2004: Weir, winning form cohesive relationship
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Pacific Palisades, Calif.
Often a reason behind a trophy is a wife. Sometimes a trophy wife. We see the glory, the hardware, the big checks. We don’t see the rough beginnings, the grind upward, a wife’s influence.
We see Mike Weir as the reigning Masters champion and, now, winner of consecutive Nissan Opens. The left-hander’s ride to this high perch, though, hasn’t always been glamorous, and we’re not talking about the misery of Canadian winters. It was a little more than a decade ago that he and wife Bricia had no money. They put their belongings in storage because they couldn’t afford an apartment. They drove countless miles because they couldn’t afford to fly. She caddied for him in golf outposts such as Asia and Australia because he couldn’t afford a caddie.
So it meant something to Weir that she flew in from their Utah home to watch him hold on by one stroke over Shigeki Maruyama Feb. 22 at Riviera Country Club.
“I mean, she is everything to me,” Weir said after losing a seven-stroke lead through 57 holes and then beating Japan’s best player on the last hole, par to bogey. “It wouldn’t mean the same, what I’m doing right now, if I didn’t have her to share it with. And she was there.”
You might say he was fortunate Bricia wed him after the stunt he pulled while they were college sweethearts at Brigham Young. While she was at class one day, Weir accidentally clipped a fire-fighting sprinkler system while swinging a 5-iron in the living room of her apartment. An alarm didn’t go off, but the ensuing flood sent a panicked Weir into damage control.
“There was a rusty water color all over the rooms and walls,” Weir recalled after shooting 17-under-par 66-64-66-71–267. “I couldn’t get it to stop, so I put my hand up there and sliced my finger and now there’s blood running down my arm. It (water) wouldn’t stop. It flooded the whole apartment.”
The accident cost Weir $1,500 plus a new couch and television. But it didn’t cost him a relationship.
“She came back from class and saw I was mopping, so she thought I was cleaning the kitchen,” Weir said. “She comes out and the furniture was out in the snow and the carpet was out. But she still married me.”
Often things get worse before they get better. Take Weir’s game. He won three times from January to April 2003 but his performance slipped late in the year. His famous waggle got out of kilter, his backswing got too flat and his putting suffered because he moved his lower body too much. His struggles on the greens were such that he putted with his sand wedge for the final eight holes of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic’s fourth round.
“I put my putter away and on the very next hole I had a 15-foot putt for eagle,” Weir said. “I took out my wedge and knocked it in. Sometimes you just need to put the putter away, give it a break. From there on I have putted a lot better.”
The record shows. He finished fifth the following week at the FBR Open and fourth at Pebble Beach. After a week off to ski and train a new puppy, Weir set the Nissan 54-hole record at 17-under 196 for a five-stroke lead over Maruyama. His blade worked so well on Riviera’s soft, smooth greens, he took only 25, 25, 22 and 27 putts. He led in fewest putts (99) and putting average (1.543 putts per green in regulation).
“On fire,” he called his putting after Round 3.
Weir’s seventh victory didn’t turn out sweat-free, but he did finally show that he could win from out front. It had bothered him that he was 0-5 when leading after 54 holes. His final-round average in those tournaments was 73.60. His six previous victories had been from behind.
“This means a lot because I wanted to prove to myself I could win with a lead; it had been on my mind,” said Weir, 33, who is one behind George Knudson’s record for most PGA Tour victories by a Canadian. “It’s probably better for me down the road that it happened this way (under pressure).”
All seven Tour winners this year have been at least 33 years old. The latest looked like a shoo-in for much of Sunday, but Maruyama trimmed the lead from seven to none on Nos. 4-16. A birdie-bogey two-shot swing at 10 cut the lead to three. And after Weir three-putted 13 from 20 feet and Maruyama birdied 15 (211-yard 3-iron to 20 inches) and 16 (8-footer), they were tied.
“I kept positive and was enjoying it,” Weir said. “You can’t play defense in golf.”
But then rain on the last two holes helped Weir reign. Maruyama admitted, “I hate to play in the rain and it affected my game.” The smiley Japanese star had missed only one fairway all day, but he tried to swing harder in the rain on 18 and found right rough. “The biggest mistake of the whole week,” he said.
Maruyama bogeyed after hitting a 5-wood short, pitching 12 feet deep and missing. Weir clinched by saving par from the short side on the left hill, lipping a 45-foot pitch. He had picked out a dark spot of grass 4 feet on the green as a landing target.
“That was the story of the week, my up-and-down game,” Weir said. “My short game really held me in there and I made a lot of key (saves). So it was probably fitting that I got it up-and-down to win.”
And that his wife watched nearby.