Mike Weir kicked up a little controversy last week, and it wasn’t very pretty.
As Canada’s most successful Tour player ever (Mike’s Masters victory in 2003 gives him a very slight edge over George Knudson, in my book), Mike receives a lot of deserved special favours from Canadian golf interests. One of those “interests” is RBC, which sponsors both the Canadian Open, and the Heritage Classic, held last week in Hilton Head.
RBC routinely gives Mike a “sponsor’s exemption” to play in its events, as he might not otherwise qualify, even with his “major medical exemption” status. RBC long ago invited Mike to be part of its roster of personally-sponsored players, which includes many of the very best players in the game, like Jason Day, Graham DeLaet, Ernie Els, Jim Furyk and Brooke Henderson.
But Mike’s not on the team for the quality of his game, I’m afraid. In fact, according to a Golf Channel report, “He… remains mired in a lengthy slump. Weir has either withdrawn or missed the cut in each of his last 24 worldwide starts, and he hasn’t played the weekend since a T-21 finish at the no-cut CIMB Classic in October 2014.” Ouch.
So Mike showed up at Harbour Town last week, happily sporting his Team RBC logo on his sleeve and, presumably happy to be there. He proceeded to shoot 78 in Thursday’s first round, making it almost inevitable that he wouldn’t survive the cut on Friday night, unless he shot 65 or better. Highly unlikely for a guy who can’t seem to break par any more.
So, he withdrew from the tournament… and I assume, packed his bags and flew home that evening. Sayonara, and, oh yeah, thanks for the exemption, eh?
Most people might wonder, yeah, so, what’s the problem with that? Mike’s a good guy and does wonderful philanthropic work with kids.
Yes, but. Dawie van der Walt will tell you what he thinks… (read this from the Golf Channel)…
“Van der Walt is a 33-year-old Tour rookie who earned his card last season via the Web.com Tour Finals. The South African has made seven cuts in 13 starts this season, highlighted by a T-17 finish at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. Van der Walt was second alternate for [the Heritage Classic], but he ultimately didn’t gain entry into the 132-man field. After learning of Weir’s withdrawal, van der Walt sent a tweet to his 936 followers that he deleted hours later:
‘”Gota (sic) love a guy who gets an invite into a Tour event and then WD after the first round,” van der Walt wrote, closing his tweet with the hashtag, ‘#hangitupmike.’”
Weir, 45, did not disclose any injury upon withdrawing.”
The problem is, Mike took a spot in the tournament field that somebody else could have used… someone who was more qualified, based on the quality of his play AND on following the normal “system” of tour eligibility, as Dawie is, and does.
On the face of it, this does seem like very cavalier action on Weir’s part, some might say selfish and unthinking. I say “on the face of it,” because I don’t know any more details than the Golf Channel imparted.
But even just on the face of it, I question what Mike Weir is doing in the first place, showing up at PGA Tour events; and the crux of the matter is this: Mike, your game is not up to par, pardon the pun. When you know and I know and the gallery knows there’s almost zero chance of your contending – much less making the cut – you really have no business being out there, and… most importantly… taking a spot away from a guy who CAN play, and is trying to make a living out of it (just as you were, 20 years ago).
I’m all for giving Mike Weir his due respect and our admiration. I think it’s great that he’s on the RBC Team. I think it’d be great if RBC signed Mike to a full-time contract as its official Ambassador of Golf and flew him to every tournament to play in the Pro-Am and shake hands with everyone in the gallery. And yes, let him play for his fans at the Canadian Open. Mike is a great guy, a great representative, and a great Canadian.
For well over five years, he’s been trying to come back, working on his game, telling everyone he’s feeling good and he’s ready. But then – nothing. It’s been admirable to keep trying and keep believing, but for his thousands of fans, it’s been increasingly more difficult to watch.
And in my view, it’s time to face facts. Mike can’t play Tour-quality golf anymore. And more importantly, he’s blocking others from furthering their chances, and their careers, by taking up tournament spots that are given to him.
If he wants to keep working at it, fine. But let him get into tournaments the way Dawie van der Walt and dozens of others do… by earning his way in.
Note to Readers: Since I first wrote this column, a friend sent me updates on Weir and van der Walt that clarified their positions.
Weir tweeted that he felt badly about withdrawing, but did so because of a severe flu. Weir also tweeted to Van der Walt, who had deleted his tweet and apologized for it, that everybody makes mistakes (referring to Van der Walt’s original tweet). Weir wished him well.
I’m sorry about Mike’s flu, and relieved to know there was a legitimate reason for his withdrawal. However, my understanding is that Weir did not inform tournament officials of any reason for withdrawing. And none of this overcomes the fact that Mike is taking up playing spots that others, arguably, are more entitled to on the basis of his and their quality of play, and on their need to compete to further their careers.