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Mike Weir set sights on Canadian title

U.S. Masters champion Mike Weir has never won his native Canadian Open but is confident he can handle the pressure of being the crowd favourite this week at the Hamilton Golf and Country Club in Ancaster, Ontario.

The 33-year-old, who was born in nearby Sarnia, is determined to clinch a first title in an event he has cherished since he was nine years old.

"I don't feel any pressure," said Weir, who became the first left-hander to win a major in 40 years at the Masters this April. "I feel support and that's a great thing when you feel the country behind you.

"I hope I can feed off the support that everyone gives me. It is a great opportunity and situation to be in.

"Having the chance to win our national championship would be very special," he added on his official website.

Weir, then aged nine, attended his first professional tournament at the 1979 Canadian Open, and was suitably impressed.

"I remember watching Johnny Miller and Jack Nicklaus on the range and being in awe of them," he said. "Outside the majors, the Canadian Open is first in line for importance to me."

At the age of 19, Weir played in his first Canadian Open, having worked his way through a back injury to qualify for the event in a playoff. He enjoyed the experience, despite not playing particularly well.

"My back was bothering me, so I couldn't practise much before the tournament," he recalled.

"I shot a first-round 80 and was walking in a daze most of the day watching the leader boards. I came back the next day and shot 70 I think."

This week, world number six Weir is determined to enjoy himself as the Hamilton Golf and Country Club hosts its first Canadian Open for 73 years, and its third in all.

The gritty left-hander has become one of the most respected players in the game, winning three times on this season's PGA Tour to thrust himself into contention for 2003 player of the year honours.

His victories apart, Weir has also produced six top-10 finishes and lies third in the 2003 stroke averages on 68.33, with the pacesetting Tiger Woods and world number two Ernie Es ahead of him.

World-ranked four Vijay Singh is the only other player in the top 10 playing this week, although rising Australian talent Adam Scott will be worth monitoring.

The 23-year-old Scott clinched his first victory on the PGA Tour at the Deutsche Bank Championship on Monday, firing a five-under-par 66 to win by four shots.

Also playing this week is defending champion John Rollins, who went into the final round last year seven strokes off the lead before sealing victory in a playoff.

American Rollins shot a bogey-free seven-under-par 65 to draw level with Justin Leonard and third-round leader Neal Lancaster after regulation play, and then birdied the first extra hole to win his first PGA Tour title.

Rollins approves of the par-70 6,946-yard layout at Hamilton Golf and Country Club.

"It's an old, traditional golf course, which is what I love," he said. "I'm looking forward to this week

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