Precise Weir finds pragmatism pays

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The Independent Online

Mike Weir made his debut in The Open Championship at Carnoustie five years ago. The Canadian would have been forgiven for thinking he was at a US Open. He shot an 83 in the first round yet still made the cut.

Mike Weir made his debut in The Open Championship at Carnoustie five years ago. The Canadian would have been forgiven for thinking he was at a US Open. He shot an 83 in the first round yet still made the cut.

Since then the 34-year-old has gone about learning the art of links golf. A 71 on Thursday was his best opening in an Open. Yesterday morning he was the first man to break 70, helped by three birdies in a row from the 5th.

A 68 left him at three under par. "The wind was strong from the get-go," he said. "When I woke up at 4.30 it was blowing hard and just continued."

Weir won the Masters last year to become only the second left-hander to win a major championship after Bob Charles at The Open in 1963. Through his rise into the top 10 on the world's rankings it was thought Weir's game was suited to links golf and this weekend the theory could be confirmed.

"My game is a precision game," he said. "I'm not a power player. I need to plot my way around the course and I did that well today. I hit the ball low anyway, so I don't have to fight that."

His six-iron at the short 5th, with the wind blowing off the sea on the right rather than helping or hindering, was as precise as anyone could wish for. It finished only three feet from the hole and his putter never had too much work to do. The longest putt required on any of his four birdies was from 15 feet at the 7th.

Rarely did he attempt anything more than positioning his ball in the most pragmatic spot for the shot that followed. It was a game plan refined during a week's stay at the Turnberry Hotel. Not only did he play at a stunningly beautiful course further down the Ayrshire coast, he also paid his respects at Prestwick, the original venue for The Open which meets Royal Troon at the far end of the course, and jetted up north to Dornoch.

"This year was the same as the last couple in that I came over early to get used to playing links golf again," he explained. "When the tournament starts, I don't like feeling I'm going straight into it from US golf.

"I am learning how to play shots over here. In the past I'd try to hit, say, my eight-iron my usual distance, perhaps 155 yards. But today I hit a five-iron when my playing partners were hitting eight-irons. I am keeping the ball low and using my imagination more than four or five years ago. That's important when it gets hard and fast."

While David Howell, the Englishman, and the Australian Aaron Baddeley scored 76 and 75 respectively, Weir was utilising his grandfather's Scottish ancestry to good effect.

"I am playing more with feel," he said. "I try to eyeball the yardage and then check with my caddie. You still need to know what the number is but there are a lot more factors that also come into what shot you play than in the US."

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