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Weir Wins!

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It has been more than three years since Canadian Mike Weir won the Nissan Open, but he changed that in decisive fashion yesterday, getting up and down from a greenside bunker on the 18th for a one shot win over Mark Hensby at the Fry’s Electronics Open in Arizona.

Unbelievable — I cant put it into words, Weir said after making a six foot putt for the win.”

Weir said his game has been solid in recent weeks.It really came on in the last month or so, he said. It has really been feeling good. This feels great.

Over the course of the tournament, Weir shot rounds of 69, 64,65, and 68 for a 14-under par total.

Calling the wind that gusted to more than 30 miles per hour throughout the final round ridiculous, Weir said his reworked swing worked in tandem with a sharp short game that included a fine recovery shot on the 17th hole to save par.
It was the complete package. Ive stretches where Ive hit the
ball really well, and maybe my short game has let me down and maybe vice versa. But anytime you win on the PGA Tour against these guys you have to have all things firing. I put everything together this week.
While a new swing made Weir more consistent this year, it also failed to bring big results.
With only two Top 10 finishes, including an 8th place at the British Open, Weir rarely contended on the weekend for most of the year.
Given his play, some were surprised when he was picked by Gary Player for the International Team for the Presidents Cup that was held in Montreal at the end of September.
Playing in front of a crowd that showed its vocal support throughout
the tournament, Weir showed signs of a return to form. Weir finished with three wins, one loss and halve over the tournament and though his International team was soundly defeated, his singles match win over Tiger Woods, the worlds best golfer, captured the imagination of Canadians.Weir said earlier this week that the victory over Woods renewed his confidence.
I felt like there was definitely some momentum there, he said earlier this week. I felt good about my game, and I think the whole atmosphere of the event, being there, and maybe my experience playing in three previous cups, really brought it all out. I was just very focused there, and continue to ride it a little bit now.

So the question is “what next?” Weir isn’t playing any further PGA Tour events this year, and instead will play in China and in the World Cup. Is his play a fluke this past month, or a demonstration that he’s returned to form?

Keeping in mind that swing changes don’t happen overnight, I have to think Weir’s alterations have finally taken hold. He says he is no longer thinking about his swing — and even when I last spoke to him in August, he seemed pretty sure that the changes would get him where he wanted. Would I expect him to put up three or four wins a year, like he did in 2003? No. What I expect is that Weir will remain very competitive in tough tournaments — like the Fry’s this weekend — which means more major wins could occur. That wouldn’t surprise me at all.

In an interesting side note, the win ties Weir with George Knudson for the most wins by a Canadian on the PGA Tour. Some might disagree, but I think there’s little doubt that Weir is the greatest professional golfer in Canadian history at this point.

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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.

10 CommentsLeave a comment

  • RT:

    In previous posts (as opposed to print articles in the National Post), you have been less than enthusiastic about Weir chances of performing well in major tournaments let alone regular PGA events. Your big knock against him was his putting. But, you say he could return to form in tough tournaments now that his “swing changes” have taken hold. What about his putting?

    Are you changing your tune simply because he won a tournament? Or have his swing changes resulted in the ball being closer to the hole so there is less pressure on his putting?

    What is your real take on Weir?

  • My “real” take? Check out: http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/sports/story.html?id=f0a0b25c-4c98-4d3b-9e4a-bd3ef4bc7936

    I wrote this before the PresCup and I’m pleasantly surprised to see my remarks actually occur. In the past Mike has had one of two things happen — a) his ball striking was good, but his putting was not. or b) his putting was good, but everything else was sloppy (last year). However, he putted well at the PresCup as well as hitting his irons sharply. There was still one or two hiccups on Sunday, but largely he seemed to have put it together.
    As mentioned though, I don’t expect this to lead to a huge breakthrough. I expect Weir to play well in tough tournaments. I don’t see him being the type to shoot 24-under to win, at least not very often.

  • The media loves to talk about ball striking–the ability to hit the 300 yard drives, etc. The reality is that if you are on the PGA Tour you are in an elite class with respect to being able to strike the ball. The elite of the PGA Tour, however, separate themselves by being able to master putting, .

    Check out the latest stats on the Tour:

    Sure the best percentage in GIRs is Tiger Woods. The second best is John Senden, and the third best is Jeff Glove, and the fourth best is Alex Cejka. These are all great ball strikers, as is the rest of the tour.

    John Senden ranks #1 on a new tour stat called Ball Striking, Matthew Gogin ranks #2, and Cameroon Beckman ranks #3.

