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Last Updated:  Monday, 14 April, 2003, 02:23 GMT 03:23 UK
Weir makes his mark
By Sanjeev Shetty

Canadian golfer Mike Weir
The kind of player you want to kick on and win the sport's biggest titles
The world had been expecting a left-handed player to win the Masters at some point, but the man putting on the green jacket was supposed to be Phil Mickelson, not Mike Weir.

Canadian Weir finally came to the fore at a Major tournament with a victory which required as much mental strength as talent with a club.

At the same time, Mickelson had to content himself with a third consecutive third place at Augusta and the knowledge that yet another Tour pro had left the tortured group of good players 'not to have won a Major' before him.

Weir's first Major title win will be remembered for many things, not least his ability to sink putts from four or five feet, the putts which give golfers the worst kind of nightmare.

His form coming into the first Major of the year suggested he had a better than average chance of figuring in the dramatic final day - he won the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and the Nissan Open at the start of 2003.

The Nissan triumph was significant because he needed a play-off with Charles Howell III to take the title.

But those victories came after a barren 2002 when he failed to finish in the top 10 of any tournament on the PGA Tour and made little impression in any of the four Major tournaments.

WEIR FACTFILE
DOB: 12/05/1972
Turned pro: 1992
PGA Tour titles:
1999 Air Canada Championship, 2000 WGC-American Express Championship, 2001 The Tour Championship, 2003 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, Nissan Open.
Interests: Ice hockey

Yet the steady nature of his game - Weir is in the top 40 on Tour for stats such as driving accuracy, putting and sand saves - means that he will usually be in contention when conditions get rough.

This year's Masters was one of those occasions when the pre-tournament weather made the Augusta National course a different beast and even the great Tiger Woods struggled.

But Weir did not - his total of seven under included three sub-par rounds and his third-round 75 was a creditable performance given the speed of the greens and moisture on the fairways.

The 32-year-old, a dedicated family man with two young children, exuded confidence during the tournament, more than one would expect from someone who, at age 13, asked Jack Nicklaus if he should start playing right-handed.

HAVE YOUR SAY

The Golden Bear advised the teenager to stick with his natural swing and the young Weir heeded the advice before turning professional in 1992.

He took seven years to register his first victory at the 1999 Air Canada Championship but European golf fans will remember his third career win at Valderrama in the 2001 Tour Championship, when he beat a world-class field.

Despite that win, Weir had never been in contention for a Major title until this year's Masters - his previous best was a tie for 10th at the 1999 USPGA championship.

When it came to promising left-handers likely to win a Major, Mickelson was the main man.

That was until Weir this year.

After his achievement at Augusta, Weir is certain to be again voted Canada's athlete of the year, having already won that accolade in 2000.

For becoming the first Canadian to win a Major, and to have done it on US soil, he can be assured of hero status in his home country for the rest of his life.





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