Matt Slocum, Associated Press
Mike Weir chips out of the rough during this year's U.S. Open championship, where he wound up tied for 18th place.

SOUTHPORT, England — Mike Weir played well at the U.S. Open last month (a tie for 18th) and is coming off his career best finish at the British Open, a tie for eighth last year at Carnoustie.

So with Tiger Woods not playing in this week's British Open, could this be the year for another breakthrough for the Utah resident who won the 2003 Masters?

He'll get a good idea when he tees off today at the Royal Birkdale course, which another Utah resident, Johnny Miller, calls "probably the greatest course in the British Isles" aside from the fact that it doesn't have the tradition of other courses such as St. Andrews.

Weir will probably be finished with his round before most Utahns get out of bed, as his tee time is at 2:31 a.m. MDT. He is playing with Colin Montgomerie and Boo Weekley in a group just behind Phil Mickelson, so he'll have plenty of fans around with Monty in his group and Lefty just ahead. Another crowd favorite, former champion John Daly, is in the group just behind Weir.

It should be an interesting pairing for Weir with Montgomerie, the staid Scotsman and Weekley, the small-town guy who likes to play up his "hick"-ness.

When the pairings were first announced, Montgomerie told the Daily Telegraph, "I'm different and Boo's different and Mike's going to feel different because he's normal."

That gave Weir a laugh when told about Monty's comment.

"That's pretty good," he said. "I've actually played quite a bit with him in the Open (including two rounds at Troon in 2004). I like playing with Monty."

Weir said he also played with Montgomerie in a Skins Game last month and said he's actually more outgoing than he shows in front of the British fans.

"He probably feels the pressure from the fans a little more," he said.

Miller hasn't played in an Open for nearly two decades, but is one of a choice group of eight winners at Birkdale that includes Arnold Palmer (1961), Lee Trevino (1971) and Tom Watson (1983). He believes Royal Birkdale is one of the greatest courses in the world.

"I think with the sand dunes and the way it's laid out it is definitely in the three best (in Great Britain)," Miller said. "You'd have to put Birkdale in the second position and it might end up being the best course with the changes and recent toughening. It doesn't have the history of Troon or St. Andrews, but when people talk about great courses in the British Open rotation, they always mention Birkdale."

"It's a tough course, a lot like Carnoustie, and apparently they've toughened it up even more," Miller continued. "It was already tough enough if you ask me, but they've made it real tough, and it could be a real high score this year winning it."

Weir will tee off in the afternoon (British time) for Friday's second round. The weather forecast is for cool and drizzly weather the first two days of the tournament.

Dean Wilson, a BYU teammate of Weir's and a PGA Tour regular, is not playing in this year's Open.


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