    Now lets go to putting. Even thought John Senden is a great ball striker (#2 in GIRS and #1 in Ball Striking), he ranks very low in putting, at 198, or approximately 1.5 putts higher per round than Tiger Woods. Over a 4 round tournament, that equates to 6 shots….usually the difference between first and 30th.)

    In reality, the media loves to talk about how well so and so hits the ball, and how so and so is working with Coach so and so on his swing. Putting is boring, but is what separates the elite from the rest of the tour. The guy that wins each week isn’t usually the guy who was at the top in ball strikes, it is the guy the had the fewer putts for the week. Look it up. Yet, the uninformed always take about how so and so swing changes are working…rubbish. Why did Weir win this week? He ranked 10thin putts per round for the week, yet he ranks 59th on Tour for the year. He outperformed this week in his putting, plain and simple.

  • Last I played, it was easier to sink short putts than long putts. Hummm…and good ball striking means I will be closer to the hole on my approach shots. And closer to the hole means I will have shorter putts and I know I sink more short putts than long ones. Come to think of it…isn’t it amazing that my putting stats get better when I am striking the ball better?

    I cannot imagine that I am the only one that thinks this way. Oh right, I am not the only brainiac that plays golf. I guess that is why PGA players like Mike Weir work on their ball striking….to get closer to the hole so they sink more putts…and lo and behold, their putting stats improve and they win golf tournaments!

    These guys are not only good…they are smart too!

  • WE…you know nothing about golf at the PGA Tour level. These guys all hit stripes, and they all hit it close. The ones that win tournaments are the best putters. Check the stats. The best ball striker on tour based on stats is John Senden. Ever hear of him?

    The best putter on tour is Tim Clark. He has won a bunch of money. Good putting can overcome not so good ball striking, but it doesn’t work the other way around. To be great on the PGA Tour, you have to be a elite putter.

  • Hey BSvsSG,

    You make a good point about the importance of putting. All other things being equal, great putters win. But you’re oversimplifying. All other things are NOT equal. Putting is an important part of the equation, but by no means the only factor. The PGA’s top 5 in putting includes Fredrik Jacobson, Brian Gay and Jesper Parnevik. If they were all hitting it with Woods, who’s also on that list, they’d be starring in Nike commercials. But they didn’t have a win among them this year. Jacobson is near the bottom in total driving, the field outdrives Gay by an average of 20 yards and Parnevik is wilder than the North Sea in February with a weak short game. Putting is about the only thing these guys do as well as the rest of the field. It’s just one of the things the top guys do to separate themselves.

  • Yes, of course, we all have to oversimplify. However, all things being equal, I would rather be on the top of the stats in putting rather than ball striking. Ball striking is necessary to compete on the PGA Tour. Putting is absolutely critical to be an elite player on the tour.

    In other words, ball striking is a prerequisite to being on the PGA Tour. Putting is a prerequisite to winning.

  • Interestingly, I think solid ball striking improves putting, but you won’t find this in the stats. David Hearn told me the year he was on tour he hit a lot of greens in reg, but wasn’t all that close to the hole. In turn, he didn’t make many putts and his putting stats looked worse because of where he was putting from. So I don’t think greens in reg is a great stat to determine overall scoring — Weir seems to be hitting it close these days, and even if your putting isn’t perfect (and Mike’s has been pretty solid), you’re going to make your share of birdies. I think solid iron play, matched with above average putting leads to wins — and I think that’s where Weir is now.

  • BS:

    To use this past week as an example, the issue is WHY is Weir’s putting all of sudden better this week than in previous weeks? It takes a simpleton to say, “Weir’s putting was better this week which is why he won”. It is obvious that putting is required to be an elite player and win on the tour but having 40 foot putts all week for birdie will not enable a player to win the tournament…no matter what kind of superhuman putter he is.

    Ball striking puts a player in position to make the putts and if his ball striking game is on (like Weir was this past week), then he wins.

    Another way to look at it is if Weir putt like he did this week while ball striking like he was back while he was changing his swing, would he have won? No.

    Also the reason why players are focused on ball striking. It matters.

  • BSvsSG.

    Putting matters, no question. However there is no single measurement of putting that is meaningful. Putts/GIR is partly a function of how close a player hits it to the hole. Putts/round is partly a function of scrambling ability.

    Jonathan Byrd…1st in putting….39th in money
    Frederik Jacobson…..2nd in putting……86th in money
    Brian Gay……5th in putting…..94th in money.

    The putting stats each year always look that way. The truth is that none of the individual performance stats is an indicator of success, it’s always a combination of the entire package.

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