Motivated Weir knows the joy of winning

The numbers are imposing. Over the course of a 25-year professional career, Mike Weir has won eight times and earned $29,943,409 on the PGA Tour. His victories include the 2003 Masters, a World Golf Championship and the Tour Championship. Elsewhere, the 47-year old Canadian has represented the Internationals in five Presidents Cups. In the fourth of those, Weir beat a fellow by the name of Tiger Woods in singles. Clearly, the three-time Canadian athlete of the year is a proper player, a man able to perform under the severest pressure.

All of which is impressive enough. But the life and times of this long-time Utah resident – he graduated in recreation management from Brigham Young University – have been far from straightforward. Either side of his most successful years on tour, Weir has endured much. In the mid-1990s, by way of example, part of his early professional life was spent struggling without much success on the Australasian Tour.

“I was a regular visitor here in Australia between 1992 and 1996,” he says. “During that time I played in most of the tour events. Back then, the top-ten on the Canadian Tour were exempt into Monday qualifying down here. On my first visit I got through the qualifying seven times in a row – then missed all seven cuts the tournament proper.

“So things were tough. Not to over-dramatise, but even food was scarce. I had to budget well. I was missing nearly every cut and sleeping in my friend’s basement. It was all about saving the dollars.”

Weir was learning though. And even today he credits those far-off times in Australia with the development of a game good enough to win at the very highest level.

“Looking back, it was a great experience,” he continues. “The courses are so good and I met some great people. I still have some friends here. But any encouragement I had was minimal. I did have a top-ten in the Open at Royal Sydney in 1994 – but playing here was more of a stepping stone for me.

“The variety of shots is what impresses me most about the golf here. You can play the ball on the ground. You are not forced to fly every shot at the pin. I can recall putting from maybe 100-yards off the green when I played on the Melbourne Sandbelt. That brings out the creative side of the game, which suits me.”

Sadly, Weir’s steady progress came to a painful halt during a round at Hilton Head in South Carolina back in 2010. Having missed a fairway, his drive finished on pine needles. But what he didn’t know was that underneath the ball was an unyielding tree root.

“Things changed for me on that one shot,” he says. “I tore the extensor tendon in my right elbow and still have the scar and two metal screws in there today. My mobility is not the same. I used to have an exaggerated waggle before I started my backing, in which I would ‘cup’ my wrist. I can’t do that any more. So I’ve had to adjust. And that has been difficult. I lost my feel.

“My swing is still a work in progress really. I struggle with a ‘shut’ club face on my backswing. I’ve tried weakening my grip and all kinds of things. But nothing feels the same as it did before I was hurt.”

This year has been more of the same for Weir. Until last week, he hadn’t played competitively since the Fiji International in August. But he is hopeful of putting on a good show for the fans at the Australian Club during the 102nd Australian Open.

“I’m very motivated right now,” he claims. “Some personal issues are behind me. And my kids are going to be gone from the house next year. So I can focus on my game more. I’m feeling a sense of freedom. Plus, I played last week at Pebble Beach and saw some good things. I want to build on that here, even if my expectations are low. I just want to see what happens. But if things start going good I know I’m not afraid to play well when I’m in contention. I’ve done it before. I know how to win.”