Jeffrey Phelps, Associated Press File Photo
FARMINGTON — You'd think the last thing Mike Weir would want to do this week is play in the Utah Open golf tournament. And not because he isn't loyal to Utah where he has lived for the past two decades.
It's just that he is a former Masters champion, the 18th leading golf money-winner of all-time with almost $27 million in earnings and he'll be teeing it up this weekend with mostly local club professionals for a $20,000 first prize. It's almost a no-win situation.
If Weir ends up winning the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open at Oakridge Country Club, people will say, "Of course he should win it." If he doesn't, everyone will say, "Why the heck not?"
However, the 42-year-old former BYU golfer doesn't see it that way. He's coming back from an elbow injury that has either kept him totally out of action or not playing his best for the past two years, so he's happy to be competing in his home state.
"I look at it a different way," he said. "If I win, that breeds confidence and I can move forward, like a baseball player going back to the minor leagues to build confidence back up and then coming back out. The win isn't the determining thing whether I think it is a success or not."
Weir compares it to Tiger Woods playing in some minor PGA Tour events last fall after coming back from his layoff in an effort to build towards this year when he's played well enough to win three tournaments and lead the PGA Tour in money winnings.
"That's what I'm looking at," Weir said. "I'm at a stage right now where I haven't played well at all — I've played quite poorly — and I want some good rounds, whether that's putting me in contention or just stringing good shots together. I just want some positive results."
Weir has not had that for a long time. It's been a brutal couple of years for him since he injured his right elbow, hitting a tree root during a tournament in South Carolina in the spring of 2010.
He tried to play the rest of that year and made just three cuts in 10 events. Then last year, he made just two cuts in 13 events before shutting down for the year and getting surgery at the University of Utah.
Weir has lost his status on the PGA Tour, but has been able to play in a dozen tournaments. However, he is 0 for 12 with no rounds under 70 in the U.S. and has played in some European Tour events, where he is exempt as a former major winner. After playing in Utah, he'll play the following two weeks in Switzerland and the Netherlands. Despite his lack of success this year, he's happy about the direction he's going.
"I feel great with no residual side effects," he said. "The last two or three months I've been able to ramp up my practice schedule. I'm really encouraged about that and now it's just getting my game back in shape and getting rid of some of the bad habits I got into while I was injured."
On Wednesday, Weir played in the afternoon pro-am, touring Oakridge Country Club for the first time. In Friday's first round, he'll tee off at 8:50 a.m.
Unlike most professional golfers, Weir says he doesn't have to worry about paying the mortgage anymore, but he still wants to try to get back to a high level of golf.
"I'm excited to be back and healthy and go to work again," he said. "I'm still as hungry as ever. Until that goes away, I won't give up on it."
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