Weir's putter sputters -- Canada's best golfer enroute to mediocre year
Today's National Post golf column:
Once solid Weir now showing cracks: Former Masters champ's putter continues to sputter'
National Post Friday, July 8, 2005 Page: S7 Section: Sports Byline: Robert Thompson Column: On Golf Source: National Post
It is like a strange golf version of Where's Waldo? In this case, however, it is called 'Where's Weir?' or, more specifically, 'Where's Weir's game?' Can you spot it among the myriad mediocre PGA Tour pros? Probably not. Canada's favourite golfing star appears to have wilted in the summer heat, the lefty has been disappearing from leaderboards more often than any point since his rookie year.
Weir has missed six cuts this year, and has not played on the weekend in five of his last six tournaments. Last year, he missed only six cuts all year.
At the U.S. Open last month, Weir seemed to be blaming a neck problem stemming from an incident with a fan at the Canadian Open the previous September for some of his struggles.
His neck may be bothering him, but it is his putter -- he is ranked 160th on the greens -- and the six-inch space between his ears that are holding him back. Weir was 24th in putting last year, down from 11th in his breakthrough year of 2003 but still respectable enough to put him in the hunt at two majors and help him win at Riviera.
The wheels were hanging on, but they were pretty wobbly by the time September, and the Canadian Open, rolled around. Under the pressure of leading in the final round, Weir's putter faltered badly down the stretch. And during a playoff against Vijay Singh, with the opportunity to become the first Canadian to win since Pat Fletcher 50 years earlier, Weir's putter let him down again.
The Canadian Open may have been the tipping point for Weir. Though not a long hitter, he manages to find a lot of fairways, which has translated into a strong greens in regulation ratio. But so far this year the putter has been a disaster. And you're not going to win very often if you can't put the little white ball in the cup.
Weir admitted earlier this year that he was struggling with his game even as he took Singh into extra holes at Glen Abbey last September.
"Last year, I didn't feel like my golf game was in a very good place," he said on a conference call at the start of the year. "I was able to have stats and the money list and a win that all looked good, but deep down, I knew my game wasn't very good."
In order to be consistent, Weir decided he would have to play more regularly in 2005. It looked like a good strategy at the start, when he finished second at the AT&T at Pebble Beach and ground his way to a fifth-place result at the Masters, a nice return after missing the cut while defending his title in 2004.
With the exception of a marginal showing at the U.S. Open, where he scrambled to make the cut, Weir has faltered badly. It all comes down to his putter, as he acknowledged last month at Pinehurst.
"When you are not making putts, the game plan just kind of goes out the window," Weir told reporters. "You play a smart shot and you three-putt then you say, 'What did I do that for, I ended up making bogey anyway?' "
Canadians always expect a lot out of their stars. Weir is no exception, and after winning the Masters in 2003, he was quickly heralded as the Tiger Woods of Canada.
The only problem is that Weir doesn't have the talent of Woods or Phil Mickelson. He doesn't hit it like Vijay Singh or have the grace of Ernie Els. Maybe the reality is that Mike Weir was destined to be a minor golfing star, a grinder whose time at the top of the leaderboard in a major championship is already behind him. That may well be the case, and he will always have his green jacket.
But there are a lot of people in this country counting on the fact the gritty little lefthander who plays with a will that overcomes any physical limitations can regain his putting stroke and prove that his dominating performance two years ago wasn't a fluke.