The biggest moment in Canadian golf history turns 10 this week. It’s been a decade since Mike Weir, the plucky left-hander from Bright’s Grove, Ont., won the Masters in a sudden-death playoff at Augusta National. Coming off a season in which he didn’t make a cut and lost his playing privileges, the eight-time PGA Tour winner sat down with Kristina Rutherford in Los Angeles to re-live some of the memories of the big win and talk about the frustrations of trying to rebuild his game — physically and mentally. Read the full story in the latest edition of Sportsnet magazine.
Sportsnet Magazine: Can you believe it’s been a decade?
Mike Weir: You know, sometimes it does feel like 10 years because I don’t dwell on it. I don’t sit and say, ‘Oh wow, I won the Masters.’ But if I do think about it, it does feel like a long time ago. If I ponder a little more, then I start remembering shots, remembering that incredible feeling on the 10th green after I won, and then it seems closer. Definitely.
SN: You had that do-or-die eight-footer for par on No. 18 to force the playoff with Len Mattiace. How did you control the nerves to nail that one?
MW: No matter what, it was going in. I was going to find a way. And honestly, I wasn’t nervous at all. I told myself, if I do the same thing I’ve been doing all 71 holes of this tournament and it doesn’t go in, I can live with that. If I do something different and miss it, that would have been tough. Thankfully it worked out pretty well.
SN: It’s unreal that you weren’t nervous. Your brother Jim said he saw you that Sunday morning and you were incredibly relaxed. How did you manage that?
MW: At that stage I was very comfortable with my game, my swing. All the work I’d done technically and on the mental side just came to a head there. It was synergistic. Whether I won or not, I was feeling good about the day, I didn’t put extra pressure on myself. I just said, ‘OK, if I go out here and play well I’m going to have a good chance to win.’ I didn’t go out there and say, ‘I have to win today.’ That’s too much pressure.
SN: What was it like to have a buddy like Tiger present you with the Green Jacket?
MW: We’re friends and I could tell he was genuinely happy for me. It was special. I know, as we get older, as I get older, I see Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player sitting around, and I do think about that, what it’ll be like to still give Tiger the gears and he’ll give it back when we’re in our 60s and 70s. (Laughs). It’s non-stop, we do it all the time.
SN: The jacket has to stay at Augusta as per club rules, but did you make a replica so you can throw it on any time? If you haven’t yet, you should.
MW: (Laughs) What, like a smoking jacket?
SN: Exactly. The best smoking jacket ever.
MW: (Laughs). No, no. Definitely not.
SN: The day after you won the Masters, you had a clothing line launch at Sears in downtown Toronto and thousands of people showed up. Did it hit you then how big this was?
MW: I didn’t expect that at all. I hardly had any sleep so I was in a bit of a fog. We were driving there and I saw the people out front. I said, ‘Wow the store’s closed or something, people are waiting to get in.’ They’re like, ‘No that’s the lineup to get in to see you.’ I said, ‘What?!’ So that was crazy. But that’s what the Masters can do. The diehards watch the Northern Trust Open and the casual fan watches the Masters. I got recognized a lot more because of that win.
SN: You had won twice already in 2003 heading into Augusta and still you weren’t considered a favourite. Did that play in your favour?
MW: I think it did. No one talked about me winning the Masters that year. It was maybe the first year they’d really lengthened the course, it was wet, playing long. Outside of the Canadian media that was talking to me under the oak tree every day after my rounds, I was never a favourite. That probably worked to my advantage. I was super confident, I looked at myself as the favourite.
SN: How about 10 years later? Do you still see yourself that way?
MW: No, not yet. But do I have optimism I can win? Absolutely.
SN: You’re coming off the worst season of your career and elbow surgery. How tough have the past couple of years been?
MW: Hard, definitely hard. But I think if I had won a major in my early 20s and this happened in my early 30s, if I had gone through this earlier on, it would be really, really tough. I’m 42, I’ve had a great career and I still think I have a lot left. I think I will play great golf and win again but it’ll be more fun now. It’s different, that’s why I feel like this is a comeback. It’s gonna be fun.
SN: How would you gauge your confidence level right now?
MW: It was at a low for sure last year. I know I’m much better than that, I’m more athletic than what I’m showing. I just need to sort through that. But my belief that I’m going to find a way is still strong. I go back to my perspective, I know how tough this game is, I know what it took to get to the top. I’m not where I want to be, but I can fight through it.
SN: Has the 10th anniversary of your win at Augusta been motivation as you’ve worked to get your game back?
MW: Yes, I want to be ready for the Masters. That’s the goal, to be ready for Augusta. I had the goal in mind in the off-season, if I can get the technique ready for Augusta I’d be happy.
SN: What is it that makes the Masters unlike any other tournament in golf?
MW: Oh, there are a million things. The golf course, every year it’s the same, so manicured, it just has this aura about it. For me now being a past champion the Tuesday night dinner with all the greats and hearing the stories is a highlight. The families gathering, the par 3 contest, it’s such a unique week. When the end of the week comes it’s disappointing because you want it to keep going, you never want it to end.