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Mighty Disappointed The best bets heading into the Open? One of the Tour's half-dozen multiple winners, who had dominated the season to date. Here's how they made out at Olympia Fields

June 23, 2003
June 23, 2003

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June 23, 2003

Sports Illustrated Bonus Section: Golf Plus

Mighty Disappointed The best bets heading into the Open? One of the Tour's half-dozen multiple winners, who had dominated the season to date. Here's how they made out at Olympia Fields

One of the cool things about being Mike Weir is that you get to
do whatever you want on Mike Weir Day, which Utah governor
Michael Leavitt declared on May 12, 2003, 29 days after Weir's
stunning victory at the Masters. The big day coincided with
Weir's 33rd birthday, but the most exciting plan he could summon
for the double celebration was to play in a benefit tournament
and conduct a golf clinic to raise money for the school that his
five-year-old daughter, Elle, attends near their home in the
Salt Lake City suburb of Draper. Later the family had a quiet
dinner at home, followed by a dinosaur-shaped cake for dessert
made by Elle and her three-year-old sister, Lily. It was a scene
that could have taken place on any day at any house in Anytown,
U.S.A. (though not every dad has a distinctive green jacket
hanging in the upstairs closet).

This is an article from the June 23, 2003 issue

Weir has gone out of his way to keep a low profile since the
Masters, where he became the first Canadian to win a major
championship. He has made a few public appearances--most
memorably in Toronto on the Monday after Augusta, when he dropped
the puck for the ceremonial face-off before a Maple Leafs playoff
game--but for the most part Weir has not allowed himself to be
passed around like Lord Stanley's Cup. He also scaled back his
playing schedule, competing only twice before last week's U.S.
Open, in which Weir tied for third, seven strokes behind Jim
Furyk. (Weir had played at a more grueling pace in the first
three months of the season, competing in eight tournaments and
winning the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and the Nissan Open.)
Otherwise, Weir has spent most of his time since the Masters at
home with his wife Bricia, Elle and Lily, doing chores such as
cleaning out the garage and vacuuming the pool. "I'm trying to
keep my life as normal as possible," Weir says. "I don't play
golf to seek fame and fortune. I don't know why anyone would want
those things anyway."

Weir shed what was left of his anonymity the moment he beat Len
Mattiace on the first hole of sudden death in Augusta, and he
does not wear celebrity well. During a practice round last week
at Olympia Fields, Weir could barely hide his annoyance with the
autograph seekers who besieged him. "I'm playing right now," he
would tell them repeatedly. "After the round, O.K.?" Weir was as
good as his word, but pretense is not his forte--he neither
lingered with nor smiled for the fans as he signed.

Weir's Open got off to a rocky start when he double-bogeyed
back-to-back holes on the front nine on Thursday, but he scraped
it around for a three-over 73 to keep himself in the tournament.
His game sharpened as the week went on, yet on Sunday he betrayed
his elevated expectations in dismissing the best Open finish of
his career. "Nobody remembers who finished third," Weir said. He
was already looking forward to next month's British Open, where
he won't have to deal with the novelty of having just won his
first major. "Hopefully my time over there will be more
coordinated than it was this week," Weir said. "I felt a little
scattered at first because a lot of things were coming up that I
didn't expect."

It's not as if Weir is unaccustomed to scrutiny. He has been an
icon in Canada ever since he won the first of his six PGA Tour
titles, at the 1999 Air Canada Championship. But his elevated Q
rating can best be illustrated by his dealings with Canadian
prime minister Jean Chretien. When Tiger Woods played the 2001
Canadian Open, Chretien dissed Weir in favor of a pro-am round
with Woods, and the PM later declined an offer to be Weir's
partner at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, citing his packed schedule.
Following the final round of the Masters, Chretien phoned Weir to
invite him to a congratulatory dinner, but he hasn't broken bread
with the Masters champ. "Now I have to wait for him to make time
in his schedule for me," Chretien ruefully told SI.

This new brand of celebrity cuts against Weir's fondness for the
familiar. He has known his caddie, Brennan Little, since their
junior golf days in Ontario. Weir has had the same coach for
seven years and the same sports psychologist for six. "He is very
regimented and organized," says the oldest of Weir's two
brothers, Jim, who runs Mike's website. "He doesn't like
surprises." So how can a man keep everything the same when his
whole world has changed?

Rosalie Weir long ago gave up hope that her youngest son might
someday move back to Canada, but you can't blame a mother for
trying. "I'll bring it up to him once in a while, and he
chuckles," Rosalie says. "Mike's so popular here that he wouldn't
be able to leave the house."

Since Weir can't live in the tight-knit suburban communities in
which he grew up, he has done his best to re-create that
environment in Draper. When Weir's daughters aren't frolicking in
the pool, they're either playing a game on the sports court he
had built on one side of the house or messing around on the swing
set or in the sandbox on the other side. Mike also had a putting
green and a bunker installed in the backyard, but the girls have
turned that into a play area as well.

If Weir feels like practicing while he's home, he goes to a
nearby driving range and whacks away in peace. Mike and Bricia
also love to ski and own a cabin in the Wasatch Range above Salt
Lake. Mike's success has afforded them the chance to upgrade
their lifestyle, but they're happy with how things are. "We don't
have a $1 million home, but it's perfect for us," says Bricia. "I
can let my kids out and know that one of my wonderful neighbors
is watching them."

