One Year Makes a Big Difference for Weir

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THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- One of the few things Mike Weir can find wrong about his season is the lack of a long, winter vacation.
 
Last year I had three months,'' he said. This year I get three weeks.''
 
There's a reason for that.
 
The Canadian played so poorly in 2002 that his season effectively ended in October, and he didn't return to the PGA Tour until late January in the Phoenix Open.
 
Weir had to go to Hawaii last week for the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, the result of winning his first major championship at the Masters.
 
He's at the Target World Challenge this week because his world ranking shot up from No. 42 at the end of last year to No. 6, the result of winning three times and finishing fifth on the PGA Tour money list.
 
A short offseason is a small price to pay for success.
 
Weir, tournament host Tiger Woods and defending champion Padraig Harrington are among nine of the top 12 players in the world ranking who help shape this world-class field at Sherwood Country Club for a silly-season event that starts Thursday.
 
Twelve players from the 16-man field came off the world ranking. Woods picked the other four himself -- two major winners, Ben Curtis and Shaun Micheel; Fred Couples and Jay Haas, who turned 50 last week.
 
What a difference a year makes.
 
At this time last season, Weir was home in Utah trying to figure out what went wrong with his game and how he could get better.
 
He analyzed his statistics, reviewed his schedule and was determined to get better. He didn't have to wait nearly that long to find out.
 
Weir won the Bob Hope Classic with birdies on his last three holes. He nearly won Pebble Beach. He captured the Nissan Open in a playoff by laying up on the 10th hole and stuffing a wedge into 8 feet for a birdie.
 
Then came the Masters, where the mini-Maple Leaf holed two crucial par putts on the final holes to force a playoff against Len Mattiace, then became the first Canadian to win a major when Mattiace self-destructed in the sudden-death playoff.
 
There's been a lot of special moments, especially winning the Masters, and the way it happened, having to make a big putt,'' Weir said Wednesday. It's been a fun year. Hopefully, I can keep building on it and go forward.''
 
Weir discovered two major flaws during the last offseason.
 
He needed to improve his short game, everything from 150 yards and in. That much was evident when his wedge play led to victories at the Bob Hope and the Nissan Open, and that 6-foot par putt on the 18th hole at Augusta National.
 
He also wanted to be a factor in the majors.
 
Along with winning the Masters, Weir tied for third in the U.S. Open and had a chance to win the PGA Championship until he struggled early in the final round and tied for seventh.
 
He tied for 28th in the British Open, blowing a chance to finish in the top 10 in all four majors with a double bogey-bogey-bogey ending at Royal St. George's.
 
Realistically, I had a good chance to win three of them,'' Weir said. My preparation was a lot better. This was my fourth year of playing all four majors, and it seems like I came up with the right formula on how to prepare for them.
 
In the past, I overdid it. I tried to do too much, work too hard, and by the time the tournament started, I was worn out.''