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Mike Weir: Trying to return for Masters

Canadian Mike Weir held a conference call with what seemed like three reporters yesterday — or at least only three asked questions — to discuss his return to the PGA Tour after surgery on his right elbow last month. Weir said his goal is to play a few events ahead of the Masters in April, but that he won’t likely even start swinging a club until later in the year. Weir added that the tendon he tore in his elbow is a separate injury from the ligament damage he did last year — and his agents at IMG said they will apply for a separate injury exemption that would likely get him into at least five or six tournaments next year. That’s a big deal since Weir would otherwise have to use one of his two lifetime money list exemptions — despite missing at least the first quarter of the year. The expected recovery time is four to six months, and that doesn’t include Weir returning to practising or working through the rust of another long layoff.

Weir said he’s been in a semi-cast and sling since the surgery and has just recently started working with a physiotherapist to start to gain some range of motion. However, Dr. Andrews, who did the surgery, said the elbow should be 100% once the rehab is finished. If that’s the case there can’t be any blaming his struggles on injuries — not that Weir has done so in the past.

One of the other things Weir will have to deal with is the issues with his swing. At the Canadian Open he snap hooked multiple tee shots — and you can’t play on the PGA Tour if you’re hitting it 220 and right. Weir said the injury, in retrospect, “was a factor … it caused me to be hesitant.” It was basically the same thing he said last year — and one has to wonder if the elbow ever really felt strong after the rehab. Dr. Andrews told him surgery was unavoidable — and rehab would not have fixed the current issue.

Interestingly, there’s no guarantee Weir will be returning to stack and tilt after all. Last year, by my count, he had Grant Waite, Mike Wilson, Jim Flick, Jack Nicklaus, Butch Harmon and Andy Plummer and Mike Bennett look at his swing. He said yesterday that he’s looking at all possibilities and talking to other players; there’s no guarantee he’ll return to stack and tilt. So the search continues.

Frankly, I’m surprised a little bit. The last time Weir had success he was working with Plummer and Bennett. But he said clearly yesterday that he may not work with them going forward. Truthfully Weir, now 41 and with the last two years written off through injuries, needs to focus on one plan moving forward. You have to think some of his issues have been caused by lack of confidence and the resulting indecision.

“I was questioning myself and lost confidence,” Weir said. adding he wants to “get things straight in my mind,” before heading back out on tour.

He’s gone from one of the best in the world to No. 625, and 11th among Canadians. It is a precipitous decline.

“As long as I take the process slow and let it heal and get strong, I should be good to go,” Weir added.

“Good to go” makes it sound easier than it is. Weir will be 42 when he returns. He’ll be five years removed from his last win and nearly a decade since he was a dominant player. Weir’s short game remains very good, but if he can’t fix his swing on the tee, he’ll continue to struggle. Can he win again? Perhaps. But it is more likely he’ll return to being a well-liked veteran player — not unlike Larry Mize, another Masters winner — and play solid, if unspectacular golf. That’s not a bad thing altogether — nor is it meant as a slight. Weir could play the role of elder statesman for Canada if he wants, and perhaps pick up that last win that would solidify him as the greatest Canadian golfer in history.

Either way, we have four or five months of waiting to find out what game Weir will emerge with.

 

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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