The 80 Mike Weir Lived To Tell About
By Lorne Rubenstein
When the news came through that Mike Weir was tied for the lead with Tiger Woods after three rounds of the 1999 PGA Championship, I was en route to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. My
wife, Nell, said, “I think you’d better get a flight
tomorrow to Chicago.”
We continued on to see a play, but didn’t stay
over, as was our plan. We’d intended to see another
play on Sunday. But Shakespeare would have to
wait. I booked a flight and got myself to Chicago
and the Medinah Country Club. As I walked into
the media centre, colleagues hooted at me. “Now
you come down,” somebody said. “Wasn’t the PGA
important enough for you to get here earlier?”
I took the good-natured ribbing in stride, parked
my gear and headed out to the range. Woods was,
well, Woods. Weir, was, well, Weir. He’d finished
second at the Western Open in Chicago a couple
of weeks before the PGA, so he wasn’t a complete
unknown to my fellow journalists south of the
border. Weir had played with Woods in the final
round. He started the round four behind Woods
and in second place, and scored a shot better on
Sunday. Still, Woods won the tournament, and he
had won the 1997 Masters by 12 shots and won
multiple events on the PGA Tour. Weir, then 29,
hadn’t won on the PGA Tour.
The crowds were huge and boisterous and nobody believed Weir had a chance against Woods.
He drove into a divot in the fairway but did hit the
green and parred the opening hole. He also hit the
second green, but missed a four-foot putt for par.
It wasn’t a good start for the Canadian, who was
playing only his third major.
Things went downhill from there. Crowds moved
as soon as Woods finished a hole and didn’t care if
Weir still had a putt. Woods tried to keep the crowds
still, but he couldn’t do it by himself. Crowd control
was poor. Weir soon became an afterthought for
the spectators, who got increasingly rowdy as he
fell further and further behind.
The situation worsened through the back nine,
by which time Weir had fallen far behind Woods.
Some spectators were mocking Weir, and at one
point a fellow who had had too much to drink said,
laughing, “Come on, Weir, you can do it.” Weir shot
80 while Woods shot 72 to win the PGA by a shot
over Sergio Garcia.
Most everybody wrote Weir off, but those who
knew him felt he would learn from his experience.
“Eighty is the best score I could have shot, because
I tried on every shot,” Weir said behind the 18th
green. “I can be satisfied with myself. I gave it my
all and I never gave up. I’ll be back again.”
Two weeks later, Weir shot 64-64 on the week-
end to win the Air Canada Championship in Van-
couver. He had learned from that final round with
Woods. It made him stronger. He was back again.
Four years later he won The Masters. It’s possible
that he wouldn’t have won the green jacket if he
hadn’t had that Sunday experience at Medinah.
Losing to Woods in the 1999 PGA helped make Weir a first-time winner two weeks later.
“Eighty is the best score I could have shot, because I tried on every shot. ”
— Mike Weir, after his final-round collapse at Medinah