Although the off-season for tour golfers is short, its brief period still provides a player the opportunity to reflect on what he did or did not accomplish in his previous campaign. It also provides respite enough for the player to eventually look forward to the new season. A tour golfer is no different than the rest of us; he or she needs a break to get the vital golfing juices flowing again. And flow they will, or else what's the point of engaging again with the game's multiple promises and perils?
For the five Canadians on the PGA Tour, the season starts Thursday at the Sony Open in Honolulu. Graham DeLaet of Weyburn, Sask., and David Hearn of Brantford, Ont., the top Canadians last year, could win anytime, including this week. They're good friends and they're eager to take the next step in their promising careers. Hearn leads off the season when he takes the first time Thursday morning in Honolulu, at 7:10 AM local time.
Mike Weir of Brights Grove, Ont. has won eight PGA Tour events, including the 2003 Masters, but hasn't won since 2007 and has been suffering mightily as he tries, above all, to find the fairway with his driver. Weir has been working closely with Grant Waite, a former PGA Tour player with one win to his credit. Waite has long been a student of the swing and he has been spending a lot of time with Weir.
At this stage, of course, it's possible that the damage to Weir is more to his psyche than to his swing. As I've written, "errors in the mind find expression in the swing." Self-confidence leaches and bleeds out of any golfer struggling with his game, until the war is with the feelings and thoughts coursing through oneself. Still, Weir is only 42 and he is nothing if not a fighter and hard worker. Will he be able to take his game from the practice range and practice rounds to a tournament? His play at the Sony Open will begin to offer some answers.
As for Ames, the 48-year-old Calgary resident, well, he does know how to win and he's been at this business of competing against the best players for a very long time. Ames has won four times, including the 2006 Players Championship, that "all but a major," but not since 2009. He said last summer that he was considering taking the rest of the season off, but he did play in the fall. Ames also said he was considering changing his team of coaches and advisors. There's no official word on that yet, but Ames hasn't spoken with his swing coach Sean Foley since the RBC Canadian Open in July. Foley told me this week that he is neither offended nor surprised. What will be will be
Then there's Brad Fritsch, the 35-year-old PGA Tour rookie from Ottawa. Fritsch was 18th on the Web.com money list last year, which gained him entry to the PGA Tour. (The top 25 win their PGA Tour cards). He then decided to play in the final PGA Tour q-school, with a view to improving his chances of getting into more tournaments in the early part of the year. He tied for seventh and accomplished his goal. Fritsch and his wife Megan, who is pregnant, travelled to Honolulu last Sunday. He's never been to Hawaii, and tweeted that he hoped to make the visit memorable. He's a feisty fellow who has battled his way forward through golf's minor leagues.
Like all Canadians who follow their fellow golfing citizens on the PGA Tour, I'll be paying close attention to the goings-on at the Sony Open. I spoke with Hearn last Saturday, the day before he, his wife Heather and their daughter Ella, born last June, left for Honolulu from their southern home in Delray Beach, Fla. He and his coach Ralph Bauer have been working on tightening up his wedge game. The 33-year-old Hearn is one of the best drivers on the PGA Tour, and knows he needs to hit his short irons closer to the hole to set up more birdie chances. He's playing four weeks in a row, starting at the Sony.
"I still get excited to get going," Hearn said before flying cross-country. "No matter what, tour players get excited to start the new season. You always know you can play better."
Who doesn't, amateur or pro? As for Hearn, he said his weekends were highlights last year.
"There were quite a few tournaments where I snuck in at the cut and did well on the weekends," he said. "I wasn't as competitive as I could have been, though. I want to be in the hunt more."
Hearn, DeLaet, Weir, Ames and Fritsch all want to be in the hunt. For now, they're at least at the hunt–the hunt for better games on the game's biggest stage, whatever stage each is at in his own career.
RELATED LINK: More blogs from Lorne Rubenstein
Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association's first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada's Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round's on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf's Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein