Mike Weir drops in on Calgary to talk U.S. Open, raising money for kids

by Jefferson Hagen

Mike Weir admits he isn’t the greatest spectator when it comes to watching majors.

“I don’t like watching them. I want to be there playing,” the 2003 Masters champion told assembled media on Monday morning in Calgary. “I know what it takes to win one, so when a guy like Jordan (Spieth) wins back to back, I know how impressive that is.”

The Brights Grove, Ont. native — in town for the ninth-annual Mike Weir Miracle Golf Drive for Kids event at Silver Springs Golf and Country Club, which raised money for the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation — would have rather been playing in the U.S. Open on Sunday instead of watching it, but the finish certainly had must-see-TV drama.

Dustin Johnson three-putted from 12 feet on the 72nd hole as Masters champion Spieth won his second-straight major.

“That’s a tough one,” Weir pointed out. “Golf can be cruel. It’s happened to me many times as well. Dustin’s obviously a great player, a great talent, but that’s tough late in the day.

“Only he knows if he hit a good putt or not. Everyone can speculate, ‘well he pulled it or did this,’ but only he knows if he hit a good putt. And you can hit good putts and they don’t go in. That’s what it looked like to me. It looked like he hit a pretty good putt, but it was just a tough putt.

“The first putt was tough putt to make. It’s downhill, sliding on those greens late in the day — it’s a maybe 20 per cent chance you might make that. And even a four-footer’s probably 50-50 on those type of greens. So it’s unfortunate. I know Jordan probably didn’t want to win like that either, but that’s golf. Some weeks happen like that.”

On the much-maligned Chambers Bay greens — where pros were complaining of putts not rolling true — it’s possible Johnson’s four-footer hopped slightly, but it’s tough to tell with him putting through his shadow.

Nevertheless, Spieth — halfway to the rare Grand Slam — is a worthy champion.

“He’s impressive,” said Weir. “When I was 21 years old, I was a junior in college, shooting 75. It was so far from my mind, professional golf that is. To do what he’s done is impressive and he’s a great young man.

“He has a tremendous short game, but I think more importantly he has big shoulders and is able to handle those situations and rebound. After making a double bogey on 17, he comes back with a birdie. It just shows his mental toughness,” Weir added. “It’s fun to watch. It’ll be fun to watch the next couple majors. He does have a chance to win the Grand Slam and there are two links-style golf courses coming up and he had success with (that style) this week.”

As for Weir, injuries have long dogged him — he wrote in a blog post last Christmas that he was working hard with a trainer to prevent nagging ailments. But as he jets off to Connecticut on Tuesday for this week’s PGA Tour stop, the Travelers Championship, he reports he’s healthy.

“It’s no fun to deal with injuries, but I feel pretty good and I’m ready to get out there and hopefully play some better golf because I haven’t played very well,” the 45-year-old said. “Hopefully the end of the year will be better.”

Indeed. Weir has made just one cut in 16 tries this season — finishing T21 at the CIMB Classic in February — and currently sits 208th in the FedEx Cup rankings. His world ranking has slipped to 453rd. He knows he needs to pick it up.

But his personal struggles are nothing compared to those of the kids he had a chance to visit at the Alberta Children’s Hospital on Monday.

“We get asked as professional athletes whether you’re doing well or struggling,” he explained. “We try to overdramatize, is it life or death out there? It’s not. A lot of these kids are battling that and it puts things in perspective.

“For myself, I’m playing a sport I love and I do want to do well at it. At the same time, when you’re doing events like this and you see the struggles the children are going through and what the families are going through and the wonderful work the doctors and nurses do, that’s what it’s all about actually.”

NOTABLE: Started in 2007, the Mike Weir Miracle Golf Drive for Kids set a goal of raising $10 million to support pediatric health care. Calgary’s fundraising will put them over the $5 million mark.