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Weir to Continue with Bell?

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In many ways, 2007 is a truly significant year for Mike Weir. He changed coaches heading into the season, has rebuilt his swing with marginal success so far, and currently sits 119th on the money list. The year is still in its infancy, but Weir will have to make really vast strides to make the Presidents Cup team that will play in Montreal at the end of September.

Interestingly, it is a transitional year for Weir off the course as well. His deal with International Management Group, better known as IMG, comes to a conclusion this year. Additionally, his agreement with Bell Canada, which is longstanding, is also up for renewal and apparently his rocky play lately has made for tough negotiations.

Sources say Weir’s initial deal was around $250,000 per year, but rose significantly following his 2003 Masters deal and currently sits somewhere between $600,000 and $800,000 annually. Bell, of course, gets prominent brand placement on his hat, and has been part of “Team Weir” since 1993.

One source said part of the difficulty resides with Bell, which has made huge investments in marketing around the Olympics in Whistler in 2010, and has been very careful about the cash it puts into golf. Proof of that is the pull back on the Canadian Open, even though sources close to the event say Bell was offered a title sponsorship deal for $3 million, or roughly half of what it paid previously.

What does all of this mean to Weir? Well the Canadian left hander made US$6.5 million in 2006, $4.25 million (according to Golf Digest) of which came from off course deals, including presumably, his deal with Dynamic Funds and with TaylorMade.

There appears no certainty that he’ll resign with Bell, with some sources saying the telecom company won’t ante up for the hat and instead will pay a lower amount to put its logo on Weir’s sleeve.

One has to wonder about Bell’s strategy in all of this — after all, Weir has been a prestige endorsement for the company, and one they’ve groomed over a long time. Why walk away at the first sign of trouble, especially after the success the company has had with Weir? In fact, I suspect the history between Weir and Bell is what is keeping the negotiations going forward.

For Weir, the question is whether he can continue earning that sort of money if his play does not improve.

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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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