Weir Remains the Reign Man

Times Staff Writer

Mike Weir needed a bank shot -- off the grass, not glass -- to win a golf tournament and make unnecessary the straitjacket he might have needed had he not recovered from blowing a seven-shot lead in the final round of the Nissan Open.

Seven shots, and it all went poof, just as the rain started to pound down and a certain black cloud seemed to hover over Weir’s head.

Five times in his career Weir began the final round of a tournament with a lead and lost it.


Weir was determined there wouldn’t be a sixth time, but boy, did he cut it Kikuyu close.

His down-and-up for par, from a hillside lie on the 18th hole Sunday, allowed Weir to escape Riviera Country Club with a one-shot victory over Shigeki Maruyama, who overcame a seven-shot deficit to nearly pull off an improbable comeback.

Weir shot even-par 71 to finish 17-under 267 for the tournament, and Maruyama fell just short at 268, shooting four-under 67 on the final day to provide a flood-warning finish.

Stuart Appleby shot five-under 66 to finish third at 14-under 270, and John Daly continued his superb play, finishing fourth at 13-under 271.

Weir started the day with a five-shot lead over Maruyama, stretched it to seven after three holes, yet found himself in a dead heat as the two players approached the final hole.

Maruyama pushed his tee shot into the right rough on No. 18, though, and ended up making a bogey, which allowed Weir to win with a par.

Weir saved tournament face after whacking his second shot on No. 18 into the amphitheater setting that surrounds the historic finishing hole.


Maruyama hacked his second shot out of the rough, but chipped his third 12 feet past the pin.

Weir dug in on the hill and went over his game plan.

He had green to work with and said he aimed for “a dark spot of grass” about four feet beyond the fringe.

Weir used his lob wedge to delicately drip his ball off the embankment to within 16 inches of the cup.

“It was a difficult chip,” he said, “but I was determined to chip that in.”

Maruyama pretty much needed par to force a playoff, but he pushed his putt right of the cup and then watched Weir clean up his short putt for the championship.

Weir, who came from seven shots behind on the final day to win last year’s Nissan, became the sixth player to win this tournament in consecutive years and the first since Corey Pavin in 1994 and ’95.

Weir said he wanted to take his big lead into Sunday and test himself -- never imagining it was going to be advanced calculus.


“It was important I was able to dig deep when Shigeki was making a charge,” Weir said. “It’s probably better for me down the road to win this way.”

Of course, Weir would have preferred a 10-shot lead and a limousine waiting.

Maruyama was left to wonder why the golf gods turned on him.

After he tied things up with Weir at 17 under with a birdie on the par-three 16th hole, the sky opened.

Both men made par between raindrops at No. 17, but Maruyama said the downpour made him nervous as he stood in the 18th tee box and pondered one of golf’s most intimidating closing shots -- a blind, uphill drive with a dogleg to the right.

Thinking he needed a monster drive to fight through the precipitation, Maruyama overcooked his shot and ended up in the rough.

“That was my biggest mistake of the whole week,” he said through an interpreter.

Maruyama then cracked, “I’m still not good at playing in the rain. I will start practicing in the shower.”

Weir’s second shot on 18 will take its place alongside others in Riviera lore.

It doesn’t rival Dave Stockton’s three-wood from the fairway rough in 1974, or Steve Elkington’s 25-foot putt to win the 1985 PGA Championship in a playoff, but, in the least, Weir’s shot and one-stroke win saved him from plenty of hindsight explanation.


“I shot even, on this course, in these conditions, and still almost got beat,” Weir said.

Weir was up five shots and on cruise control when the match turned on No. 10, the intriguing, 315-yard par four. Weir stroked a beautiful drive but plunked his second shot into the right bunker, leading to bogey.

Maruyama rolled in a birdie putt, a five-shot lead had been reduced to three, and the match was on.

Weir lost another shot on the par-four 13th when he raced his third shot off the fringe eight feet past the hole and made another bogey.

Maruyama kept the pressure on at the par-four 15th, when he hit a three-iron to within 1 1/2 feet of the pin.

Maruyama’s face lighted up when he approached the green and saw just how close he had come to an eagle.

Maruyama made birdie, Weir walked off with par and, gulp, the Canadian’s lead was one shot with three to play.


The rain intensified as the players stood on the tee at No. 16, a 166-yard par three.

Maruyama, playing like a man with nothing to lose, let loose a six-iron and stuck the ball eight feet from the cup.

Weir knocked his shot to within 15 feet, but missed his par putt.

With the rain dropping harder, Maruyama made a short but tricky downhill putt to catch Weir at 17 under par.

Weir claimed he wasn’t nervous at that point.

“You’ve got to love it,” Weir said he told his caddie after the 16th.

“You’ve got to love it.”

“It wasn’t what I expected at the beginning of the day,” Weir later joked, “but that’s the reality now. I was actually enjoying it.”

No telling what Weir might have thought had he blown his seven-shot lead and the tournament.

In the end, for Weir, Riviera was money in the bank.



Top Finishers


Final 72-Hole Scores

267 (-17)

Mike Weir...66-64-66-71

268 (-16)

Shigeki Maruyama...64-66-71-67

270 (-14)

Stuart Appleby...70-64-70-66

271 (-13)

John Daly...68-64-72-67

272 (-12)

Hank Kuehne...65-72-68-67

273 (-11)

Kirk Triplett...66-67-72-68

274 (-10)

Jay Williamson...69-69-72-64

Tiger Woods...72-66-72-64

J.J. Henry...71-69-65-69



Tiger Woods’ record as a professional in the Nissan Open when it has been played at Riviera Country Club. It’s the only PGA Tour course that Woods has played five or more times without winning:

*--* Year Scores Under par Finish Shots back 1997 70-70-72-69--281 -3 T20 9 1999 69-68-65-70--272 -12 T2 2 2000 68-70-69-72--279 -5 T18 7 2001 71-68-69-71--279 -5 T13 3 2003 72-68-73-65--278 -6 T5 3 2004 72-66-72-64--274 -10 T7 7