SI Vault
Bill Madonna
March 18, 2002
Mike Weir's brazen backhanded recovery shot broke one of golf's cardinal rules, and it cost him the Honda Classic
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
March 18, 2002

Big Play

Mike Weir's brazen backhanded recovery shot broke one of golf's cardinal rules, and it cost him the Honda Classic

View CoverRead All Articles

The rule when playing recovery shots is simple: Don't be cute, just get the ball back into play. When lefty Mike Weir reached the 10th hole at the TPC at Heron Bay on Sunday, he was 16 under par and one stroke behind the leader, Joey Sindelar. Weir hooked his tee shot at the 408-yard par-4, and the ball came to rest hard against a cluster of thick rye grass in a grove of trees. He had two options: take an unplayable lie or punch out sideways by turning a club around and hitting right-handed. He chose neither. Yes, Weir addressed the ball from the right side with a turned-around short iron, but he made the mistake of taking a full swing (above) in an attempt to advance the ball toward the green. He nearly whiffed, and the ball squirted a few feet to the right into a worse position. Weir then did what he should have done in the first place: simply punch out. He hit his next shot on the green and two-putted for a double bogey. Weir never recovered, limping home with a 75—the second-worst score of the day—and finished 11th.

Everybody knows the value of a great short game, but Matt Kuchar won his first Tour title by taking the axiom to an extreme. On Sunday he hit only 11 greens in regulation—one fewer than Weir—but was magical around the greens. During a back nine 31, Kuchar made sand saves on three consecutive holes and needed only 11 putts. His closing 66 gave him a stout two-shot victory. As good as Kuchar's short game was, though, he had some help. Heron Bay's flat greens and shallow, lipless bunkers are among the easiest on Tour.

Perhaps Weir took a full swing on his first recovery attempt at number 10 because he's comfortable doing things from his opposite side. He writes right-handed and says he can shoot in the 80s as a righty. Nevertheless, he's a control player, and he should know how foolish it is to turn a club around and go for broke with a title on the line, especially given how well he was playing. (He had tied a three-round tournament scoring record with a 16-under 200.) Weir's flawed decision making makes me wonder if he will ever learn how to hold a lead down the stretch. He's now winless in the five events in which he has led after 54 holes.