Being Like Mike Weir
Parental discretion is strongly advised. Canadians ' listen up.
I am truly sick of this! Here I am, a member of the golf media, a broadcast journalist who tries his darndest to respect the players, the game and its heartiest of fans, and all I seem to read lately is a steady diet of e-mails and discussion board messages about the lack of respect shown to Canadian hero, Masters champion, and one hell of a good guy ' namely, Mike Weir.
This whole thing hit a boiling point with me the other night as I was watching television in my hotel room in Miami. Im laying around, innocently watching highlights of Weir hitting knockdown wedges to the basket from center court at a BYU Cougars' game and couldnt help but think that while it was really great stuff, there might just be some who were less than satisfied.
Was I right? Cmonyou know who you are. You were saying, If that were Tiger, theyd show him walking out onto the court before he hit the wedges, then theyd show him hit each and every shot, then theyd show him walk off to a loud ovation and sit back down in his seat.
Well, here I am covering the Ford Championship at Doral, actually wishing that Weir was here. Why? His run has been nothing short of spectacular.
For those whove shortchanged a star - here are the facts:
Weir has gone from Q-School medalist (1998) to Masters champion in very short order. Thats a huge story.
In his first full year on the PGA Tour (1999), he won the Air Canada Championship. That was a huge story.
In his second full year on the PGA Tour (2000) he won the World Golf Championship American Express Championship ' beating the best in the world. That was a huge story.
In his third full year on the PGA Tour (2001) he won the Tour Championship ' beating the tours elite money winners. That was a huge story.
In his fourth year on the PGA Tour (2002) he ditched the pre-shot routine that wed come to know and expect, and also found his way out of sync and out of the elite group of PGA Tour winners. You know what, that was also a huge story.
In his fifth year on the PGA Tour (2003) he came back like a bulldog. The pre-shot routine was back, and so too was Weirsy. After winning the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, he was ninth in Phoenix, third at Pebble Beach, a winner again at the Nissan Open and just weeks later he won The Masters.
That was a huge story. Check that. That was a really huge story!
And now, here we are in 2004. Weirs a winner already, having won the Nissan Open yet again, and seems like a pretty solid choice to successfully defend his title at Augusta. Yetall I seem to read is letters about how Mike doesnt get the respect he deserves, and e-mails shouting The networks never show Mike, and chat room catcalls like, Weir just shot 66 and they didnt show him at all on the back nine.
I have to be honest. Im growing very Weiry of it!
I, for one, love Canada. Ive been to Montreal. Ive been to Toronto twice. Ive been to two Blue Jays games at the Skydome and some day I really want to go to Vancouver and Whistler. Heck, I bought my son Trent a Blue Jays jersey which he proudly wears to Little League practice (even though were the Pirates) and he has an autographed Maple Leafs sweater/jersey with No. 7, given to him by Gary Roberts who showed me a great time on his golf course. My kid loves hockey by the way and plays like he was born in Kitchner or a member of the Kamloops team. Ken Hitchcock is one of my favorite coaches in professional sports.
Journalistic ethics aside, I, for one, am also a very big fan of Mike Weir. I was there when he earned medalist honors at Q-school. I interviewed him at Medinah when he made noise at the PGA Championship. I was really happy to see him win the Masters. And you know why? Its because he won it for many more folks than just himself. To quote Stuart Scott of ESPN (which pains me terribly) he represents!
Canadians are a passionate bunch. You make people feel welcome. You say hello, when you might not expect it. You are hospitable when you dont always have to be. And you write e-mails, and call golf talk shows like no other group has ever, or will ever do. And your dedication to the Sprint Pre and Post game shows is unmatched.
Heres my take. Mike Weir is one classy cat. Hes polished, polite and very productive when it comes to golf. But guess what. Hes not the one who has anything to prove! Hes already done it.
