Weir losing full-time PGA Tour status is red herring

Former Masters champion Mike Weir of Bright's Grove, Ont., suddenly finds himself without a full-time PGA Tour card, but Peter Robinson writes that the southpaw's lack of status is a red herring.

Mike Weir is now officially without a full-time PGA Tour card for the first time since briefly losing his status between the 1998 and 1999 seasons.

The Canadian lefty, who will turn 41 on May 12, crashed out of the Honda Classic on Friday, shooting 22-over par (77-85) and finishing bottom of the field of those golfers that didn't pull out.

The dismal performance capped a five-tournament medical extension where Weir failed to make enough money to earn full-time status for the rest of 2011. But the lack of status is a red herring because Weir has a series of exemptions that should allow him to play a full schedule.

Picking where and when he will play is the least of Weir's worries. His next start could only worsen the situation if he continues to score so poorly. In a game where confidence is everything, you have to wonder where Weir's head is at right now.

Dating back to last year, the 2003 Masters champion has not played anywhere near the level that Canadians have become used to seeing during the previous decade. During the past 15 months that have been sandwiched around an injury layoff, Weir has just a single Top 10 finish — a sixth that came in his first tournament of 2010.

It's a troubling development for Canadian golf because no one person or thing creates more buzz than Weir. That frenzy started before his Masters win, extending all the way back to when he took his maiden PGA Tour crown at the old Air Canada Championship outside Vancouver in 1999.

And while both Canadian crowds and the wider golf community have placed more modest expectations on Weir in recent years, his rapid descent is shocking by any definition.

It was just the fall of 2009 when Weir was a sure-fire Top 30 FedEx Cup player and a permanent fixture inside the Top 50 of the official world golf rankings.

In fact, he was often higher on both those critical ledgers, finishing sixth in the FedEx Cup race in 2008. Before that, his Masters win and seven other PGA Tour wins plus a series of high showings, often in big tournaments, put him firmly in the conversation of both the die-hard and casual golf fan.

Weir peaked at world's No. 3 in 2003 and was generally considered a Top 30 player even during his occasional slumps before now.

He currently ranks 226th and will likely drop further in the next re-shuffle.

Rankings aside, the general conversation about Weir now takes a more foreboding tone as it's a very fair question as to whether Weir will ever regain any semblance of top form again.

There is certainly much precedent for players who were at the top of the heap and lost it — even more than Weir has right now — and came back to regain their footing among the world's best.

Similar struggle to Stricker's

Steve Stricker might be the best example. His case is particularly interesting because as recently as 2006, the Wisconsin native was on the cusp of fading away. For two seasons, he was without full-time playing privileges. But Stricker found his game and has won six times since 2007 — all those wins coming after his 40th birthday, the same age Weir is now. Stricker also scaled as high as No. 2 in the world rankings (he is currently ninth).

But citing Stricker as an example in Weir's case is premature in the extreme right now.

Weir needs to find more consistency in his swing, which presumably will lead to better scoring — he's fired just one round in the 60s in 2011 — before he can even think about ascending any statistical charts or up the world rankings.

For now, Weir can cobble together his place in next month's Masters — as a former winner, he is exempt — and with a five-tournament pass he has for being on the 2009 Presidents Cup team and his Top 150 placement on the 2010 PGA Tour money list to fill out his schedule for the rest of the year.

Having won a shade less than $11,000 US in his single payday this year, Weir will need to earn roughly $600,000 US more in the above patchwork schedule to gain conditional status for next season. A target of $800,000 US would likely gain him full-time status for 2012.

If he misses those targets, Weir has a two-year pass based on career money that he can exercise only once during his career — provided he stays within the Top 25 in career money, otherwise it becomes a one-year exemption. If he fails to earn any status for 2012, playing that card could be Weir's only option.

It's a predicament unimaginable as recently as a year ago.