Canada’s Mike Weir hopes for raucous pro-International crowd at Presidents Cup

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MONTREAL, CANADA - International Team Captain, Mike Weir, speaks in the Montreal Chamber of Commerce Leadership Series at The Fairmount Hotel, in downtown Montreal, Quebec, Canada on September 13, 2023. (Photo by Ben Jared/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

It’s not that Mike Weir wants the fans at Royal Montreal Golf Club to be hostile toward the United States team when the Presidents Cup comes to Canada, but he definitely doesn’t want the Americans to be comfortable. Weir, from Brights Grove, Ont., is the first Canadian to captain the International Team at the best-on-best men’s tournament. Beyond selecting the squad’s players he is responsible for the tournament’s design aesthetic and, maybe most important, he has to set the tone with fans.

“When the U.S. goes overseas to play, it’s a totally different atmosphere than when they’re playing at home and traditionally, in the Presidents Cup, there hasn’t been that much of a contrast and that is our challenge,” Weir said. “Letting them know that you need to get behind our guys and make them feel supported and through that is making the other side feel a little bit uncomfortable.”

Weir said Presidents Cup organizers are teaming up with the Montreal Canadiens and their owner Jeff Molson to promote a hockey-like atmosphere. 

“We don’t want it to be that over the top, but we want it to feel like the crowd is really, really with us,” he said.

The International Team’s only victory over the U.S. came at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia in 1998. It also earned a tie in 2003 at Fancourt Hotel and Country Club in George, South Africa, in 2003.

Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C., hosted the biannual event in 2022, with the U.S. winning 17 1/2-12 1/2. Although thousands of American fans are expected to stream across the border in September when the 12-on-12 tournament is in Montreal, Weir hopes to make it truly feel like an away game and get a result like Australia 26 years ago.

“We’ve put a lot of thought into it and we continue amongst our team to talk about that home course, home country advantage,” said Weir. “We’re trying to engage a lot of the fans around the country with a lot of stuff that will be upcoming that we’re doing.

“We want the whole country to be involved and engaged. … We do want it to feel like it’s a home advantage for us.”

Royal Montreal hosted the Presidents Cup in 2007, when the United States beat the Internationals 19 1/2-14 1/2. Weir battled Tiger Woods in a climactic matchup that captured the imagination of many Canadian golf fans.

Weir said that, in its way, that experience was instructive in his current role as a non-playing captain.

“Tiger was playing and I think fans were excited to see him,” said Weir. “I felt like the fans were fantastic, but they were very cordial to the U.S. side.
“We want them to be a little bit louder and a little bit more raucous than the past.”

The 2022 edition of the Presidents Cup was the first time that more than one Canadian played in the event, with Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., earning his way on to the team as an automatic selection and Taylor Pendrith of Richmond Hill, Ont., picked by captain Trevor Immelman of South Africa.

Weir, and the Canadians on the PGA Tour, are hoping to have even more of a maple flavour at Royal Montreal. The top six players on the U.S. and International rankings are automatically chosen, and then Weir and U.S. captain Jim Furyk get to pick their next six players.

Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, B.C., is currently fourth in the International Team rankings. Adam Hadwin, also from Abbotsford, is ninth and Conners in 12th, meaning they could be easy choices for Weir to add.

Adam Svensson of Surrey, B.C., and Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ont., are 16th and 17th respectively, making them possible reaches. Pendrith is 22nd.

“You’ve got to give credit to Golf Canada and their development program that they’ve put together,” Weir said of the number of eligible Canadians. “A lot of those guys grew up together, were in that junior program together, and the development program.

“They’ve continued to elevate their games and elevate their careers.”
There are no Canadians currently playing LIV Golf, the team-based circuit backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. Weir confirmed that LIV Golf players like Chile’s Joaquin Niemann will not be eligible to play in the Presidents Cup.

Weir held a dinner with approximately 15 of the possible players who could play for the International Team ahead of this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. 

Taylor, Hadwin, Svensson, Conners and Hughes are all in the field at Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando, Fla., this week.

KORN FERRY TOUR — Edmonton’s Wil Bateman is the top-ranked Canadian on the second-tier Korn Ferry Tour. He’s ranked 12th heading into this week’s Astara Chile Classic at Prince of Wales Country Club in Santiago. There are six other Canadians in the field, including Etienne Papineau (28th) of St-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Que., Myles Creighton (54th) of Digby, N.S., and Sudarshan Yellamaraju (105th) of Mississauga, Ont. Vancouver’s Stuart Macdonald, Jared du Toit of Kimberley, B.C., and Thomas Giroux of Georgetown, Ont., enter the tournament unranked.

CHAMPIONS TOUR — Calgary’s Stephen Ames, currently ranked second in the Schwab Cup standings, will be in the field at the Cologuard Classic at La Paloma Country Club in Tucson, Ariz. Weir, when he’s done with his responsibilities at Bay Hill, will also play at the Cologuard Classic when it tees off on Friday. Weir is 38th on the Schwab Cup list.
DP WORLD TOUR — Aaron Cockerill of Stony Mountain, Man., is in the opening group at the Jonsson Workwear Open 2024 at Glendower Golf Club in Dowerglen, Edenbale, South Africa. He’s 13th in the Race to Dubai Rankings.

LPGA TOUR — Maude-Aimee Leblanc of Sherbrooke, Que., and Savannah Grewal of Mississauga, Ont., are in the field at Blue Bay LPGA at Jian Lake Blue Bay Golf Course in China. Both are currently unranked on the Race to CME Globe standings.

EPSON TOUR — Maddie Szeryk of London, Ont., leads the Canadian contingent into the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic on Friday at the Country Club of Winter Haven in Winter Haven. She’ll be joined by Hamilton’s Alena Sharp, Selena Costabile of Thornhill, Ont., Kate Johnston of Ayr, Ont., and Brigitte Thibault of Rosemere, Que., in the first event on the 2024 tour’s calendar.