TOUR Insider: Looking for the Weir of old to return, maybe at familiar Riviera

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February 13, 2013

By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

I have seen Mike Weir play at his best and at his most frustrated.

You might think his Masters win would be his best, but I remember The Presidents Cup at Royal Montreal when he beat Tiger Woods in singles competition on Sunday. All of Canada was behind him that day when he closed out the match on the 18th hole.

His worst?

That is open to interpretation but at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open Weir tried to lay up on a short par 4 and could not land a 5-iron in the fairway. He missed his line by 20 yards and I remember thinking at the time, "Weir must be injured to hit a shot of that caliber." He withdrew a few holes later.

You have to understand, Mike is a rock star in Canada. He ranks somewhere with Maurice Richard and Sandra Schmierler in his countrymen’s respect. For Weir to withdraw from the RBC Canadian Open had to be a combination of embarrassing and disheartening.

And that wasn’t the worst part. What followed was even more painful.

Elbow surgery resulted in rehab and bad golf. Weir missed 18 straight cuts on the PGA TOUR.

His 2012 was terrible. He was 191st on TOUR in driving distance, driving accuracy and greens in regulation. Only now is Weir seeing some improvement.

He has made two of the last three cuts. Now granted, they weren’t great finishes with T50 and T68 but playing on the weekend is great progress for the Canadian who ranks 152nd in FedExCup Standings.

Which brings us to the Northern Trust Open and Riviera. Mike used to dominate this event. He’s won twice and once told me, “I have figured out how to play the course.”

That’s why he was so anxious to play last year and so disappointed when he did not get into the 2012 field.

What has Weir learned about Riviera? He plays for angles off the tee and doesn’t get greedy. He attacks the course with his short game. At least he used to.

In 2012 Weir was 189th on TOUR in scrambling and 191st on TOUR in birdies made but there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

Weir ranked second on TOUR last season with his wedge game. He hit it to an average of 15 feet, 6 inches on approaches between 50-125 yards.

That’s a small but significant step. When Weir regains the touch with his wedges it’s a sign he’s ready to start scoring again.

I’d like to see Mike Weir at his best again. All of Canada is behind him.

Observations

10th hole: It’s the best short par 4 in the game. At 315 yards, the hole provides so many avenues of attack. You can try to drive the green, lay up with a wood, lay up with an iron. The putting surface slopes from left to right and is heavily bunkered. An improperly struck wedge will not hold the green and chipping is difficult. There are lots of quality short par 4s on the PGA TOUR but I think this week's is the best. Read more on the 10th here.

Slope: Every golfer looks for highs and lows on a golf course to use as a general guide to determine the break of putts. This week, everything flows away from the clubhouse on top of the hill and funnels down toward the sixth green. You will constantly see players and caddies check their bearings in regard to that green, as everything flows in that general direction.

Hidden holes: The bunkers at Riviera have high lips and many greens have banks on the side, all of which combine to hide the hole. There are very few greens of which you can see the bottom of the flagstick from the fairway. It is very important to “trust your number” at Riviera.

Winner, winner: After a great start to the season I am in a slump. Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson have missed the cut the last two weeks, cramping my batting average. Most pickers go conservative when looking for a winner but I’m digging deep this week with Jimmy Walker. The Texan hasn’t missed a cut and is coming off a third-place finish at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. He’s already ninth in FedExCup standings and leads the TOUR in par-5 performance where he is a healthy 41 under.

Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.

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