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A Great Month to be Canadian!

I’m suffering from a serious case of “Dumper’s Remorse” today.

No, I didn’t attend a member-guest at a fancy schmancy private course this weekend and ignominiously shart on the front nine.  Thanks for asking.  And no, I didn’t attend a posh dinner party and clear everyone out into the garage after depositing a dishonourable discharge in the main-floor bathroom (that was last month).

Nope, the cause of my considerable discomfort is in the player’s I chose to dump for The Open Championship last weekend…and it’ll both haunt me and make me doubt my future choices in this column for quite some time, I imagine.

Scott and Els were both on my short list (of 6) for Royal Lytham & St. Annes…and for whatever reason, both of them were punted at the last minute as I made room for my final two choices; Sergio and Phil.

Why I didn’t stick to my original strategy and go all-non-American for this tournament is, frankly a bafflement to me.  My gut screamed out warning signals to me, but like that fancy dinner party last month, I chose to ignore the red flags and go with Mickelson over Els.  Where’s the Glade Industrial damn it???

And, as for Sergio, he was the guy I chose over Scott, assuming that one day (please, just one day!), El Niňo would finally hoist a Claret Jug over his head.

Phil – Cut

Sergio – Cut

I could show you a screen cap of my final 6…but it wouldn’t really matter would it?  The damage is done…coffee and dessert will be served on the hood of the Lexus…the shorts have been replaced with a nice steamy-hot pair of rain pants.

The Open Championship

And what an Open it was! 

I don’t think I’ve ever watched the final round of a Major with such huge mixed emotions, have you? 

On the one hand, I was positively thrilled to see Ernie, not only back in the winner’s circle once again, but with another Major trophy in-hand (take that all you greedy, self-important CEO tombers at Augusta National!)

On the other hand though, I was absolutely heartbroken to watch Adam Scott melt down on the final 4 holes and blow his first Major.

I’ve long been an avid follower and admirer of both Ernie and Adam, so while it was tremendously exciting to watch two of my favourite golfers battling for golf’s greatest prize, I guess I was inevitable that I was going to be disappointed for one of them. But the way it happened was particularly painful to watch…like rooting on Norman at Augusta.

In retrospect, I suppose I’m happier that Ernie won…as he’ll probably have fewer opportunities to win another Major going forward.  Plus, of course, punctuating the injustice of not being invited to this year’s Masters by winning The (bigger and better) Open Championship is probably the greatest example of revenge by success, we’ve ever get to see in sport.

Then again, damn it would have been great to finally see Adam climb the pinnacle and realize his potential by wrapping his hands around a Major trophy!  The one consolation in his story is that he still has LOTS of time left in his career to do that…a few times.

So I’m both very happy and very sad with the way things turned out Sunday night.

Then again, it was vastly entertaining to watch Woods crap himself all over the course…so I guess, I’m net ahead on the day. 

Care for some Glade Industrial Eldrick?

Results – The Open Championship

Derek’s Picks D&D (Daughter & Dartboard)
Luke Donald

T5

 $      304,610 Kevin Na

CUT

Lee Westwood

T45

 $        23,180 Elliot Saltman

CUT

Sergio Garcia

CUT

Rory McIlroy

T60

 $          19,292
Phil Mickelson

CUT

Steven Tiley

CUT

This Week’s Total  $         327,790 This Week’s Total  $              19,292
Season Total  $    29,981,947 Season Total  $         6,061,404

It’s a Great Month to be a Canadian

Many would argue that any month is a great month to be a Canadian…but this one is particularly great here in my bizarre little world.

You probably think I’m talking about The Canadian Open this week…and that’s certainly part of it.  You might think it’s because of the bottomless dirge of stupidity that continues to flow from the far right nutjobs in the US election…and that’s definitely a constant source of both comic entertainment and smug superiority for us.

But the real reason it’s so good to live in Canada this coming month is the fact that the Olympics, the second-biggest sporting event on the planet, after the World Cup, is set to begin this weekend.

