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Three Canadians hoping to follow Weir at the Masters

Mike Weir gets his green jacket from Tiger Woods Mike Weir gets his green jacket from Tiger Woods - The Canadian Press

Almost every Canadian can tell you where they were back in 2003 when Mike Weir tapped in to win the Masters.

That includes Corey Conners, Adam Hadwin and Nick Taylor. Weir’s win was a major reason why all three embarked on careers in professional golf. It gave them proof that a Canadian male golfer could have success at the highest levels.

Now all three want to follow in his footsteps and become the second Canadian with a green jacket. An argument can be made that this may be the best opportunity for that to happen since Weir’s playoff victory over Len Mattiace 21 years ago.

Canadian men’s golf has never been deeper in talent. Six players are ranked inside the top 100 in the Official World Golf Ranking, with the three who will play the Masters among the top 50.

On Tuesday, Conners, Hadwin and Taylor will join Weir for a practice round at Augusta National, where the elder statesman will once again share his knowledge of the course he has played every year since 2000.

“I don’t really have to tell them anything,” stated Weir. “They have a pretty good read on things and they’re ready to win. I’ve told them that. They just have to go out and do it.”

That’s easier said than done, of course, with one of the deepest fields of the year gathered at the Alister MacKenzie-designed course. But there is a sense that all three are more than capable and are no longer in doubt of their talents.

Taylor has showed he can elevate his game when the tension thickens. His eagle putt to win the RBC Canadian Open was one example of living in the big moments. So, too, was his victory at the WM Phoenix Open, where he birdied three of his last four holes to force a playoff with Charley Hoffman. He then made two more birdies on the playoff hole to secure his fourth victory of the year.

What Taylor has shown is that the bigger the moment is, the more he enjoys it. It’s something he’s been able to handle since he started playing the game.

“You work on mindset, you work on breathing at times, but I think dating back to even junior golf when I've been in those positions, I want to be there,” he stated. “I kind of feel more locked in, whatever it is. I've been able to pull off shots in those scenarios and I think maybe I've been doing it long enough where I have confidence that I can pull it off and I don't have the side-tracking thoughts or negative thoughts in there.”

What Taylor may lack is experience around Augusta National. This is just his second Masters appearance after a tie for 29th in 2020. Since then, he’s played five more majors and missed the cut in all five.

Hadwin has played in three Masters, the most recent being in 2020. He missed the cut in that start and also has a tie for 36 and a tie for 24th on his record.

This year has been one of feast or famine. He’s finished inside the top six on three occasions, including his most recent start at the Valspar Championship where he ended tied for fifth.

The week prior to that, however, he shot 75 and 73 to miss the cut at the Players Championship.

His return to the Masters brings with it a sense of satisfaction and a chance to play at a special place.

“It is a small field,” noted Hadwin. “You feel like you've done something special to get there. It’s top 50 (in the world ranking) or you must win. That's really the only way to get there now. So, there's a sense of accomplishment when you get there and just the whole ambiance around the place.”

While Hadwin is still amazed by the Masters, he has enough experience now that when it comes time to play golf, he can dial in on his game.

“I think it's a golf course that fits my game, the way that I play golf,” said Hadwin, “and I'm looking forward to seeing it obviously. There are some changes that I haven't seen yet. Mainly five and 13, I believe.”

Those two holes have received some additional length since his last visit. The fifth has added 40 yards, while 13 now plays 35 yards longer.

Of the trio, Conners has played the most Masters, with this being his sixth. Last year he missed the cut, in no small part to playing in some of the worst of the miserable weather that plagued the tournament. But prior to that, he’d recorded three consecutive top-10 finishes and came to Sunday with a legitimate chance at winning.

In 2021, he also distinguished himself by making a hole-in-one on the sixth hole, just the sixth golfer to accomplish that feat.

Conners would seem to have the perfect game to take on Augusta National. His strength is accuracy off the tee and into the greens, and that is precisely what’s needed to play well.

“I feel like I've built a good strategy and plan how to attack the golf course over the last few years,” he stated, “and I'll be focusing on most of the same stuff I have the last few years.”

Of course, a little bit of added wisdom from Weir never hurts, either. The practice round the four will play is mostly about fun these days but there is still much to be learned.

“Always fun being out here with him,” Conners said. “You can watch him hit shots around the greens. Pretty impressive. I've gotten to know him a lot better the last number of years, and it's great to spend time with him.”

With Weir being the captain of the International Team for this September’s Presidents Cup, the round can also serve as a bit of an audition for the three who are hell-bent on making the squad.

They all possess enough talent and experience to get the job done and this year, perhaps one will become the second Canadian to slip on a green jacket.