Its just my opinion. But I think its up to the networks and the network of golf media to prove to us that Weir is somebody that we ought to take more seriously. Your e-mails are on-target - Mikes airtime isnt on par with others. And there seems to be a certain reluctance to hoist Weirsy up on the same level as the likes of Woods or Els, Singh or Love.
But lets not get overworked about it. Instead, channel that energy into his run toward another major, or two, or more. Remember, golf is a very fickle sport. Dont be mad. Be happy. Realize what a great thing youve got going. Dont feel insecure. Feel safebecause for what its worth, I promise you Mike is a favorite among the media masses.
And, oh Canada, remember one other thing above all - you feisty bunch of golf fanatics - when all is said and done for Mike Weir, no matter whether or not we get to see his 8-iron into No. 11 that led to birdie while we do watch Tiger walking up the fairway at No. 15, only you Canadians can truly call Weir your hero, your role model, and above all, your very own.
We Americans have too many to choose from, which, for the record, makes me envious.
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
Def. champ Fitzpatrick grabs lead at Euro finale
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Defending champion Matthew Fitzpatrick shot a second straight 5-under-par 67 to secure a one-stroke lead halfway through the European Tour's season-ending Tour Championship on Friday.
At 10 under after two rounds on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estate, Fitzpatrick leads English compatriot Tyrrell Hatton, whom he beat by one shot to win the title last year.
Hatton moved into contention with a brilliant 9-under 63, a round soured only by a closing bogey on the par-5 18th hole.
In the Race to Dubai, main protagonists Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose experienced contrasting emotions to their opening rounds. Fleetwood boosted his chances by rising into a tie for 11th at 6 under after a 65. Rose endured a three-putt bogey on the 18th to finish with a 70, and dropped on the leaderboard so he's just two shots ahead of Fleetwood.
Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Order of Merit, stayed in contention by adding a 69 to his opening 70 to be one shot behind Fleetwood.
Fleetwood needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.
Fitzpatrick made two bogeys but eagled the 14th, and five birdies contributed to his 67.
Overnight leader Patrick Reed is now three back following an even-par 72. Reed is in the field thanks to a European Tour regulation that allows the Presidents Cup to count as an official event, thus allowing him to meet his quota of tournaments played.
Fitzpatrick was helped immensely also by the 18th, where Hatton, Rose, and Reed all made bogeys. Fitzpatrick birdied the hole for a second straight day with a 25-foot putt.
''I said to my caddie, we were putting really, really well all week so far,'' Fitzpatrick said.
''The thing is, you get so many fast putts around here, even uphill into the green, they are still running at 12, 13 (on the stimpmeter) even. You've just got to be really sort of careful. Every putt is effectively a two-putt. You've got to control your pace well and limit your mistakes, because it's easy to three-putt out here.''
Rose, hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey, was disappointed with his finish despite playing solid golf from tee to green.
''To make six (on 18) just ends the day on the wrong note, but other than that, I played really well on the back nine,'' Rose said.
''I was aware of the scores and who had done what today. But listen, halfway stage, I'd probably have signed up for that if somebody said on Wednesday you would be in this position after two rounds. It's a position you can build on the weekend.''
Fleetwood resurrected his chances of winning the Order of Merit with a 65, eight shots better than his opening round. His only bogey of the day came on the seventh after an errant drive, but that was the only mistake on a solid day that saw him make eight birdies.
Fleetwood spent hours on the putting green after his first round.
''I needed a low one today for (a tournament win and the Order of Merit),'' he said. ''Luckily, I got a good score.''
Closing eagle gives Kirk 1-shot lead in RSM
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - Chris Kirk holed an 18-foot putt for eagle on his final hole for a 9-under 63 and a one-shot lead Thursday in the RSM Classic.
Kirk played the par 5s on the Plantation Course at Sea Island Golf Club in 5 under.
''I kind of hit my putter on the fringe a little bit and I wasn't sure it was going to get there, but that was just kind of the day that it was,'' Kirk said. ''Even when I thought it wasn't quite going to work out, it still went in the middle of the hole.''
