It's been 11 years since Mike Weir raised his arms in celebration after tapping in a short putt to win the Masters. For sure, April 2003 was a magical time for the lefthander.
But it was April 2010 that may end up being just as significant. It was that month in that year that he conked a root with his swing and injured his elbow during play at the Heritage. That started the long spiral down from which he is still fighting to recover.
Since that fateful day in Hilton Head, Weir has played 73 tournaments and missed the cut 53 times with four withdrawals. He's had surgery and taken time away to recover from various ailments. He's switched coaches and he's tried different swings.
But through it all, one thing Weir has never done is lose hope. As good as his game has been over the years, as talented as he was with the putter and as precise as he was with the wedges, it's his dog-on-a-bone determination, his will and self-belief that have been his biggest assets.
And that only increases when it gets close to Masters time.
"I really think I can contend there," Weir said of the year's first major. "I still believe in myself, more than anything. When I step on the grounds there, I have confidence. I know how to play that golf course. I have a great strategy for that golf course that doesn't really change."
Weir is playing the PGA Tour on the second of two lifetime money list exemptions but he has a lifetime pass to Augusta, so no matter what happens down the road, he can keep coming back. But he doesn't want to be there in a ceremonial way; he wants to see his name on the leaderboard again and he believes that can happen even if he admits that might surprise a few people.
"I'm definitely under the radar," stated Weir, who hasn't been under par at Augusta since his opening round of 2010. "I hope to build on the next couple weeks. It's obviously a course I love. Good vibes and memories there — and I definitely know how to play that golf course."
During much of his period of struggle, it's been the driver that's been the weak link in his bag but lately the troubles have come at the other end.
"I've been really struggling on the greens, which is unlike me. My last start in Tampa, I made only two birdies, from four and five feet. I think I've just spent so much time on the golf swing — 80/20, probably — I just needed to put more attention on the short game, which I've done."
Even with renewed confidence in his big stick, Weir knows that to conquer Augusta National, he'll need to have all parts of his game going. As a medium to short hitter, tackling a 7,700-yard layout is going to put pressure on his wedges and putter. The course is so different than the one he played on in his first Masters in 2000 and the one he won on in 2003. It's longer, has a first cut (aka rough) and trees have been planted that remove some the possible angles that can be used to get at pins. But mostly, it's just so much longer.
"It takes a special kind of week to win there," he stated, "for someone outside the bombers. But it can still be done."
It would certainly be special to see Canada's most successful golfer in the hunt again at the Masters, or anywhere for that matter. If he doesn't, it certainly won't be from lack of effort. Weir has spent long hours on the range and the putting green, trying to find the magic once again. Perhaps it will finally come together for him at Augusta National.