Weir Ames or Nobody for Canada

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Over breakfast at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla., a few years ago, Gary Player entertained a Canadian writer with tales of his frequent trips north of the border, recalling with fondness the people, places and golf courses that made his travels so memorable there.
 
Whether a trip to Canada next month is as special as those in the past for Player remains to be seen. A win by his International team against the United States in the Presidents Cup is the clincher and Player commences the journey towards that objective on Monday when he announces his two captain's picks.
 
The Black Knight already has a tough decision, one that is becoming more complex as the PGA Championship continues this weekend at Southern Hills in Tulsa.
 
If Player didn't already know from his own experiences that the host country would want a home boy on the International team, he has figured it out through incessant questions from the Canadian media as decision day approaches.
 
As he did two years ago, Player insisted that he will go with hot hands when making his captain's picks, but the flip side of that is will he risk losing home team advantage by not having a Canadian on the International team at Royal Montreal?
 
With Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh playing, it isn't likely the Presidents Cup will be hurting for attendance, but without a Canadian in the lineup, the International team doesn't have an identity with the home fans, who are just as likely to adopt the American team with all of its marquee names.
 
Mike Weir isn't helping Player out in this matter as he did two years ago when he surged into the top 10 and earned an automatic spot on points. This year, Weir was 20th going into the PGA Championship, where he missed the cut with a disastrous 9-over score.
 
That crash-and-burn came after Weir withdrew from the Bridgestone Invitational the previous week and tied for 37th at his own national Open the week before that.
 
The 2003 Masters champ hasn't won a tournament in over three years and about the only positive he has going for him is an 8-6 overall Presidents Cup record and some top-10 finishes in other majors.
 
The selection of Weir after that meltdown in the heat of Tulsa yesterday would appear to be a pity pick by Player just to keep Canadians happy.
 
Wait a minute. Does a Canadian pick necessarily have to be Weir? This is where it really gets complicated for Player.
 
Check out Stephen Ames tied for third after the second round at Southern Hills where he arrived one place ahead of Weir in Presidents Cup standings.
 
It is conceivable that Ames could still make the team on an automatic pick, which would take Player out of the equation, but he is also making a case for being a captain's pick from Canada should that be required. Ames would be a Presidents Cup rookie if Player chose him, but he has displayed an ability to hold it together in the heat of the moment, the most prominent instance being his convincing win at THE PLAYERS Championship last year.
 
Although he stated in 2004 that he wouldn't play in the Presidents Cup the following year because he didn't go in for team golf, Ames has said that being part of the 2007 event would be special with it being played in Canada, his adopted homeland.
 
Canadian fans, however, haven't taken to Ames with the same warmth as they have for Weir, who was born and raised in southwestern Ontario, just a good tee shot from the Michigan border, played through that province's amateur ranks and went on the Canadian Tour. Then, there's that memorable Masters win.
 
Ames, on the other hand, chose to live in Canada after meeting his wife Jodi on a flight. Not only does his family reside in Calgary, but Ames also has a couple of restaurants there and is actively involved in junior golf with an annual competition between Canada and Trinidad bearing his name.
 
While he isn't a native son, he chose to take out his citizenship and has definitely been a positive addition, but some fans in his adopted country still don't consider him a true Canadian in a land that prides itself on welcoming immigrants. Many also aren't sure how to take his controversial statements over the years.
 
In the eyes of Canadians, and most golf fans for that matter, Weir is Richie Cunningham, Ames is Bart Simpson. Do we have to bring up the whole Tiger Woods '9-and-8' affair last year?
 
Many of Ames' statements come with a smirk and a rolling of the eyes, but most have merit, even when they're ticking off people as it did last year when he hinted at THE PLAYERS Championship that he might not play in the Masters. What he meant was he would have to check with his family before committing.
 
That's Ames, but his unique personality aside, his performance to this point has illustrated that he should be the Canadian who plays in the Presidents Cup -- if any Canadian plays in the Presidents Cup. Player has several options to ponder as he watches the PGA Championship wind down this weekend.
 
Does he stick to his original plan and go with the hot hands, with no consideration given to each player's country?
 
Does he play politics and go with Canadian home boy Weir, who had a hand in getting the Presidents Cup to Canada, but hasn't proven he belongs this year?
If he does go with a Canadian, does he go with his hot hand plan and choose Ames?
 
Would Player go with both Canadians? Forget about it.
 
One thing is certain. You can bet that Player's breakfast isn't going down as easily this weekend as it was when he talked about Canada at the World Golf Village years ago.
 
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    Toronto Sun Editor's Note: Ian Hutchinson is golf columnist for the Toronto Sun and senior writer for Pro Shop Magazine, a Canadian golf trade publication, and Canadian Golfer Magazine. He is also a frequent contributor to Golf Scene and Golf Canada Magazine, the official magazine of the Royal Canadian Golf Association.