Weir has no Tour sta­tus, but he’s feel­ing good

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - ADAM STAN­LEY

With no sta­tus on the PGA Tour this year, Mike Weir spent Wed­nes­day at a place filled with good mem­o­ries — Au­gusta Na­tional Golf Club.

The 2003 Masters cham­pion tried to qual­ify Mon­day for this week’s Honda Clas­sic in Florida but missed by five shots. He also tried last Mon­day to qual­ify for the PGA Tour’s Ge­n­e­sis Open in Los An­ge­les. Again, he missed by five.

He headed to the sto­ried lay­out in Au­gusta, Ga., for the first time in 2017 on Wed­nes­day morn­ing.

“Ev­ery time I get there, I love that place,” Weir said Tues­day night. “It’s al­ways re­ally spe­cial.”

Hav­ing used both ex­emp­tions avail­able to him be­cause of his place on the all­time money list — the 46-year-old cur­rently sits 32nd with al­most $28 mil­lion in ca­reer win­nings — Weir is left with few op­tions to try to get into PGA Tour fields.

As a Masters cham­pion, how­ever, he re­ceives a life­time ex­emp­tion into that tour­na­ment in April and can play the leg­endary course as of­ten as he wants.

“I don’t have any sta­tus to play, so in or­der to stay sharp I have to try to qual­ify,” said Weir. “Go­ing to Au­gusta to play some rounds and get ready for that event that I know I’m in will be good.”

Un­like in years past when Weir has been bat­tling in­juries, the na­tive of Brights Grove, Ont., said he’s feel­ing healthy now. It’s liv­ing in the cold cli­mate of Utah that has been tough on his prepa­ra­tion, he said.

“Ev­ery­thing feels good, I haven’t had any set­backs. I just haven’t played a whole lot,” he said. “I’ve tried some of th­ese Mon­day qual­i­fiers com­ing out of the cold in Utah, only hit­ting balls in­doors. I haven’t had a lot of work ex­cept for in­door work, re­ally. My body feels good right now, though.”

He is a two-time cham­pion of the Ge­n­e­sis Open but his re­quest for a spon­sor’s ex­emp­tion into that tour­ney was de­clined, which is why he tried qual­i­fy­ing.

His long­time re­la­tion­ship with RBC has also ended, mean­ing it’s up in the air if he will get into the RBC Her­itage the week af­ter the Masters. While the loss of spon­sor­ship has meant black­ing out the RBC logo on his golf bag, he will likely play in this sum­mer’s RBC Cana­dian Open, where he re­mains a fan favourite.

Weir has bat­tled per­sonal and in­jury is­sues in the past few years, mak­ing just one cut since the 2014 sea­son when he earned $854,413. He said he could re­late to the cur­rent strug­gles of Tiger Woods, who has been in and out of the PGA Tour over the last 18 months and has an un­cer­tain fu­ture.

“I hope for his sake that his body can move cor­rectly and he can get back to be­ing Tiger Woods again, what­ever that looks like at 40-plus years old,” said Weir. “Clearly, right now he’s not feel­ing good and his game isn’t feel­ing good. I can com­mis­er­ate be­cause that’s a tough thing to go through. In this day and age, ev­ery shot is scru­ti­nized and picked apart and that’s prob­a­bly not the best sce­nario for him to come back to, but that’s un­for­tu­nately the world he lives in.”

It’s not cer­tain if Woods will re­turn in time for this year’s Masters, but Weir will def­i­nitely be there. And he hopes a re­turn to Au­gusta this week will re-en­er­gize his game and get him back play­ing on tour more fre­quently.

“This year, I’m a lit­tle more in­tent on get­ting some ex­tra prac­tice in,” he said. “I don’t think this will be the first trip I make to Au­gusta be­fore the Masters. I plan to come in a few times which I haven’t done in a few years. I plan on play­ing a few more rounds be­fore the tour­na­ment. My body feels good right now, though, and hope­fully I’ll get a chance to play again soon.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

Tiger Woods helps Mike Weir don the tra­di­tional green jacket af­ter the Bright’s Grove, Ont., na­tive won the 2003 Masters.

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