When Weir was growing up, his father, Rich, built a skating rink
for his boys in the backyard of the family's home in Sarnia, a
blue-collar city of 70,000 about 60 miles north of Detroit.
Weir's brothers are considerably older--Jim by 10 years, Craig by
seven--but that didn't stop Mike from wanting to take them on in
all sports. When they weren't playing games outside, Mike's
brothers would dress him in goalie pads and fire pucks at him in
the basement. "He never ran upstairs crying to Mom," Jim says.
"That's where he developed his mental toughness, by playing
against his older brothers."

When Mike was nine, the Weirs moved a few towns away to Brights
Grove, to a house close to Huron Oaks Country Club. That's where
Mike got hooked on golf. During the summers he would spend all
day at the course (he worked in the pro shop as a teenager), and
because the putting green was illuminated by the lights from the
bag room and a nearby lounge, he and his buddies would hang out
there for a good portion of the night as well.

Weir's love of the game, and ambition, took him to BYU, one of
the few schools to offer him a scholarship, even though that
meant living by the school's strict Mormon code of conduct. "It
was definitely an adjustment," Weir says. "I was from Canada and
wasn't afraid of a beer."

Nor could he resist the siren song of Sin City. When Weir was a
sophomore, he and his close friend and teammate Eddie Heinen
road-tripped to Las Vegas. "Mike was playing roulette and, being
a golfer, he kept betting red, but it kept coming up black,"
Heinen says. "At the end of the night Mike was out about $400. He
was lying on the floor saying, 'Eddie, what am I gonna live on
for the next two months?' He had to call his brother Jim to help
him out."

Eventually Weir's behavior became as straight as his iron play,
and he gave up the extracurricular activities with no regrets.
"It gave me a lot of discipline," he says. "I focused on my
studies and my game."

During his sophomore year Weir met Bricia Rodriguez, the bright,
spunky daughter of Mexican immigrants who was the salutatorian of
her class at Huntington Park High School in southeast Los
Angeles. Bricia's was one of the few Mormon families in her
neighborhood, and she had never met a Canadian before dating
Mike. They dated for almost five years before getting married in
April 1994, and they spent their honeymoon at a Canadian tour
event, where Bricia carried Mike's bag because he couldn't afford
a caddie. Bricia eventually looped for Mike for two years on the
Canadian tour and one more in Australia. They both look back at
that time and laugh, but it was not the most romantic
arrangement. "There's such a high degree of tension out there,"
Bricia says. "I had to learn not to take things personally when
he got upset, which is hard when you're newlyweds."

The Weirs' marriage would be tested in other ways. Mike and
Bricia had planned to put off having children until he had
secured his Tour card, but after his fifth unsuccessful try at Q
school Bricia put Plan B into effect. "I told him, 'Honey, I
believe this will happen for you, but I don't want to put the
rest of our lives on hold,'" she says.

After seven trips to Q school Weir finally joined the Tour for
good in 1998 and quickly distinguished himself with his facile
hands, which are a result of his ambidexterity. Weir plays golf
from the left side but holds a fork and throws with his right
hand. He plays hockey lefty, but while he hits his ground strokes
in tennis and badminton as a righthander, he serves from the port
side.

At 5'9" and 155 pounds, Weir has had to work as hard on his mind
and body as he has on his swing. He begins each day with an hour
of exercises designed to stretch and strengthen his core muscles.
He also works with Rich Gordin, a psychology professor at Utah
State, to learn to harness his hockey player's intensity. Weir,
who shared the lead with Tiger Woods going into the final round
at the 1999 PGA Championship but shot a closing 80, felt at peace
on the eve of the final round of the Masters. Says Bricia, "I
remember him saying to me, 'I'm in the last group on Sunday at
the Masters. What more could I ask for?' Normally he's saying,
'I'm going to go out there and win.'"

Weir has tried to maintain that same even keel in the wake of the
Masters, but it hasn't been easy. Though there are perks that
come with being the champion--such as when the family was given a
VIP escort at Disneyland three weeks ago, allowing them to move
to the front of most lines--there have also been unwelcome
intrusions. Not long after Mike returned from Augusta, a Canadian
who had stopped in Salt Lake City on a layover somehow found
Weir's house, rang the doorbell and asked him to sign a handful
of Canadian flags--at 9 o'clock at night. Such invasions are
likely to continue as long as Weir, now the fifth-ranked player
in the world, remains a force in the game. "The crowds were
really pulling for me, which was a lot of fun," he said on
Sunday. "You're not going to win every tournament, but all in all
I had a pretty good week."

Weir was happy with his game as he left Chicago, but he was
happier to be heading home, where every day is Mike Weir Day.

TWO COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOHN BIEVER FOLLOW THROUGH At the Open, Weir felt "scattered" dealing with the attention that followed his Masters win.COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER CENTER STAGE The day after the Masters, Weir dropped the ceremonial first puck at a Leafs-Flyers playoff game.COLOR PHOTO: FRANK GUNN/AP [See caption above]TWO COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOHN BIEVER TEAMMATES Weir has known his caddie, Little, since they were kids, and he and his wife, Bricia, go back to their BYU days.

MIKE WEIR
73 | 67 | 68 | 71 | -1 | T3rd

"I'm trying to keep my life as normal as possible," Weir says. "I
don't seek fame and fortune. Who would want those thing?"
Bricia caddied for Mike for three years, including on their
honeymoon. "There's such a high degree of tension," she says.