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Weir's wins earn DesNews award

Won 2 PGA titles and pocketed $1.9 million

He's twice been named Canadian Male Athlete of the Year. So it's unlikely Mike Weir will get too excited about his latest honor. Of course, there aren't many things that faze the unflappable, low-key Weir.

Weir has been selected as Deseret News Athlete of the Month for February, a month in which he won two tournaments on the PGA Tour and pocketed a cool $1.9 million. That's not including the $500,000 bonus he received for winning the West Coast Swing, which included tournaments over the first two months of the year.

Most golfers don't win two tournaments in a career, not to mention 2 million bucks as Weir did in a single month.

For those who don't know by now, Weir makes his home in Utah and has for several years. He may be one of Canada's most popular athletes, right up there with Wayne Gretzky, Steve Nash and Larry Walker, but Weir has chosen to reside in Utah. He and his wife, Bricia, both attended BYU more than a decade ago and enjoy living with their two daughters in Draper, where they have a chance to enjoy Utah's winter sports scene.

Weir often skis Utah's slopes, and earlier this month took some time off to go skiing in Jackson Hole, Wyo. As a Canadian, he enjoys watching hockey games and spent a lot of time at last year's Winter Olympics watching the Canadians win the gold medal.

He also likes the relative anonymity he enjoys in Utah where he looks like your average 5-9, 155-pound neighbor as he goes about his daily business when he's in town.

In Canada, it's a different story, where the 32-year-old left-hander is a national treasure as evidenced by the scores of Canadian reporters who follow him each week on the PGA Tour and record his every move.

"He has been on the front page of the national newspapers this winter, and he's regularly on the front of all the sports sections," Craig Sharp, managing director of marketing and communications for the Royal Canadian Golf Association told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "That's pretty extraordinary when you consider it's still hockey season."

Lorne Rubenstein, the national golf writer for The Globe and Mail in Toronto, said he's averaging a column a week about Weir.

"I've had people tell me they won't watch a golf tournament if he's not playing," Rubenstein said. "The appetite for Mike Weir is unbelievable."

Weir came to BYU, following in the footsteps of fellow Canadians Jim Nelford and Dick Zokol, and earned second-team all-American honors in 1992 as a senior. He played on the Canadian Tour before moving on to the PGA Tour in 1998.

He got his first win in 1999 at the Air Canada Championship, won the WGC-American Express Championship in Spain in 2000 and the season-ending Tour Championship in 2001.

However, after winning more than $2.5 million for two years running, Weir suddenly dropped out of sight in 2002, never even recording a Top 10 finish and finishing clear back in 78th place on the money list with less than $1 million.

Weir didn't panic, however. He returned to Utah, worked on his swing in his mirrored basement and went back to his trademark waggle — taking the club halfway back while looking at the club before firing the trigger.

He didn't start playing in 2003 until the Phoenix Open in late January, finishing 9th. The next week at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, he came from five shots back to win with a 30-under total. At the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Weir finished third and earned $290,000.

Then at the Nissan Open in Los Angeles, Weir again came from behind to defeat Charles Howell in a playoff, pocketing $810,000 as he did in the Bob Hope. It's the only tournament this year Tiger Woods has played in without winning.

So what's the difference with Weir's game?

Besides changing back to his old pre-shot routine and working with his sports psychologist in the off-season, Weir believes his improved driving is the key.

"I'm driving it really well, and that sets up everything else for me," Weir told the Globe and Mail. "The key to my play so far has definitely been that I'm driving it down the middle of the fairway."

Weir ranks sixth on the Tour in Total Driving and is 34th in accuracy and 38th in distance at 290.5 yards, quite impressive for someone of his diminutive stature.

This weekend Weir is in Florida playing at the Players Championship with most of the top players in the world. Next week he'll play in Atlanta before playing everyone's favorite tournament of the year — The Masters at Augusta, Ga.

After climbing to No. 2 on the PGA Tour money list (he was No. 1 for three weeks before Woods got warmed up) and No. 8 in the World Rankings, Weir is ready to take the next step — win one of golf's "majors."

"I'm approaching it like the more times I'm in contention, well, that's my whole goal this year, to put myself in contention more," he said. "So far, it's been great."


E-MAIL: sor@desnews.com