A U.S. Open Q&A With Mike Weir
Mike Weir, the first Canadian to win a men’s major championship (the 2003 Masters), is a consistent presence on the leader board at Pebble Beach Golf Links, with five top-five finishes in the AT&T National Pebble Beach Pro-Am in the past eight years. The 39-year-old from Brampton, Ontario, also tied for 16th in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in 2000, his third full year on the PGA Tour. He recently discussed this year’s Open with the USGA.
With the fairways moved over on some holes and other subtle changes to the layout, how different will Pebble play for the U.S. Open this year than it did in 2000?
Weir: I think it will play a lot different. They’ve lengthened the course in the last few years, obviously. It plays so different in the
Mike Weir has had good success at Pebble Beach, site of this year's U.S. Open. (John Mummert/USGA)
summertime. Those greens are already small, but when they’re firm they [essentially] become even smaller, because the first bounce is so big. Right now, in February, the ball just stops. So the greens kind of shrink up a little bit in June. And if you grow that rough, too, it plays a lot different.
As you know, the USGA has changed its setup approach the past few years, introducing graduated rough and using alternate teeing grounds on selected holes. How will that factor into the equation at Pebble, compared to 2000?
Weir: I think they’ve done just an incredible job setting up the golf courses in the last few U.S. Opens. It’s been playable but still the scores don’t get low – because they’ve done the right thing. If you hit a real wayward shot, that’s the deepest rough – where in years past, the grass was maybe trampled down and less (punitive). That graduated rough is really good.
Is it kind of scary to think if you hit a wayward shot to the right on No. 6, your ball might end up in the ocean?
Weir: Yeah, the fairway pulls you over to the water there. It also pulls you over on 8 and 18. It’s going to be a different test.
What specific holes do you find especially challenging?
Weir: They’re all just so fun. Every hole has its own little challenge; that’s why I think it’s such a great course. You use every club in the bag – you hit a lot of long irons, but you also can have some short irons into 7 (par 3) and some other holes. [There are holes] that can play to any club with the wind. There are just so many intriguing holes. The finish of the course is great, with 17 and 18.
What about Tiger Woods’ performance in 2000 blows you away?
Weir: Obviously he hit the ball fantastic, but I just remember every putt he looked at was going in. That’s what I remember about the tournament. Every time you saw the highlights, there were [Tiger’s] putts going in from 30 to 40 feet. All his 10-footers [went in]. Everything was going in the hole that week.
People talk about him at 12 under, but that was the only subpar score for 72 holes. That really shows how Pebble stood up, doesn’t it?
Weir: Exactly. It still poses a challenge. If you get a breeze up there, it plays tough.