The Masters - Weir hopes to find health and form at 'Cathedral of Pines'

While Augusta National is a magical place, the so-called 'Cathedral of Pines' does not possess the reputed healing power of Lourdes, although Mike Weir is proof that golfing miracles do happen among the idyllic dogwoods and azaleas.


The little lefty from Canada came out of nowhere to win the Masters in 2003 but has won little since and after three barren, injury-ravaged years returns to Augusta next week searching for divine intervention.

The first Canadian to don the green jacket as Masters champion and first left-hander to triumph at Augusta, Weir's victory was celebrated in his hockey-mad homeland as if he had scored the gold medal-winning goal at an Olympics.

He received the Order of Canada, which is Canada's highest civilian honour, had a park named after him and won the Lou Marsh Trophy in 2003 as Canada's athlete of the year.

He dropped ceremonial pucks at National Hockey League games and threw out the opening pitch for Major League Baseball's Toronto Blue Jays, all to thundering applause.

But in the 10 years since his stunning playoff victory over Len Mattiace in the Georgia twilight, the galleries have gotten smaller and the cheers have grown quiet, as they were at last month's Arnold Palmer Invitational, to a lone fan in a Canadian baseball cap offering Weir an energetic: "Go get-em Mikey".

While the cheers have faded the memories have not.

Not for Weir or a generation of Canadians who will be able to relive the drama next week through the documentary, "4 Days in April: The Mike Weir Story" celebrating the 10th anniversary of a victory that remains one of Canada's sporting touchstones.

"I guess it is a milestone, 10 years, I really didn't think much about it until the attention it has gotten lately," Weir told Reuters after another grinding round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. "It's nice to reflect back on that win, obviously it is a highlight of my golf career.

"I was back there a couple of weeks ago and the course looks wonderful, so I can't wait to get back there."

As a former Masters winner, Weir will be back at Augusta next week but a rib injury that forced him to drop out of the Arnold Palmer Invitational may prevent him from teeing it up for Thursday's opening round.

If the little battler from Brights Grove, Ontario, is unable compete it would be another crushing blow in a long comeback that has refused to pick up any momentum.

Following his Masters victory there were two more US PGA Tour wins, one in 2004 followed by the most recent of his eight titles in 2007.

Since then there has been mostly lean, challenging years fraught with injury, including surgery in 2011 to repair a tendon in his right elbow.

The Canadian lefty had made the cut in just five US PGA Tour events over the last three years, three of those coming this season where his best finish was a tie for 50th at Pebble Beach.

This season Weir is competing on a US PGA Tour's career money exemption and the goodwill of sponsors.

Weir only gained entry into the Arnold Palmer on an invitation from "The King" himself, who also has faith that the 42-year-old can return to the winner's circle.

"Mike has been unfortunate, he has had injuries, his arm and the operation but I had some faith in him and that's why I invited him here," Palmer told Reuters. "I think he is still very capable of pulling it all together and becoming a factor."

Despite the frustration and setbacks, Weir is no less confident than Palmer that a return to form is not far off.

Before his latest injury, Weir insisted that there were clear signs he had his game back on an upward arc and results would soon follow to confirm his claims.

"I'll get there," assured Weir in a matter-of-fact tone. "Struggling a little bit but I have been playing well. I'm feeling closer.

"It's not easy; it's part of the game. It's a tough game.

"For me I'm still enthusiastic about the game, I want to compete that makes the hard work easier.

"I still love the game."

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