Toronto Star

Rusty Weir plays along till Masters

Lifetime Augusta exemption guarantees Canadian tee time after striking out in qualifiers


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 all-time money list — the 46year-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.”

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

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. Although 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 can relate to the current struggles of Tiger Woods, who has been in and out of the PGA Tour over the past 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.”

 ?? JAE C. HONG/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE PHOTO ?? Canadian golfer Mike Weir is feeling healthy this season, but has found it tough to qualify for tournament­s.
JAE C. HONG/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE PHOTO Canadian golfer Mike Weir is feeling healthy this season, but has found it tough to qualify for tournament­s.

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