No, I’m not suggesting that Canada is going to win the medal count this year (I haven’t done that many drugs in my life).  No, I’m not inferring that our athletes are going to set a crap-load of new records (although that is definitely a possibility…and one we’ll all be cheering for).

The reason it’s so great to be here in Canada for the duration of the Olympics is based on the quality of TV coverage we’ll be treated to for the next 3 weeks or so.  Speaking frankly (and as a member of the industry), Canadian entertainment falls short of our neighbours to the south in many ways…but when it comes to covering the really big sporting events, like the Olympics, Canadian broadcasters are in a class by themselves. 

It’s not even close.

What’s the secret to our success, you ask?  Well, to put it succinctly; our networks actually cover the events. 

What a concept!

Not only that, but we cover them LIVE!  Each day, from the start of competition, through the last gasp of the last event, our networks are there, showing as much Olympian action as they possibly can.  It doesn’t matter if a Canadian is a favourite (an unfortunate rarity, admittedly), or even if a Canadian is competing for that matter…if a group of people has risen to compete at the highest level possible in their sport, our networks let us see them go at it. 

Pure sports entertainment, designed to showcase the very best, competing against the very best.

And to their tremendous credit, CTV (and the CBC before them) put virtually ALL other programming on hold for this period, to provide us with non-stop Olympic coverage.  No soap operas, no Oprah, no cooking shows, no Barbara Walters hen parties, no mock trials conducted by mock judges, no people springing surprise DNA tests on family members (or are they?) 

Wall-to-wall Olympics is the course de jour…every jour of the Olympiad. 

From 4am to 5pm, non-stop live coverage…followed by a quick break for the news and then 4 hours of the day’s highlights in re-cap form ‘til 11pm.  Magnificent!

The other hugely significant difference in coverage is in the way the events are covered.  

Canadian networks focus on a thorough examination of the entire field, giving special attention to the world champions, the reigning Olympic champion and any Canadians who might be competing.  They re-cap accomplishments, provide rankings and try to give us a handle on what we’re about to see, putting everything in the proper context for us to get maximum understanding and enjoyment.

In stark contrast, NBC seems determined to turn every Olympian into some kind of Shakespearean tragedy-turned-underdog-turned-champion D-grade movie of the week.

I’m not sure when this truly nauseating practise began, but I honestly can’t recall an Olympic games being covered by an American network TV that wasn’t absolutely riddled with one mind-numbingly mawkish athlete profile after another. 

“Coming up next, American sensation John Smith competes in the 24 kilometre cross country ballroom dancing and skeet shooting biathlon competition on NBC.

(Roll quaint footage of John and family in his house…mix in undertones of light, but increasingly dramatic piano music to set mood). 

John isn’t just ranked 17th in the world in this super prestigious event, but he had a long hill to climb on his way to greatness.  As a youth, he struggled to overcome the crippling emotions that came with a family tragedy. 

You see, John’s mother’s, sister’s, husband’s, brother’s, cousin’s second baby, was born with a cleft earlobe. And every day, since that fateful day in 1985, John has been doing his best to be a role model for little Elroy.”

Seriously…can’t an athlete just be an athlete and compete?  Must we have to suffer through these maudlin, 5 minute profiles that seem to turn a series of semi-fabricated personal adversities into some kind of spectator sport of  their own?  Can’t a person just go for the gold, without having a sob story to share?

Please don’t mistake me here.  I’m NOT making fun of real tragedy or of people with real disabilities…not in any way.  But the lengths to which the network goes, to portray each athlete as some kind of underdog victim overcoming all odds, by blowing the slightest thing out of proportion, is just beyond belief.

“Coming up next on NBC; the 150 kilo Clean, Jerk & Weep…then it’s over to the Velodrome for coverage of Indoor Cycling for Those with an Incontinent Parent…then Archery for the Slightly Nearsighted…and, of course, the most anticipated events of the day; Martial Arts for People Who Don’t Understand Sarcasm Very Well and Doubles Tennis for Premature Ejaculators.”

I almost envision the American Olympic committee saying to an athlete, “yes, yes, you run very fast and you’re one of the 3 best in the world…but, before we let you on the team, tell us your tragedy.   Being just fast doesn’t cut it son…our audience wants pathos, damn it!!!”

