KORN FERRY TOUR INSIDER
Weir embraces role as mentor to young pros, shares Masters wisdom
April 09, 2019
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- Mike Weir won the 2003 Masters in a playoff over Len Mattiace, earning a lifetime exemption into the event. (Harry How/Getty Images)
Mike Weir has played five Web.com Tour events this year, and at pretty much every one, one of his playing partners has asked about the Masters.
It makes sense, as Weir – who is playing a full Web.com Tour schedule in 2019 – is the only Tour regular who is in possession of a very special sport coat. The 2003 winner is playing his 20th Masters this week, and he says he’s enjoyed passing on wisdom about that very special event in Georgia.
“That’s always fun,” Weir says. “It’s one of the great things about playing on the Web.com Tour, is you get to see the guys try to fulfill their dreams.”
The 48-year-old, whose countryman Michael Gligic won the Panama Championship earlier this year and who is joined this week in the Masters field by fellow Canadian Corey Conners after his win at the Valero Texas Open on Sunday, says he has loved observing the effort of Web.com Tour players in 2019. He sees the progress as they are trying to go from the Web.com Tour to the PGA TOUR, and then, hopefully, to the PGA TOUR winner’s circle.
Weir missed only one Masters cut in his first 11 appearances, and he says the conversations he had with legends of the game were key to his early success. When he was younger, he asked to have lunch with Masters winner Mark O’Meara, as well as multi-time major champions Nick Price and Greg Norman, to pick their brains about their experiences. Those nuggets, he says, really helped.
He says he’s always happy to pass along any knowledge he can about Augusta National – he played a practice round with Conners on Tuesday – and its many quirks.
“Subtlety at Augusta is everything because your margin for error is so slim,” he says. “A couple yards here and there could mean a shot being close to the hole or a shot being in trouble.”
There will be 15 first-timers in the Masters field this week, and four of whom have recent Web.com Tour connections including: Keith Mitchell (won the 2019 Honda Classic and earned his PGA TOUR card via the 2017 Web.com Tour Finals), Aaron Wise (won the 2018 AT&T Byron Nelson and was a member of The 25 in 2017), Andrew Landry (won the 2018 Valero Texas Open and was a member of The 25 in 2017), and Adam Long (won the 2019 Desert Classic and was a member of The 25 in 2018).
Weir says the biggest question he gets from Masters rookies pertains to the greens.
“What you see is not always what happens,” he explains. “First-timers … you get around there and you just can’t believe a certain putt breaks a certain way.”
Putts, he says, visually fool players on the greens. On the back nine, there is pull on the greens towards the famous Rae’s Creek, and anything facing the clubhouse – which is the high point on the property – will be very slow. Shots towards the clubhouse play longer, while anything that plays away from it goes shorter.
“It’s the little things like that, that over the years you just get attuned to,” he says.Mike Weir has made five Web.com Tour starts in 2019, highlighted by a T35 at the LECOM Suncoast Classic. (Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Weir credits his short-game prowess for what had him find success on Augusta National for his first decade playing the Masters – on a golf course that, on paper, would seem like it would be too long for the shorter-hitting Weir. And he can’t help but admit he loved the tournament, and the course, before he was even a professional golfer.
“I’d fallen in love with the course from a young age,” he says of his upbringing in Brights Grove, Ontario, about 75 miles from Detroit. “Having a golf pro like Steve Bennett, from my childhood home, love the Masters – we’d always watch it together. I’d watch it with my dad. I’d watch it in the clubhouse at Huron Oaks. I just loved the Masters from the time I was a little kid.
“There was always that great feeling I had, and the first time I stepped on the ground it’s almost like I knew the place. There’s something to that.”
As a young pro, Weir says the opportunity to play at Augusta National was a dream. After winning, it has only become a more special experience.
Golf Canada CEO Laurence Applebaum invited Weir to a dinner Tuesday with many of the Canadian faithful in Georgia this week, but Weir, in a text reply back, said he was unavailable. He had the Champions Dinner to attend.
There are “a ton” of different stories from the Champions Dinner, most of which are personal to those lucky enough to be there. But Weir says the 15-minute speech Arnold Palmer gave recently, just prior to his passing, about what the Masters meant to him over the years was something he would never forget.It’s one of the great things about playing on the Web.com Tour, is you get to see the guys try to fulfill their dreams.
Masters week has its own traditions for patrons, viewers on television, and participants in the tournament itself – and Weir is no different. He has two college-aged daughters, and he says bringing them – along with his parents and brothers and his gang of childhood friends from Brights Grove – to the Masters every year is part of what makes the experience so special.
“Usually it’s the same crew that comes every year, but there are different guys as well that I try to include and let them have the experience,” Weir says. “That’s always a really fun part of the week, to see how excited everyone is about it.”
The Masters is a special week for Weir that he can share with friends and family, but more than two decades ago, Weir was just like the Web.com Tour pros he has played with so far in 2019: eager for success, anxious for the future, and a sponge for knowledge.
Now, he’s a Masters champion and passing along pointers to golf’s next wave.
“It’s fun and I try to encourage them,” Weir says, “and say they’re going to be there themselves one day.”