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In his college days, Mike Weir played only fractionally better than BYU's other golfers. Yet teammates knew he would someday become a PGA Tour star, because of his drive and desire.
That determination is being tested more than ever. The golfer who once won the Masters, was ranked No. 3 in the world and has banked $26.8 million in prize money might be the PGA Tour's worst performer in 2012.
The late Karl Tucker, who coached Weir at BYU, always said that all anybody wants to know about a golfer's play is a number. No excuses, no explanations. Yet there's a reason for the Sandy resident's 75.88 stroke average.
An elbow injury that short-circuited his previous two seasons has altered Weir's swing, leading to a desperate search for a fix. Mix that uncertainty and loss of confidence with limited access to tournaments because of his recent performance, and Weir is caught in a cycle that's unlikely to end soon.
"It will take some time to get back to where I want to be," Weir said.
Weir hired a new teacher, former tour player Grant Waite. The cure of his swing problems probably includes time away from the tour. He may not have not much choice. Weir is playing in this week's Memorial Tournament in Ohio via an invitation from host Jack Nicklaus, and sponsor exemptions and past champion status will give him only a few other opportunities to play this season.
Weir tied for 52nd place in a European Tour event in Spain in March, but has not qualified for weekend play in any of his eight PGA Tour starts. His most recent check came in July; before that, he made a 36-hole cut in January. His total earnings for 2011-12: $23,312.
That's quite a comedown for a golfer who joined the tour just in time to benefit from Tiger Woods' impact on tournament purses. Weir ranks 17th in all-time earnings, and that $26.8 million on the golf course is topped by his endorsement income as a Canadian icon, with interests ranging from course design to the Mike Weir Estate Winery.
But nothing he says suggests he lacks motivation to play at age 42, and no one who's followed his career doubts his commitment. "If anyone's going to fight his way out of it, it's Mike," said BYU coach Bruce Brockbank, formerly Tucker's assistant.
Weir's game bottomed out in this month's Byron Nelson Championship near Dallas, where he made two 8s on par-5s and two 6s on par-4s in shooting a second-round 83. Those numbers obviously are attributable to poor driving, the same issue that bedeviled Farmington's Daniel Summerhays as a tour rookie last year.
Summerhays credits working with Waite for major swing changes that fixed his driving and expanded his game. "I have more shots now," he said. "I can hit the shots that the PGA Tour requires."
Weir sought a new approach even before he struggled. In 2007, he started working with the teachers of Dean Wilson, his former BYU teammate. Yet that switch fails to explain his downturn, because as recently as 2009, Weir ranked 29th on the money list. The elbow injury struck him the following year, when he tried to play through it before leaving the tour in August.
Then last July, he gave in again, withdrawing from the Canadian Open and later undergoing surgery. Weir has shown some positive signs this season, barely missing the 36-hole cuts at the Masters and the Wells Fargo Championship. But his latest effort was the disaster in Dallas, leading him to pull out of a European Tour event in England last week.
That tour remains an option to Weir, thanks to his 2003 Masters victory. He also could use a one-time PGA Tour exemption based on career earnings, or piece together limited schedules in the coming years. In 2020, the senior Champions Tour will welcome him.
Weir expects to get his game back long before then. "I don't care what anyone else believes … I believe I can still play great golf," he told CanadianGolfer.com.
Weir once said of his pre-PGA Tour golf pursuits, "I'm glad I went through what I had to go through." If he comes out of this slump, he'll be able to say the same thing.
Mike Weir file
Age • 42
Hometown • Bright's Grove, Ontario
College • BYU
Residence • Sandy
Family • Wife, Bricia; daughters Elle (14) and Lili (12).
PGA Tour victories • Eight; most recently, 2007 Fry's Electronics Open
Honors • Member of Order of Canada, Utah Golf Hall of Fame Mike Weir round-by-round 2012:
Tournament • Scores
AT&T Pebble Beach • 70-73-78*
Mayakoba Golf Classic • 79-78
Honda Classic • 75-78
Arnold Palmer Invitational • 77-72
Masters • 72-79
RBC Heritage • 76-81
Wells Fargo Championship • 71-73
Byron Nelson Championship • 75-83
* 54-hole cut Mike Weir's PGA career
Year-by-year PGA Tour results, since qualifying as a tour member:
Year • Money/ranking
1998 • $218,967/131st
1999 • $1,491,139/23rd
2000 • $2,547,829/6th
2001 • $2,777,936/11th
2002 • $843,890/78th
2003 • $4,918,910/5th
2004 • $2,761,536/14th
2005 • $1,363,467/56th
2006 • $1,883,724/33rd
2007 • $1,986,053/35th
2008 • $3,020,135/14th
2009 • $2,379,422/26th
2010 • $559,022/151st
2011 • $23,312/240th
All-time • $26,821,949/17th