And before you condemn me (if you’re feeling like doing that), I challenge you to watch 2 or 3 hours of coverage first…then tell me I’m, wrong.

You’re very likely to find that a typical hour of coverage on NBC looks something eerily similar to this:

22 minutes – commercials

10 minutes – mawkish athlete profiles

8 minutes – promos for upcoming event and regular NBC TV shows

8 minutes – colour coverage of life in jolly Ol’ England

6 minutes – reminiscences from past Olympic games

6 minutes – honest to god Olympic competition

The Canadian Open

Meanwhile, north of the border, up here in the tundra (cue the sound of loons wafting in the distance), golf fans are celebrating the annual arrival of the game’s stars to compete for our National Championship; The Canadian Open.

And the question on everyone’s mind in the weeks leading up to this event was the same as it’s been ever since The Open was moved to July, years ago; Is the field strong this year?

And, for my tastes, the answer to that question is “not bad, but it really should be a lot better.

Yes, some of the superstars will be coming to Hamilton this year…with Open Champion Ernie Els at the top of the list (despite the heart attack he created among sponsors and organizers during his acceptance speech at Royal Lytham & St. Annes).

Other major stars of note coming to play this year are Webb Simpson, Jim Furyk, Retief Goosen, Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan, Vijay Singh and Brandt Snedeker. 

And to each of these stars, let’s extend a great big hug, an enthusiastic round of applause and give them our thanks for showing our National Championship the respect it deserves.

Of course, being typically Canadian, we tend to look more closely at who’s not coming, rather than on who is.  And that list is as long and star-studded as it is tremendously disappointing;

Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Zach Johnson, Jason Dufner, Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose, Steve Stricker, Johnson Wagner, Dustin Johnson, Keegan Bradley, Graeme McDowell, Martin Laird, Adam Scott, Nick Watney, Lee Westwood…ad nauseum…ad infinitum.

ALL of those guys have better things to do this week, than play in golf’s third oldest tournament…a tournament once considered by professionals to be the “fifth Major!” 

A tournament, that to this day, Jack Nicklaus, the greatest golfer of all time, still regrets not winning…considering it a gaping hole is his incredible resume. A tournament that launched the career of a young guy named Palmer in 1955.

What a damned shame!

I realize it’s less than convenient for players to make the trek to England and back in just a few weeks, but don’t the rich history, prestige and calibre of our event deserve a better field?  For me, the answer is a simple one. Yes!

And the reality of the situation is made even more bitter when you look at the strength of the competition that a who-cares, wank event like The Greenbrier drew just a few short weeks ago.  Woods was there…so was Mickelson…and Stricker…and Byrd…and Johnson…and Bradley…and Wagner…and on and on…

To be honest, it makes me sick how the scheduling of our event, combined with the seeming lack of respect it receives from so many great players, has served to undermine out National Championship over the years.

Maybe tournament organizers and sponsors should take a page out my Greenbrier Conspiracy book (the tin foil hat costs extra) and start handing players hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of chips to Casino Niagara to get them to come to our Open. 

And if that doesn’t work, let’s change all the plans and hold the Open in Montreal again next year…and introduce the guys to the legendary strip club nightlife.

Hell, it’s worth a try isn’t it?

Derek’s Picks

The ONLY thing I really want to see at this year’s Canadian Open is a truly noteworthy player lifting our trophy on Sunday night.  A superstar would be perfect.  Even one of the bona fide up-and-coming stars would be okay too.

But please, give us someone (ANYONE) we can really, honestly get excited about.  PLEASE!!!  It’s not asking much, is it?

Quick: can you name any of the past 4 Canadian Open Champions?  Even if you’re a die-hard fan, probably not.

Meaning no disrespect to the guys I’m about to mention, but the names Sean O’Hair (circa 2011), Carl Pettersson, Nathan Green and Chez Reavie don’t exactly get the heart racing with excitement or scream out how great you have to be to win our Open, do they? 

