Poor Mike

Since 2007, I have felt badly for Mike Weir more often than not: That’s the last year he won a golf tournament. He’s been in contention a few times, but always came up short. Through that period, he’s missed the cut more often than he’s made it: In 2012, his worst year, he entered only 14 tournaments and missed the cut in all of them.

I’ve listened sadly as commentators talked about his recurring injuries and of how his average size works against him in the game as it is today: He’s only 5 feet 9 inches in a sport now showcasing guys who are well over 6 feet. I’ve agonized on his behalf as he withdrew from tournaments, lost his Tour card, and started an indefinite leave of absence this year. Had he finally given up on the game?  

Thinking of the mid-life resurgences of Kenny Perry and Vijay Singh, which saw them winning tournaments again in their 40s, I’d even think . . .

“If only he could win one more tournament before he turns 50,
maybe then he could be happy with his career.”

Sometimes my emotions lead me astray.  This is one of those times. Let’s take another look at the numbers.

With eight wins, including one major, Weir is tied for a 128th ranking among PGA golfers. That’s PGA golfers of all time. With career earnings to date of almost $28 million, he’s 28th on the all-time money list.

What? Somehow, watching the PGA Tour on TV, I never got the impression that Weir was that good. The commentators seemed to like him well enough – there were no coded comments about his intensity, passion, or focus, as there are for those who behave badly out there – but they didn’t talk him up much. They didn’t show his every par save or birdie even when he wasn’t in contention, as they do with so many.

I get it, I really do: For a largely American audience, there was no reason to follow Weir’s game unless he was leading, or threatening, an American leader. But the result was that his TV presence was less than he deserved: less than he’d earned, I’d say.

“Polite but not enthusiastic” about sums up the tone of the coverage,
and how funny is that, given the Canadian stereotype?

Weir is one of the top players of his generation. When looked at in his rough cohort—men his age plus or minus 10 years—his wins tie him for 16th place.

Chart showing rank of golfers within 10 years of Mike Weire, plus or minus.

Mike Weir’s ranking against contemporaries.

He’s not a phenomenon like Tiger Woods, with 79 wins. He’s not a generational luminary like Phil Mickelson or Vijay Singh, with 42 and 34 wins, respectively. He’s not one of the few in every generation who reach 20 wins and earn a lifetime Tour exemption: other than the three already mentioned, Davis Love III is the only active golfer of any age to hold that distinction. But he is—or was—one of the top players.

Would Weir like to golf as well as he did 10 years ago? I expect so. I’d like to do anything as well as I did 10 years ago. But he doesn’t need or deserve my sympathy: He merits my admiration. Not just for his excellent performance on the course, but for his continued pursuit of that excellence, even when it’s been hard.


PS    What made me think of Mike this week? I’m not sure. Maybe it was Cam Cole’s excellent piece (written in September but just now crossing my desktop) on golf’s shift away from Woods to what Cole sees as a more decent, more human cohort of top-notch golfers: Day, Fowler, McIlroy, Rose, Scott, and Spieth, among them.

Maybe it was watching other Canadian golfers—DeLaet, Hadwin, Hearn, Sloan, and Taylor, among them—in the first tournaments of the 2015/2016 season, working to get their first Tour win (or second, in Taylor’s case). I wish all of them all the best, but I’ll never again feel sorry for any of them. Whether they reach the heights Weir achieved or not, they’re living their dream among, and as, some of the best golfers on the planet.

 

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8 Comments

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8 Responses to Poor Mike

  1. Sid Dunning

    Isabel:
    One evening somewhere in the deep south we were having dinner with a U.S Attorney and his wife. Making polite conversation, the attorney asked if we have golf courses in Canada. Before I could answer, he interrupted himself adding ” oh of course, Mike Weir is from up there”.
    Obviously Mike’s fame was wide and he done us proud. :-))

    Sid

  2. Jim Taylor

    One of the hardest things for any of us to learn is when to say “Enough!” It’s easy to see in the sports field, where at some point the player has to say, “I’ve done enough; nothing more will enhance my reputation, and continuing to grab for the brass ring may actually harm y reputation.” (The “brass ring” offers an interesting metaphor. Comes from the circus world, I believe. When a trapeze artist grabs for the brass ring high in the air and misses it, it’s time to look for another profession.) It’s harder to see in the world of politics (cf Harper) or economics (do we really need another hydro dam or pipeline?). I think that in every life there comes a time when we/I need to say, “Okay, I’ve done enough. It’s time to sit back and rest on my, umm, laurels.”
    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson

      Jim T – Yes, going out at the top of your game is one model, for sure. I also understand those who keep doing what they do because, well, it’s what they do. Maybe even who they are.

  3. With our sports and entertainment worlds adoring celebrities, it is hard to see that most people in both these fields (and others) do well sometimes and not so well other times. I am always struck by how many people are involved, compared to the number we cheer on, in competitions, movies, concerts, and even book publishing. Mike Weir is a good professional golfer, admired by many. Worthy of your accolades and calculations.

    • Isabel Gibson

      Judith – Yeah, who would have guessed that they’re human? Cam Cole’s article pointedly notes Spieth’s practice of speaking of “we” when talking about a win – including caddie, coach(es?), and other direct contributors/supporters to his success. It’s a gracious way to be in the world.

  4. Dave Jobson

    When you speak of the TV coverage for Mike I recall watching a PGA championship many years ago in which Mike was doing very well but was not being shown on TV or mentioned much. That day I got on the phone to NBC I THINK and dictated that there were many Canadian golf fans who would like to see more of Mike especially when he was one of the top competitors in the tournament. It worked in that they did show some shots of Mike. It did not seem to change their behaviour in subsequent tournaments however.

    • Isabel Gibson

      Dave J – Yes, they seem not to get that showing any Canadian is likely good enough for all Canadians, if you see what I mean. We keep up with “our” guys by checking the online leaderboard. Maybe after I’m appointed to the Senate I can get a call through to NBC.