The Canadian Mike Weir hopes that a strong finish to 2008 will put him in good stead for the 2009 PGA Tour.
Weir aims high after strong 2008 finish
LOS ANGELES // The Former Masters champion Mike Weir failed to register a single victory on the 2008 PGA Tour but he is banking that a strong finish to the season will spur him on this year. With the putts finally beginning to drop, the Canadian piled up six top-10 finishes in his last eight events to end the campaign 14th in the Tour's money list with earnings of more than US$3 million (Dh16m). "It was very solid at the end of the year," Weir said.
"You still want to win but I showed some great strides in my game. I played very consistent golf and when you do that you're going to win eventually." The left-hander's season featured eight top-10s in 26 starts and a runner-up position at the Deutsche Bank Championship. "I've been knocking on the door and you've just got to have a few things go your way when you win. I just haven't quite got over the hump but I put myself there enough.
"Hopefully (I will) just build on that into this year," added the Ontario native, who won his only major at the 2003 Masters. Weir, whose eight PGA Tour titles put him level with the late George Knudson as Canada's most prolific winners on the circuit, says his 2008 season owed much to an improved short game. "I spent a little more time trying to dial in my wedge game, from 125 yards and in, and I started making some putts," the 38-year-old said. "Any time you make some putts, that's a big difference.
"I wasn't putting well early in the year but I started putting a little bit more consistently from probably Memorial on, for the second half of the year." Weir, whose most recent PGA Tour victory came at the 2007 Arizona Open, is eagerly anticipating this year's Masters on an Augusta National layout shortened by 10 yards. "I love the golf course," he said. "I always feel comfortable around there so I am looking forward to getting back."
However, Weir is no fan of some of the recent changes made at Augusta National, which has controversially been stretched by almost 500 yards since Tiger Woods clinched his maiden victory there in 1997. The South African Trevor Immelman won last year's title with an eight-under total of 280, triumphing by three shots over Woods after shooting a final-round 75 in tricky, swirling winds. Throughout that week, the birdie roars that have traditionally lit up Augusta National's back nine were strangely silent on a layout lengthened to 7,445 yards.
Years of "Tiger-proofing" measures, which have also involved the tightening of fairways and the addition of trees and thicker rough, have transformed the course into one of the most rigorous all-round tests of championship golf. "I think some of the excitement's been taken out of the tournament in the last few years so, to me, it seems like they're trying to bring a little excitement back to the event," Weir said.
"It's become a 'make par is good out there', that's kind of what it's been the last four or five years and Augusta has never been like that. It's always been where you can make a run at it on the back nine and shoot a low score. "I think they're trying to get back there. It brings a little fun back for the players and for the fans." *Reuters