All five Canadians eligible for the PGA Tour this year will tee it up at the SONY Open in Hawaii this week. All five are coming in at different points in their careers and with different levels of game. Over the next few days, I'll look at the group and their chances for 2013.
First up, the veterans:
The Calgarian will turn 49 at the end of April and clearly is looking ahead to 2014 when he'll turn 50 and join the Champions Tour. He helped a group in his hometown secure a stop on that circuit, ripe for him to get a home game for once in his career.
Ames, however, will tell you he is far from done on the regular tour and still wants to be competitive. But last year, he made just seven cuts in 20 starts and earned less than $200,000. Clearly the desire has waned somewhat even if he doesn't admit that. His coach, Sean Foley, has lamented the lack of work ethic from his first big client and the two have had a somewhat chilly off-season although they are still working together.
What's also evident is that the talent is still there. Ames possesses one of the sweetest swings on the PGA Tour and if he can keep his mind focused, can still play some exceptional golf. In qualifying for the British Open last year, he posted a 61.
For 2013, I believe Ames will improve considerably on his 2012 campaign. Look for a fast start too; Ames has cashed cheques in three of his first four starts in each of the last five years.
The struggles of Mike Weir are well documented. The last PGA Tour cut he made came in July of 2011. Since injuring his arm at Hilton Head in 2010, it's been a steady descent into the depths of despair for the Canadian sports icon.
Through it all he's remained positive and optimistic, working with former Canadian Tour player Grant Waite on finding a solution to his wayward driver. If he never finds an answer to his troubles it certainly won't be for a lack of effort. He has spent hour after hour beating balls.
An observer who witnessed Weir on the range just before Christmas said swings with his driver were markedly improved and the balls were flying straight and on target. Whether he can take that to the course will be revealed in Hawaii.
If he can keep the driver in play, he should improve considerably as the rest of his game has been solid. One player who teed it up with him last year during his troubles marvelled at his short game saying, "I'm not sure what he would have shot if he didn't have his wedge working. He was masterful."
Weir cashed in one of his two lifetime money list exemptions to play this year and intends on playing a heavy schedule. He will tee it up in the first four stops on the PGA Tour and has indicated he'd like to play the entire West Coast swing.
There will also be plenty of attention focused on the left-hander in April as he celebrates the 10th anniversary of his Masters win. While it will no doubt be nice for Weir to look back on that performance, he would probably enjoy it more if he could rekindle the game he had at that time, which took him to third in the Official World Golf Ranking.
I'm expecting Weir to improve markedly in 2013 and while he may not challenge for a Green Jacket, I'm sure making some cuts early in the year would go a long way to rebuilding his confidence.