The seven lowest scores of the opening round came on the Plantation Course during a picturesque afternoon on the Golden Isles. Sporting a University of Georgia hat Thursday, Kirk won at Sea Island four years ago for the second of his four PGA Tour victories.
''It's a big Georgia territory out here on St. Simons,'' Kirk said. ''Hopefully, my hat will bring me some luck the rest of the week.''
The tournament is the final PGA Tour event of the calendar year, and Kirk is sorting out equipment changes.
''I'm still trying to get it all worked out and figure out what I want to do going forward,'' Kirk said. ''But keep shooting 9 under, so I won't have to worry about it too much.'
Joel Dahmen had a 64.
''I think it played a little easier today,'' Dahmen said. ''The wind was down, greens were a little softer over here on the Plantation side. But just kept the ball in front of me and made a bunch of 8- to 10-footers.
''I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''
Sea Island resident Hudson Swafford was at 65 at the Plantation along with Jason Kokrak and Brian Gay.
''I feel like I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''
He played alongside fellow former Georgia players Bubba Watson and Brian Harman.
''We are right in the heart of Dawgs' territory, mine and Harman's backyard, so it's kind of nice,'' Swafford said.
Though, his caddie wore an Auburn shirt.
''We don't need to talk about that,'' said Swafford, not needing to be reminded that Auburn beat Georgia in football last week.
Nick Watney and Brice Garnett each had a 5-under 65 on the Seaside Course, which will be used for the final two rounds.
Brandt Snedeker opened with a 67 in his first return from a sternum injury that sidelined him since the Travelers in June.
Harman shot 69, and Watson had a 71.
Co-leader Smith credits Foley's influence
NAPLES, Fla. – Sarah Jane Smith is making the most of the devoted efforts of Sean Foley this week.
Foley’s prize pupil, Justin Rose, is in the hunt at the World Tour Championship in the United Arab Emirates, looking to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, but Foley isn’t there with him.
Foley promised to help Smith this week, and he’s living up to the pledge, making the trip to Naples.
“At 33, Sarah is in her prime,” Foley told GolfChannel.com. “She is going to hold a trophy at some point. She is too skilled not to win.”
Foley's extra attention is paying off for Smith.
With a 6-under-par 66, Smith moved into early contention to make her first LPGA title memorable at the CME Group Tour Championship. She’s tied for the first-round lead with Taiwan rookie Peiyun Chien.
“I just seem to play my best with him,” Smith said.
Foley, the former coach to Tiger Woods, was No. 10 in Golf Digest’s Top 100 teacher rankings released this fall.
Foley sees a lot coming together in Smith’s game. She is a 12-year veteran building some momentum. She tied for third at the Women’s Australian Open earlier this year and is coming off three consecutive top-15 finishes in Asia. She is sixth on tour in birdies this season.
“As a coach, you try to get a player to see something in themselves that is already there,” Foley said.
Rose, by the way, opened with a 6-under-par 66 in Dubai and is one shot off the lead.
Seeking awards sweep, Park 1 off lead
NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park made a strong start in her bid to make LPGA history with an epic sweep of the year’s major awards.
Park opened the CME Group Tour Championship Thursday with a 5-under-par 67, moving her a shot off the lead.
Park is looking to join Nancy Lopez as the only players to win the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park has already clinched the Rookie of the Year Award.
Park, 24, can also walk away with the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Race to the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot.
Nobody has ever swept all those awards.
There’s even more for Park to claim. She can also take back the Rolex world No. 1 ranking. She’s No. 2, just two hundredths of a point behind Shanshan Feng.
“I think the course suits my game really well,” Park said through a translator. “I think I can play well in the next rounds.”
Park played the course just once before Thursday’s start, in Wednesday’s pro-am.
The reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion, Park won twice this year. She also won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open this summer.