Mike Weir punched his ticket to the 2013 Masters -- and every succeeding Augusta tilt for the rest of his days -- 10 years ago when he defeated Len Mattiace in a playoff. Just showing up to glad hand with other past winners at the champions dinner Tuesday night, however, was not on the itinerary for the oft-injured ’03 winner who is nursing yet another wound that has already limited his playing time.
"I'm going to be going," Weir, who had to withdraw from last month’s Arnold Palmer Invitational with a sore rib, told reporters on a recent conference call. "No matter what, I'm going to be there.”
Weir said he would take it as easy as necessary -- even forgoing meaningful practice -- just to be able to tee it up on April 11.
"I've got to be really smart the next week and a half here about when I decide to try hitting a few balls and see how it is, and then if I feel anything to back off and just go there to Augusta,” Weir said. “If I have to not hit any balls until Thursday, I won't, and just maybe putt a little bit, because I really want to play.”
Weir, 42, has battled afflictions for several years, and the Canadian southpaw believes his game was just rounding into form again after he worked his way back from a torn elbow ligament that sidelined him for the latter part of the 2010 season and again in 2011. After missing every cut in 14 events in 2012, he finally saw some weekend action at this year’s Farmers Insurance Open -- the first cut he had made since the AT&T National in July 2011.
The slight-of-frame lefty had missed his previous 17 cuts before sneaking into the weekend at Torrey Pines and pronounced himself pleased with the the direction in which his game was heading.
“I'm almost there. I don't feel a hundred percent comfortable yet, but it's definitely getting a lot better,” Weir told reporters after Thursday’s round. “I'm happy with the progress I'm making. As golfers, you want it right away, but I've seen some good signs, so that's always positive.”
Then came what doctors termed a torn or inflamed cartilage between the ribs at Bay Hill, and Weir, unfortunately, knew the drill.
“Nothing but rest, some anti‑inflammatory a little bit to get the swelling down, but other than that it's rest,” he said. “It’s a touchy thing, so I’ve got to be smart about this and be patient here in the next few days.”
Weir refused to give in to the cruel twists of fate that have befallen him. Indeed, if his body allows him to, he believes can play his way into the mix along with tourney favorite Tiger Woods.
"There's no evidence on paper [that shows] I can be in contention there, except that I believe that I can in my own mind, and I think that has been the strongest asset in my career, that I have belief in myself," he said. "Even though it doesn't look like it from the scores and the way I've been playing, I just know I'm going to get it done."
Even when healthy, you wouldn’t exactly call Weir a thumper. His longest year off the tee was 2007, when he averaged 289 yards in driving distance -- good enough for 92nd on tour. It’s his smarts, expertise around a course he knows so well, and his short game that gives Weir the confidence to go up against the Bubba Watsons of the world.
"Every time I step on the grounds at Augusta, I have to play my game,” Weir said. “It has to be, first, get the ball in the fairway, play strategic golf, and really wedge it great. I have to wedge it great, think well, putt well and that's how I'm going to compete there.”
Precision, he said, is a valuable commodity at Augusta National.
“It's always your touch around the green, your putting, your ability to make putts inside of eight feet, because you're going to have a lot of those for your second putts, or from pitches or bunker shots you've hit,” he said. “You have to have everything firing to win there and then you obviously have to have your wits about you and your nerve coming down the back nine there.”
As for why Weir has been on the receiving end of such bad luck, the eight-time tour winner said he would leave it to philosophers to answer that question.
“Sure, it's affected my career, but I feel healthy now except for a few little setbacks I'm having, but I feel like I can still play some good golf going forward, it's just kind of part of the ride of life,” he said. “We have ups and downs, and that's just kind of part of it. It's been disappointing...but at the same time I've enjoyed a lot of other things, aspects of my life the last couple years.”