Weir tees it up for children’s hospitals
by Daniel Girard
Mike Weir has become his own punch line.
Arriving at The Hospital for Sick Children Tuesday, the morning after the latest setback in a PGA Tour season full of them, Canada's most recognizable golfer was ready to try his hand at the video game version.
"Maybe I'll be better at Wii golf than I am at my real game," he quipped.
Weir, a 41-year-old lefty from Brights Grove, Ont., is in the midst of a brutal year on the world's best golf circuit. Coming off an elbow injury that forced him to miss the end of last season, he's made the cut in just one of 11 tournaments he's played - a T77 that was worth $10,788 (U.S.).
Weir, who at the 2003 Masters became the only Canadian to ever win a major, is 247th on the Tour's money list this year. His Official World Golf Ranking, which eight years ago peaked at No. 3, has sunk to No. 385.
It all adds up to Weir, an eight-time winner who is ranked 14th all-time on the Tour's career earnings with $26.8 million (U.S.), is without fully exempt status for the first time since 1998. That means for many tournaments he only gets to play if those above him on the money list opt out.
On Monday, Weir's streak of 48 consecutive major championships was snapped with a failed bid to make the field for next week's U.S. Open.
"It's disappointing," Weir said later Tuesday at Angus Glen in Markham as he readied for his fifth annual charity tournament, which has raised more than $3.5 million for children's hospitals across Canada.
"I still consider myself one of the best players. I'm not showing it right now. But the majors are what I love to play and I've always played well in them and would love to be there, but it just hasn't worked out."
Still, Weir, who said his health is not an issue - "I'm feeling great" - insists that his game is not as bad as his 75.33 per round scoring average suggests.
"It's not that far away," said Weir, who still has two years worth of exemptions which are based on past performances and allow him to avoid the grind of qualifying school. "It's a couple of little things, technically, that I just have to get ironed out. Listen, I know how to play this game."
Weir said he's in "discovery mode" in getting help with his game. He's worked a little with top swing doctor Randy Smith of Texas, former PGA and Canadian Tour player Grant Waite and has been in touch with Butch Harmon, whose students have included Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
Weir traces the source of his swing woes to the Verizon Heritage tournament in South Carolina in the spring of last year when he caught a tree root on his downswing and partially tore tendons in his elbow. He continued to play through the summer thinking it was tendinitis, but developed bad habits. He then took four months off to allow himself to heal and has kept struggling.
But rather than looking for a major overhaul of his swing that will take months, Weir is looking for something he can quickly adapt into his game.
"It's not mental," he said. "It's a purely technical thing I have to fix in an easy way...in a way that I can take it to the course and know it's going to work."
Weir said the "real frustrating part" is not enjoying golf as much these days.
"I love the game. I enjoy the competition," he said. "But the way I'm playing is not very fun because ... I'm so consumed by getting this organized and fixed."
Despite his professional woes, Weir said days like Tuesday put all of his frustrations into perspective. After signing autographs for young patients playing Wii golf at SickKids, he gave a lesson on the Angus Glen range to 11-year-old Tobin Haas, who has successfully battled three brain tumours.
"My profession is a game," said the married father of two. "It's great perspective to see these kids and the challenges they have, the way they fight through it.
"You can get wrapped up in your own world and what you're doing but you've got to get out there and see what's really going on sometimes."