OAKMONT, PA. -- As Mike Weir walked down the 10th fairway at the Oakmont Country Club late yesterday afternoon, he reached up and pulled off his sunglasses as he answered the question.
Could he win the U.S. Open here this week?
"Absolutely," he said, with maybe just a touch of a glare. "I've played well in U.S. Opens. I've played well in these tournaments. I've got the experience and I've got more control of my game."
The 37-year-old is now four years removed from his win at The Masters, becoming the first Canadian to win one of golf's majors, and it was three years ago in February since he had his last win on the PGA Tour, at the Nissan Open.
Apart from a second at the AT&T at Pebble Beach in '05 and a third there last year, Weir hasn't come close to the form he had in 2003 and 2004.
His best finish this year is a tie for 19th at the EDS Byron Nelson and he currently sits in 105th place on the money list with $454,642 US. He has slipped to 51st in the world.
But after battling neck and back problems and switching instructors to start this year, Weir told Sun Media yesterday he is feeling better now than he has in two years.
The changes he has made to his swing with new instructors Mike Bennett and Andy Plummer have taken almost all the strain off his back, which had bothered him for 2005 and '06 and made it difficult for him to practise.
He put in a long session on the range here yesterday afternoon under the watchful eyes of Bennett and Plummer.
"The last six months, I've probably hit more balls than I've hit in the last two years because I have had to put in a lot of repetitions to make it feel comfortable," said Weir.
"All aspects of the changes that I made took a little time to get comfortable with and the only way to do that is just to hit a lot of balls. You're going to have your weeks here and there where it's not the greatest, but overall, it feels great."
He answered questions as he headed out to do some scouting, the plan was to walk a few holes on the back nine and take some notes. That was after he had that session on the range, hit some pitches and bunker shots and did some putting yesterday in preparation for the 107th U.S. Open, which begins Thursday.
"It's feeling good. The process has been good. Everything is fine," he said of the state of his game. "I just need to sharpen up my short game a little bit. I've been spending a lot of time on my long game. Spending a little more time on my short game is really where my focus is for the rest of the week."
Bennett and Plummer have been working on keeping Weir centred over the ball with less weight transfer. They had an extended golf shaft stuck in the ground in front of him yesterday and angled up so it rested against the left side of his head as he swung. It let him know if he was swaying off the ball.
The changes have rid him of the routine of having to spend more time getting his back in shape to play than on practising.
"Advil, ice, go to the doc, see the chiropractor every other day, get a massage every other day," said Weir. "I was having to do all that stuff just to be able to play the next day. It's nice not to have to do that.
"When I talked to my chiropractor and doctor back in Utah and showed them biomechanically what I was doing in my (new) golf swing, they said that's going to be 10 times easier on your spine. That was one of the major reasons why I changed. I've noticed a big difference. I haven't had any injuries this year. The last two years have been tough to say the least. This has been great. I've been able to practise longer, I've been able to hit more balls and not wear down like I used to with the other action I had."
When it comes to this week, here is something to consider: Despite his problems the last couple of years, Weir has excelled in the U.S. Open.
He has made the cut in six of the eight Opens he's played. He is one of the 10 best players over the last five Opens with three top 10s -- his best finish being a tie for third in 2003 at Olympia Fields. He tied for sixth last year at Winged Foot.
The last couple of years have been lean for him, but something about the U.S. Open has brought out the best in Weir.