The Tiger Effect

Weir delivered a 1-up win over Tiger Woods at the President Cup.
Marc Feldman/WireImage.com

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Mike Weir's victory at the Fry's Electronics Open on Sunday may have seemed preordained, what with his recent, confidence-boosting victory over Tiger Woods in the Presidents Cup.

But that was hardly the case. Most of the select group of players who have gotten the better of Woods eye-to-eye have quickly fallen off the map.

After Thomas Bjorn beat Tiger Woods down the stretch at the 2001 Dubai Desert Classic, the Dane said, "It doesn't get much better than this." He was right. It didn't. While it seemed that Dubai was the start of something big, Bjorn has won just three times since, and his disappointments include kicking away the 2003 British Open.

Costantino Rocca seemed hardly over the hill at 41 when he beat Woods, 4 and 2, at the 1997 Ryder Cup at Valderrama, but he was scarcely heard from again.

Nick O'Hern beat Woods at the WGC-Accenture Match Play in February, the second time he'd defeated Woods in that event, but O'Hern missed the cut in his next two starts and five of his next eight.

You'd think beating Woods head-to-head would be such a confidence boost that any player would go on a career hot streak, but it just hasn't been so.

Until, perhaps, now. Weir hit a series of great iron shots, took only 28 putts and got up-and-down from a downhill lie in the bunker on the 72nd hole for a one-stroke victory over Mark Hensby. Weir's two-under 68 tied Pat Perez for the low round Sunday at gusty Grayhawk Golf Club, where winds reached 36 miles per hour.

It wasn't long ago that all of this seemed like a pipe dream. Weir's game mostly disappeared after he won the 2003 Masters, although he did eke out another W at the 2004 Nissan Open. Weir notched only two top-10s in 2005, and he didn't make much news in '06, either.

Much of the trouble with his game dated back to the 2004 Bell Canadian Open, when a fan inadvertently injured his hero with a slap on the back. He reaggravated it at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational this summer and had to withdraw.

"I've always been a player who has needed to practice a lot to keep on top of my golf game," Weir said. "My neck and back were killing me, and I wasn't able to practice very much. I was starting to get into some bad habits with my golf swing."

His victory on Sunday, when rounds took almost six hours and the wind blew so hard that the walking standard-bearers were sidelined, came 87 starts after his Nissan triumph at Riviera.

Sure enough, Weir said his resurgence was due in part to his performance in the Presidents Cup last month, when he went 4-1 for a badly outplayed International team.

"It maybe got me over the hump as far as confidence," said Weir, who went over $20 million in career earnings on the PGA Tour with Sunday's win. "That when it really hits the fan, I can get it done. All those matches were pressure-packed."

None more so than the Sunday singles victory over Woods, when Weir carried the hopes of a nation on his shoulders and delivered a 1-up win.

What will become of Weir now? He's 37, the age when most golfers, non-Tiger division, are just hitting their prime. Beating Woods in Montreal seems to have propelled him to another level of belief in his game, the way it did for Lee Westwood. The Englishman pummeled Woods 64-70 in the final round to win the 2000 Deutsche Bank-SAP Open and went on to win four more times that season.

Perhaps Weir will go on a similar streak, but it will have to wait. He's playing twice in Asia and then calling it a season. There's skiing to do. No word on whether he can beat Woods at that, too.

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