They’re excellent golfers for sure, but they certainly don’t have that kind of charismatic, one-name-says-a-thousands-words, kind of effect on me.

The last winner we had in Canada, who really fit that bill was Jim Furyk, going all the way back to his back-to-back wins in 2006 and 2007. 

Prior to that, we did have some of the game’s greats lift our trophy (Woods, Singh, Price, O’Meara, Norman, Strange, Weiskopf, Trevino, Palmer, etc.), but we also had more than our fair share of Ken Greens, Calcavecchias-beyond-prime, Tways, Levis, Andrades and Harts.

So, if it’s not too much to ask the golf gods this year, can we PLEASE have a star win our event?  Please?  We’ve been good…we haven’t been rude…or called anyone names…or declared war on anyone in a really long time. 

We deserve it!

Jim Furyk – Scroll up and you’ll see a big part of my rationale for making this my first pick.

Furyk is one of the alpha dogs in the field this week…and his performances here in Canada have a lot to do with making him a favourite.  The last time a real star won the Canadian Open (2007), it was Furyk.  The last time the event was played in Hamilton, the winner was Furyk (2006).

And if that’s not enough, Furyk is probably the hottest “bubbling under” player on Tour right now.  He’s been so close to regaining complete form and winning so many times this season, it has to be just a matter of time until he finally does lift a trophy.

Given his recent form, his past experiences here, and the semi-star-laden quality of the field this week, Furyk has to be a fave.

Matt Kuchar – I love watching this guy play.  I love rooting for him. 

I think a part of my loyalty to the guy, beyond his natural likability, is that he keeps coming back to Canada to play in our event.  Even though he’s one of the game’s new superstars, he isn’t too hoity-toity to come up to the Great White to play in our National Championship.

Kuchar is a good pick for many reasons beyond that though.  First, he’s coming off an excellent showing in England last week (T9).  He’s also having a very good season overall, with the Player’s Championship under his belt, plus 7 other top 10 finishes. 

Finally, I think Hamilton sets up very well for his kind of game.

Yes, I like his chances this week.

Hunter Mahan – Another guy who I’ve come to admire even more over the years because of his repeated entries into our tournament.  Since joining the Tour in 2003, I think he’s missed 2 Canadian Opens in total.  Nice one Hunter!

And when he’s here, he often plays quite well.  I believe he has 3 top 5 finishes in that relatively short time period.

Of course, the biggest reason to take Mahan isn’t sentimental or in gratitude for coming…or for how he does when he’s here. 

The biggest reason to like him this week is because of his form this year.  With two wins (one a WGC) and four top 10 finishes, plus 11 top 25s in 16 starts, he’s one of the most successful guys in the field this week.

Would you overlook him?

Bud Cauley – Given the relative unknown nature of our past champions, I’m putting Bud in here as my “hedge pick” this week.  This is as close as I’m going to come to picking an unknown, without just chucking the spreadsheets and throwing darts with my daughter.

And to call Cauley an unknown really isn’t fair to the kid.  The guys on Tour know him…and they’ve been raising their eyebrows when they watch him play (in a good way).  They know they’re seeing one of the stars tomorrow, cut his teeth on the Tour.

Like Rickie Fowler before him, it’s just a matter of time before young Bud claims his first title.  And the Canadian Open seems like a great place for him to start racking up wins…a lá Arnie Palmer.

And if you’re unfamiliar with his recent stats, while the world had their eyes on Royal Lytham & St. Annes last week, Cauley finished 4th at the True South.  He also finished T8 in Houston and T4 at Arnie’s event (how’s that for serendipity?)

And to put the northern spin on his resume, Bud finished T13 in his first and only Canadian Open last year…before he even won his Tour card.

If we have to have a non-superstar winner this week, let it be a future superstar…and make it Cauley.

And now that I’ve had my extendo-rant, time to turn it over to the spawn…

D&D’s Picks (Daughter & Dartboard);

Ricky Barnes

Ben Curtis

George McNeill

Patrick Sheehan

And that’s all for this week folks.  As always, thanks VERY much for reading and playing along with my nonsense…and enjoy our National championship!

Cheers,

Derek

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