One of the pleasures of writing about golf is the opportunity to learn how the best players – even those in ferocious slumps – examine their games. It's particularly intriguing when the subject is a former Masters winner who has won seven other PGA Tour events and who was once ranked No. 3 in the world.
The golfer on this occasion is Mike Weir, who hasn't made a cut in any of his 12 PGA Tour appearances this year. The 42-year-old Canadian has obviously lost confidence, but not the fight he's shown throughout his career. He didn't even reach the PGA Tour until he got through qualifying school on his seventh attempt. He won that tournament.
That was a long time ago, and Weir, as he moves toward the 10 th anniversary of his 2003 Masters win, is teeing it up this week in the Utah Open. He lives in the Salt Lake City area, so he can stay at home while he tries to regain some confidence in a tournament that is glad to have him. The 54-hole state championship starts Friday. Weir was on his way to practice on Thursday morning when he dug into what he's been thinking and doing.
"The grinder mentality I've always had is still there," Weir said. "I know what it took to get to the PGA Tour. I'm not afraid of the work. I was saying in a press conference [for the Utah Open] that just being in the tournament is bringing back memories for me of when I played at Brigham Young [University]."
Weir said the team coach, Karl Tucker, didn't give a player an exemption into the next tournament no matter how well he had done immediately before.
"You always had to qualify," Weir said. "The idea was to get under pressure."
If Weir feels pressure now to recover his form, it's not as apparent as the defiance in his voice. He knows many people have said he should pack it in and maybe do something else in golf. There's no chance of that as long as he is excited about practising and playing and, ultimately, contending for wins. He said he doesn't want to just "play good golf."
Weir has been working with former PGA Tour winner Grant Waite, who has developed a reputation as a first-rate instructor. They're not seeing each other as often as when they started together last spring. Weir sends him videos of his swing, and they communicate frequently. But Weir knows he has to get his own feels back. Those are his words.
"I'm working within the parameters Grant wants me to," Weir said. "But within that I'm finding my own feels again. They're coming back. I got consumed with my swing. That's where I had all my attention. But the game isn't only about the swing. I'm getting back to working on my mental game."
Still, it's the swing that hits the ball. Weir will always be one of those players trying to find the balance between swing mechanics and the mental game. And when it comes to his swing, he believes the elbow injury for which he had surgery a year ago and from which he has fully recovered cost him in a big way.
"I couldn't keep my [right] arm straight when I had the injury," the lefty said. "Even practice was a struggle because I couldn't stop my right elbow from bending. That makes for an unstable back swing. You have a different arc every swing. It also made me unable to find the bottom of my swing."
It's impossible to know whether Weir has reached bottom – he sure hopes so – but whatever happens the rest of this year, he'll play full-time on the PGA Tour next season. Weir said he will use one of the two yearly exemptions he can take based on his being in the top 25 career money-earners.
The next step in what Weir hopes, and intends, to comprise the road to his ninth PGA Tour win starts at the Utah Open. Home is where the heart is. Weir has heart, he's at home, and now he needs to make solid, efficient swings. This week's home game would be the ideal place to start.