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?
“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.
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.