How Mike Weir became a Canadian hero, winning the 2003 Masters Tournament and proving that sometimes nice guys finish first
Lorne Rubenstein has been following Mike Weir’s career since the slim kid from Brights Grove, Ontario, near Sarnia, started winning amateur tournaments. Weir was a star on the Brigham Young University golf team before turning professional in 1992. It was clear to Lorne Rubenstein that the gentlemanly left-hander had what it takes to make it to golf’s pinnacle.
But there’s a world of difference between being a pro golfer who is good enough to make a living on the tour and the elite group that wins one of the majors: the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open, and the PGA Championship. Mike had done well on the PGA Tour in the past, winning three tournaments in his first few years there. Then came 2002, a season that began with great hopes that he would make it to the top flight. But the season proved a disappointment, and some golf observers whispered that Weir did not have what it takes to withstand the pressure and win a major.
Lorne Rubenstein never wavered in his belief. Having followed Mike for so many years, he still felt that Weir could win a major. After Mike began the 2003 season with two wins, Lorne decided to write a book about his quest to win a major. Mike agreed to cooperate, and so Lorne followed his every shot at the Augusta National Golf Club during the 2002 Masters.
After Tiger Woods has slipped the green jacket over Mike Weir’s shoulders, in the midst of one of the many press conferences, Mike smiled at Lorne and said, “I guess this will help the book, right, Lorne?” We guess so, too.
We’re guessing that this chronicle of Mike Weir’s journey, with a heavy emphasis on the Masters win that set millions of Canadians cheering, will be a major sports gift book this Christmas.
About the author
Lorne Rubenstein is Canada’s best-known golf writer. A columnist with The Globe and Mail since 1980, he also hosts Acura World of Golf on The Sports Network.
Excerpt: Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (by (author) Lorne Rubenstein)
The subject of the Masters came up, and Weir got into it with gusto.
“Augusta is a little more complex than some people give it credit for,” Weir said of the course. “A lot has been made that you can drive it anywhere out there, but they make changes every year so that this isn’t the case. There’s a little intermediate cut of rough which makes a big difference hitting your approach shots into the greens, and they’ve added some trees that overhang some of the fairways so that you don’t want to be in some spots, depending on where the pin is. You really do have to think there.
“The one great thing about Augusta,” Weir continued, warming to his subject while picturing the holes at Augusta National, “is that you really do have to shape it off the tee. There’s a shot that I’ve worked on in particular, a right-toleft shot, that I have to use a lot.” His hands gestured to show the flight of the ball. “Number 2, number 9, 10, 13, 14, a lot of shots are right to left for me. Then there’s 18, a little left to right. You have to shape your shots and then the greens are small and undulating, so your distance control with your irons has to be pretty sharp. The course played very long last year because it was very wet, but still, there’s always a premium on iron play.
“You also have to be sharp with your mental game. I’ve played the 12th hole dead into the wind sometimes, and gone to 13, which goes in the opposite direction, and that’s been dead into the wind too. The wind can really swirl through those holes, and you have to be able to handle some adversity that you’ll get. You may get a shot where you get a lucky break and the wind doesn’t gust up on you, but sometimes at Augusta it seems like you get fooled by the wind and make a mistake. You have to be able to handle that.
“In the past, I’ve had some success in individual rounds at Augusta, but I haven’t strung together a whole tournament there. My short game and putting hasn’t always been as sharp as it needed to be, but that’s what’s improved this year. Hopefully I can bring it to Augusta. If I can combine the creativity and better short game with a little better ball-striking, I should be okay.”
Discussion of Augusta National and the Masters led naturally into the four major championships, and Weir’s desire to win a major. His eyes narrowed. His voice deepened. There was emotion there, strong emotion.
“I don’t like to talk about it a lot, to tell the truth,” Weir says. “But obviously it’s very important to me for a number of reasons. First I wanted to get on the tour and establish myself as a decent player out here. Once I’d gotten to a certain level, I wanted to take the next step. No Canadian [male] has won a major before. It’s not only that factor, but it’s also for myself. I really want to challenge myself at that level and have that sense of accomplishment, to do that once in a lifetime or maybe more than once in a lifetime. Just to do it would make me feel fantastic. Just winning two tournaments this year has been satisfying. What goes into winning a tournament is more than what the public knows. And when I sit back in my hotel room, after winning those events, I feel a sense of relief because I’m tired, but I also know that it makes all the work worthwhile. I can’t imagine how I’d feel to do it in a major championship.”
Other titles by Lorne Rubenstein
Moe & Me
Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf's Mysterious Genius
Moe and Me
Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf's Mysterious Genius
This Round's On Me
Lorne Rubenstein on Golf
A Disorderly Compendium of Golf
Wisdom, Folly, Rules, Truths, Trivia, and More
A Season In Dornoch
Golf and Life in the Scottish Highlands