Weir has up-and-down day at Utah Open

Aug 24 2012 - 7:46pm

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FARMINGTON -- What Mike Weir asked for, Mike Weir got.

Well, sort of.

The former Masters champion, who is working to regain his title form after undergoing elbow surgery, asked organizers if he could play in 2012 Utah Open at Oakridge Country Club.

They happily agreed.

He asked if they'd mind pairing him with friend and former BYU teammate, Ryan Rhees, in the first two rounds.

No problem, they said.

The eight-time PGA Tour winner and 2003 Masters champ really didn't ask for anything else. But all things considered, he would've liked a slightly more consistent round than the one he posted Friday morning.

The 42-year-old Canadian, who now lives in Draper, carded a 2-under par 70 to open the tournament. Despite a bumpy ride on the front nine -- four birdies, three bogeys -- he settled down nicely and played the back nine without a single hiccup.

Going into today's round, Weir sits in the middle of the pack. Whether or not he's ready to put up a low number remains to be seen. If he is to make a move, he'll need to get by some young guns, including last year's runner-up, Zenon Brown, of Arvada, Colo., and Derek Tolan, of Denver.

The two Coloradoans shot eight-under 64s to lead the tournament.

Brothers Tony and Gipper Finau, of Lehi, shot a pair of 65s and Ogden's Zac Blair finished with a five-under 67 along with former Weber State star Mike Malaska.

On a day when Oakridge was set up for scoring, Weir drew onlookers and grabbed headlines.

"He's a professional golfer, he can compete in any event he wants," said Tony Finau. "I think it's just a great opportunity for all of us to compete against a guy like that and kind of measure ourselves (against him)."

Weir lost his full-time status on the PGA Tour, but he is on his way back from a 2010 elbow injury which required surgery a year ago. He was up front before the tournament began, saying he wanted to play in order to get a few competitive rounds under his belt before a trip to Europe next week. He also indicated there were parts of his game he wanted to fine tune and felt the Utah Open would provide that opportunity.

After recording a birdie on the par-5 first, he bogeyed the next two holes.

"I'm just not very sharp, that's the biggest thing," he said. "I need to sharpen up a lot of little things in my game, especially off the tee. It wasn't very good today, but that's why I'm playing. I need to keep playing to get some feel back again."

After holes 2 and 3, Weir played the rest of the way at 3-under. Still, he said he wasn't satisfied with his effort.

"I would say, on the whole today, (I am) probably a little discouraged," he said. "I've been striking the ball better than that. But the back nine was a little sharper (but) still not quite the strike on it that I wanted."

Weir said his main objective is to regain some of his feel for the game and to sharpen his skills. But his playing partner and former teammate said he still thrives on competition.

Rhees, the head pro at Spanish Oaks in Spanish Fork, spent four seasons with Weir at BYU.

"Ever since I've known him he's been a focus, detailed person," he said. "Even if we go out and play just for fun he treats it the same way. I'm sure he treated this just like any other tournament round on the Tour. He wants to get better."

Rhees, who was born in Ogden and raised in Utah County, has made playing the Utah Open part of his regular summertime routine. He was already set to play this year when Weir signed on and asked organizers if he could be paired with his longtime friend.

"It was fun," Rhees said.

* TOURNAMENT NOTES: Defending champion Clay Ogden is among the big group of golfers at 2-under. Boyd Summerhays leads the group at 1-under. The top 60 and ties after today's round advance to Sunday's finale. The current cut line is even par.

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