By John Strege
The script, if not smart money, had Mike Weir winning the HP Byron Nelson Championship on Sunday, a feel-good story of the ilk that drives sports, California Chrome on a small scale.
Weir is an underdog and overachiever, diminutive in stature, but commonly likened to a bulldog. Canada’s best player, he once was the ranked third in the world, once beat Tiger Woods in a Presidents Cup singles match, once won the Masters, all before an elbow injury sent him careening into the nether regions of professional golf.
He missed the cut in each of his 14 starts in 2012, hadn’t cracked the top 10 in more than four years, was statistically inept. Yet there he was at the TPC Las Colinas on Sunday, ranked 609th in the world, days after his 44th birthday, grabbing the lead in the final round and playing well enough to win on perhaps any other day.
But on this one, in this year, he was the wrong kind of bulldog. Brendon Todd, a Georgia graduate, held off Weir and won by two to become the sixth former Bulldog to win a PGA Tour event his year.
It has been said that if you don’t win, you lose, but for Weir there was a consolation prize of considerable value beyond the $745,200 he earned for finishing second: He can keep his job. He is playing this year on his one-time top 50 PGA Tour career money exemption, also known as a last chance. Now he has earned enough to be exempt in 2015.
It won’t be known for awhile whether this performance was an aberration or indicative of his having recovered his form. The view from a distance is that it could go either way.
Statistically, this was an outlier; he entered the Nelson ranked 197th in driving distance, 186th in driving accuracy, 196th in greens in regulation, 107th in strokes gained/putting.
Yet his game not only held up through three rounds, but also did so in the final-round cauldron with which he no longer was familiar. He began the round tied for third and birdied four of the first five holes to seize the lead en route to a three-under par 67.
“It's been difficult to play and not be in contention,” he had said on Friday. “It's tough when you're missing a lot of cuts and you're on the road and things aren't going as well. You don't love [the game] as much, I guess, and I think now that I'm starting to see some signs, the enthusiasm gets greater and you grind it out a little bit more.”
It might not have been a feel-good story in the greater sense, but Weir can feel good about it, as will the entirety of the Canadian golf community.
Indeed, countryman and fellow PGA Tour player Graham DeLaet could have been speaking on behalf of it when he took to Twitter and wrote, “How about Mike Weir! Awesome.”