seriously, it hurts me to say this, it truly does, but in the two years since I penned a column outrageously suggesting that Mike Weir’s career as a front-line PGA player was over, the situation hasn’t change. Weir — undoubtedly the greatest player Canada has ever produced — has not stepped up his game since withdrawing from the 2010 RBC Canadian Open and it’s actually painful to watch his progression on the PGA Tour.
Since being plagued with ligament soreness in his right elbow and undergoing surgery last season, Weir’s results have not improved significantly. Weir has captured eight PGA Tour wins — including the sensational 2003 Masters victory — and 68 PGA Tour top 10 finishes, winning over $26 million US in purses. But since his elbow problems surfaced, his game has gone south and there appears to be no road map for a return to past form. In 2011, the Bright’s Grove, Ont., native played in 15 events, making just two cuts, and earned $23,312 in prize money. Sadly, in eight Tour starts in 2012, he has yet to make a single cut, though maybe that will change at this weekend’s Memorial Tournament. But don’t count on it.
Weir’s elbow may be better, but his long game is not. His latest swing coach is former PGA player Grant Waite, though that partnership has yet to reap any great performances.
When I wrote the piece on Weir almost two years ago, there was sense in the golfing world that I took pleasure in pointing out Weir’s decline, which was the furthest thing from the truth.
There’s nothing satisfying about watching a national sporting icon hit rock bottom. I don’t subscribe to feelings of Schadenfreude, despite what some of Weir’s fans may believe.
It’s just a simple fact that, at 42, Weir’s PGA career is nearing its end and it probably won’t be long before he packs it in. And that’s a shame, because Weir has done more for Canadian golf than anyone in history. His win at the Masters was one of the truly great moments in Canadian sport — certainly up there with Sidney Crosby’s gold medal OT goal at the 2010 Winter Olympics, Donovan Bailey’s 100-metre win at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and Steve Nash’s first NBA MVP award in 2005, to name just a few benchmark accomplishments. The only Canadian sporting moment I consider of greater magnitude than Weir’s Masters win is Paul Henderson’s series-winning goal in the 1972 Summit Series.
I bring up Weir’s plight in the wake of Ryder Hesjedal’s historic victory at the 2012 Giro d’Italia last week, making the Victoria native the first Canadian to win a Grand Tour cycling event. To me, along with Weir’s win at the Master’s, Nash’s two MVP awards and Joey Votto’s MVP nod, Hesjedal’s win was the greatest individual achievement by a Canadian athlete in the past 10 years, and one of the greatest ever.
Nash and Weir are reaching the twilights of their careers, and while Nash is still playing at a very high level, Weir is not. It has to be incredibly frustrating for Weir to miss so many cuts. Not just that, imagine his humiliation earlier this season when the organizers of the Northern Trust Open refused to grant the Canadian golf legend a sponsor’s exemption despite the fact that he had won at the Riviera Country Club twice before. As usual, Weir responded with class, admitting that he was disappointed, but leaving it at that.
You know, I would love nothing better than for Weir to find his game and win another tournament. I would love to eat my words. In fact, if Weir ever does win another PGA tournament, I will eat this column and wash it down with a bottle of Mike Weir Sauvignon Blanc. But Weir, of course, doesn’t need any more wins to cement his status as one of the greatest Canadian athletes ever.
It’s just that it’s painful to watch him fight a battle he can’t seem to win.