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RBC Canadian Open wrap Wednesday — exemption controversy, Els onsite, Royal Montreal for 2014

Interesting to see the controversy raised by the exemptions given at the last minute to Abbotsford’s Nick Taylor, but more specifically to Chris Ross. Ross, for those who don’t know, is the son of former RCGA exec director Stephen Ross. And while that shouldn’t hold Chris Ross back, it has raised some questions — specifically from Brad Zeimer in Vancouver — about why the golfer — who is not on the world rankings and doesn’t play in Canada — was given a spot:

Golf Canada made a good decision earlier this week when it granted Abbotsford’s Nick Taylor, who has played well this summer on the Canadian Tour, an exemption into this week’s RBC Canadian Open at Hamilton Golf & Country Club.

But hours later, it made a highly questionable one when it handed an exemption to Christopher Ross. That would be the son of Stephen Ross, former longtime executive director of the RCGA.

Christopher Ross is a promising player. He competed for Eastern Michigan University and had a solid amateur career in Ontario. But since turning pro a couple of years ago, Ross has toiled on the U.S. mini-tours.

The Official World Golf Rankings lists 34 Canadian players. Ross is not one of them.

In giving Ross an exemption — he also got one in 2010 when the Canadian Open was held at St. George’s in Toronto — Golf Canada bypassed several Canadian pros who seem more deserving.

Oshawa’s Derek Gillespie was the next highest ranking Canadian on this year’s Canadian Tour money list who is not in the Canadian Open. And Gillespie, on the rebound from a serious auto accident, would have been a good story.

It was a tough decision for sure — but one wonders if it would have made more sense to go to the World Golf Rankings or the Canadian Tour money list to make the pick, as opposed to tournament director Bill Paul and Scott Simmons making an apparently random decision. Frankly it is a bit of a tempest in a teapot — but it would also have been good to see Gillespie in the field.

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Sources confirmed to me today that Royal Montreal will host the 2014 RBC Canadian Open and an announcement will be forthcoming towards the end of the summer.

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Ernie Els on the putting green yesterday before flying back to Toronto

Ernie Els skipped the pro-am today after arriving on a commercial flight yesterday. The British Open winner then went to a Right to Play fundraiser in Toronto — by helicopter. Els plays tomorrow and will be in the media room later today.

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Stephen Ames clarified some of his remarks made after he missed the cut at the British Open last week. At the time Ames told reporters that he would likely split with longtime swing coach Sean Foley, fire his caddy and consider shutting it down for the remainder of the year. Today Ames said he’s still deciding what to do with Foley — saying he has seen the swing coach seven times this year versus twice as much last year, and that he’s hitting hundreds of balls without finding any success. Shutting it down is still in the cards, but he’s not sure what he’s going to do after the Canadian Open. Ames says he’ll take nine weeks off after the tournament in Hamilton.

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You have to like Brad Fritsch. The Canadian, who lives in the U.S. and plays on the Web.com Tour, is decidedly honest — and smart. Nothing better than a real quote or two for a change — and Fritsch is always open about his perspective on the game. He spoke to Gord Holder at the Ottawa Citizen:

Some might think Brad Fritsch would have an advantage over many other players in the RBC Canadian Open, having played at the Hamilton Golf and Country Club in the 2006 edition of the PGA Tour event.

Fritsch isn’t among them, but that might be a good thing.

Instead, he said Tuesday, he “remembered most of the holes, but not to the point where I could say I’m more comfortable with this tee shot or that tee shot.

“I don’t have a very good memory about this event back in 2006. That may speak to how overwhelming and different that it was for me back then. It was my third PGA Tour event.”

Fritsch shot matching 74s in the 2006 Open and failed to survive the cut for the final two rounds. He also missed cuts in 2007 (71-77) at Angus Glen Golf Club in Markham, Ont., and 2008 (71-76) at Glen Abbey in Oakville, Ont.

Last year, though, the 34-year-old pro from Manotick opened with scores of 70 and 71 and qualified for weekend play at Vancouver’s Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club. Though subsequent rounds of 80 and 74 dropped him into an eventual tie for 71st, simply surviving the cut represented a “mini-breakthrough,” boosting his confidence and his bottom line by $10,348 US.

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I wrote a piece for Sympatico on the never-ending story of why it is so hard for a Canadian to win at the Canadian Open:

 

Like catching lightning in a bottle.

That’s how Mike Weir once described the challenges facing Canadian players trying to become the first winner of the RBC Canadian Open since Pat Fletcher some 58 years ago.

It is an unfair expectation for every Canadian golfer who tips it up this week. Only a handful of golfers in the world – think Tiger or Nicklaus – can elevate their games for a single championship. Most pros just hope to have a couple of tournaments a year where for whatever reason their game coalesces. That one four-day stretch when the putter gets hot, the driver finds fairways and their iron striking is set to pin seeker. It doesn’t happen more than a couple of times a year – even for the best in the business.

For most PGA Tour pros, the Canadian Open isn’t an event they prepare for – or often even consider. It is simply another slot on the never-ending schedule. But for the 23 Canadians in the field, it is the equivalent of a major, a time when the eyes of the country are on them, if only for a week. And there are a lot of them at Hamilton Golf and Country Club this week – only twice before (1996 when there were 28 and 1998 when there were 25) have there been more Canucks playing in the country’s national open.

One of the bright hopes this week is long-hitting Graham DeLaet from Weyburn, Sask. After taking practically all of 2011 off recovering from back surgery, DeLaet has made 13 of 18 cuts and more than $670,000 – a successful year if the season ended now. Despite that, DeLaet, who is averaging 303 yards, might not have the game to suit Hamilton’s thin fairways and tumbling greens, and admits it is tough to imagine preparing himself for a single event.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

3 CommentsLeave a comment

  • You guys might want to check your facts more closely next time. I believe Chris qualfiied on his own in last year’s Open through the qualifying process so he certainly did not get an exemption last year. Why let the facts get in the way of a good story though.

  • Why was Chris Ross given a 2012 invite over others more qualified??? The most likely reason is; the same people are in the executive-decision making roles as when Ross was the benevolent dictator. Their titles may have changed but the organization has simply ‘moved the deck chairs around the Titanic.’
    Golf Canada needs a good house cleaning (keeping Scott) and then, once staffed by new blood, they need to research the golf programs in Australia, South Korea and Sweden and hopefully find out what these countries are doing right for junior golf and then develop a plan for Canada. It is painfully clear Golf Canada is NOT deploying the resources to develop our young people to the extent other countries are. It is imperative that Golf Canada move the needle on junior golf as soon as possible.

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