Named to international team for Montreal event despite struggles this season
Canadas Mike Weir is having one of his worst years of his PGA career, but he still has been named to the international team for the Presidents Cup next month in Montreal. Canadian Press file photo
Mike Weirs wild-card selection Monday to the international side for next months Presidents Cup was a tribute to his history as a gritty match-play competitor under captain Gary Player and, before him, Peter Thomson.
It was a recognition of the imperative that a Canadian flag be on the scoreboard to give the crowds at Royal Montreal a rooting interest.
It was a gesture of gratitude for having raised the level of interest in the biennial matches to the point where they could be staged in Canada a convenience to the stars of the U.S. side, who dont have to travel to Australia or South Africa this time, and can still count it as an away game.
In other words, Weir made it on the basis of yesterday, not today. On nationality, not form. On his name, not his game.
If he is honest with himself, he will know that, and mixed in with the pride of being selected to play in his fourth straight Presidents Cup will be an urgency to get his golf swing, his putting stroke and his health in good working order before he has to put them on the line in the last week of September, with 11 teammates counting on him.
It was a tough last couple of weeks, Weir said during a Monday morning conference call. When I pulled a neck muscle at Firestone (two weeks ago), that was bad timing. I knew I had been playing well the last couple of weeks.
He had tied for eighth at the AT&T National and the British Open, two weeks before withdrawing from the Bridgestone Invitational.
But I think maybe I wanted so badly to play in the Presidents Cup at home, Ive been trying too hard at times, he said. Now that Gary made me a selection, maybe I can relax and play some good golf over the next few weeks.
The 37-year-old from Sarnia, Ont., and another left-hander, Australian Nick OHern, were selected by Player after Sundays conclusion of the PGA Championship, the final event through which players could qualify on points.
Weir missed the cut at Southern Hills, and ranked 20th in the International team standings.
Aussie Stuart Appleby had nudged OHern, who is 2-0 in match play against Tiger Woods, off the list of 10 automatic qualifiers at the last moment with his play in Tulsa.
United States captain Jack Nicklaus selected two rookies, Lucas Glover and red-hot Hunter Mahan, to fill out the Americans 12-man roster for the four-day matches, which take place Sept. 27-30.
Like OHern, Glover had been bumped from the list of qualifiers Sunday by veteran Woody Austin, who finished second to Tiger in the seasons last major.
If there is a young player who has played better (than Mahan) in the last six months, I dont know who it is, said Nicklaus, who had wanted to pick more experienced players, but unfortunately my experienced guys arent playing very well.
Stephen Ames final-round tumble at the PGA, where he shot 76 while paired with Woods, cost the Calgarian a place on the team.
Mikes been a very, very tough competitor throughout the years and a great team player, Player said from his home in South Africa. If you had to sit him out, he never sulked, and he would play anyone you wanted him to play.
And playing in Canada, if I didnt have a Canadian on the team, I really think the series would have been flat. So I know theres a lot of very happy people in Canada, because Mike is a hero there, and I received so many calls asking if he was going to be on the team.
As for Stephen Ames, it was very, very close. We had worked it out that if he finished solo fourth at the PGA, he would have made the team, but unfortunately he didnt play well in the last round.
Ames, though was looking forward to a chance to play on home soil.
As a proud Canadian, I was excited about the idea of playing in the Presidents Cup especially given that it is being played in Canada for the first time, he said.
I certainly feel that I have played well enough over a sustained period of time to warrant selection, but I also know how many talented players there are to choose from on the International side.
The 10 International players who qualified on points are South Africans Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Rory Sabbatini and Trevor Immelman, Australians Adam Scott, Geoff Ogilvy and Stuart Appleby, Fijis Vijay Singh, K.J. Choi of South Korea, and Angel Cabrera of Argentina.
Imput from everywhere
Multiple sources at the PGA on Sunday said there had been a considerable push from the players to have Weir on the team, and undoubtedly Player was getting input from all kinds of places, high and low.
The American qualifiers are Woods, Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson, Charles Howell III, David Toms, Scott Verplank, Steve Stricker, Stewart Cink and the fiery Austin, who made his first-ever national team at age 43 with his first-ever top-10 finish in a major.
I think my personality suits that kind of competition, Austin said Sunday. I like the mano-a-mano, look you in the eye, as opposed to coming out at 8 oclock and the other guy comes out at 3. I like looking right at you when Im playing you, and I think thats going to be a lot of fun.
Of the International team members, only Els, Scott, Goosen and Weir have winning overall records in previous Presidents Cups. Appleby is 4-12-2 overall, and knew he had to make the team on points.
It was really important for me to play my way on, said Appleby. I didnt want to make Gary have to make a tough decision.
But Player did, anyway. In choosing OHern and Weir, he had to leave off 26-year-old Argentine Andres Romero, a birdie-making machine who nearly won the British Open and won the Deutsche Bank Open in Germany a week later, before missing the cut at Southern Hills to fall out of the top 10.
I like to pick a guy whos on the up, but hes young and hell have many chances to play in the future, Player said.
This has got to be the toughest team in the world to make, said Immelman. Youve pretty much got to be in the Top 20 in the world rankings. Obviously on paper, I think we have a hell of a strong team, but weve had a terrible record in that tournament (4-1-1 for the U.S.)
Eleven of the 12 players on the International team are ranked among the top 27 in the world.
Weir is the exception, hes ranked 46th.
But his selection from the No. 20 spot among the International players is not without precedent.
Captain David Graham picked Japans Tsukasa Watanabe at 20th and South Africas Fulton Allem from 22nd in 1994, Paul Azinger was 24th when Ken Venturi selected him to the 2000 U.S. Team, and Player chose his countryman, Immelman, at No. 22 in 2005.
But with the pick, comes an obligation.
Weir didnt want to be there on reputation, but the back door was his only way in.
If he wants to leave by the front, hell have to bring his game.