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Should Mahan have withdrawn from Canadian Open?

Brandt Snedeker fires into the 18th green at Glen Abbey yesterday.

Brandt Snedeker fires into the 18th green at Glen Abbey yesterday.

The conventional wisdom says yes, Mahan should have taken off from the RBC Canadian Open yesterday when his wife went into labour, despite almost $1-million in potential winnings. But I thought David Feschuk’s column in the Star, and his discussion with Canadian Brad Fritsch, about whether Mahan made the right call is interesting and warrants discussion:

When Hunter Mahan withdrew from the RBC Canadian Open as tournament leader on Saturday afternoon, he was roundly heralded for having his priorities in the right order.

His wife, Kandi, was in labour in Dallas with the couple’s first child. So while Mahan, the world’s 22nd-ranked player, led by two strokes after two rounds and was in prime position to earn the winner’s share of about $1 million (U.S.) this weekend, he abandoned the chase in the name of family.

“The birth of a child is an unforgettable experience . . . something that’s completely magical,” said fellow pro Matt Kuchar, applauding the decision.

Even Bill Paul, the tournament director who could have used Mahan’s name on the leaderboard to boost weekend ticket sales, deferred to Mahan’s judgment on the CBS broadcast: “It was the right decision for him and the family.”

Would it have been the right decision for every pro in the field at Glen Abbey Golf Club? Hardly.

Feschuk talked to Fritsch, whose son was born unexpectedly while he played in Florida earlier this year. Fritsch decided to stay and play, partly at the urging of his wife.

What would you do? I was at the birth of both of my children, and was thrilled to be there. But my wife told me last night if I had $1-million on the line, I’d have stayed and played. She was quite adamant about it — and that’s surprised me.

Here’s what Fritsch had to say:

With all that to consider, and with Megan in labour, Fritsch chose to labour. By round’s end, he was looking at cellphone photos of his newly born son, Jesse, who had arrived two weeks ahead of schedule. Given that Fritsch shot a decent round amid the excitement — an even-par 71 that gave him a chance to make the cut and earn a share of the $5.5 million purse — Megan urged him to stay in the hunt.

“She said, ‘All I’m doing is lying here in the hospital — keep playing and see what happens,’ ” Fritsch remembered.

What happened was Fritsch missed the cut and soon enough caught a commercial connection to cuddle his one-day-old son. If he’d made the cut, and had the chance to earn an important cheque, he would have waited a couple of more days to introduce himself to the new baby.

My take on the Mahan story appeared in my game tale on Global News yesterday:

The premature arrival of a new baby to Hunter Mahan’s family couldn’t have come at a better time for Brandt Snedeker.

Mahan, who was leading the RBC Canadian Open through the first two rounds, withdrew suddenly just as he was about to tee off. As he was preparing on the range, Mahan’s wife, former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader Kandi Harris, who was expecting the couple’s first child next month, called to say she was in labour and heading to the hospital. That meant as opposed to walking to the first tee, Mahan was heading to the airport, flying back to Dallas hoping to be there for the baby’s arrival. Mahan is apparently expecting a girl, and he and his wife already has a name picked – Zoe. The baby hadn’t arrived by the time this story was filed.

As Mahan was leaving Ontario in a private jet, Snedeker was flying around the golf course, making six birdies in his first nine holes, making the turn at 29 and putting his tidy short game and putting on display. He started the round in 15th place, but finished the day at the top of the leaderboard.

Snedeker said he came aware of Mahan’s disappearance from the leaderboard part way through his round.

“On seven tee on the par-three I looked up and I didn’t see Hunter’s name on the leaderboard, and I looked at my caddie, and I go, ‘What’s going on?’” Snedeker explained. “He goes, ‘I think Hunter had to leave because Kandi went into labor.’  So just kind of left the tournament wide open.”

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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.

15 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Times have changed, a generation ago a man was lucky to get off work for the birth of his child let alone have options for maternity leave. This case, in my opinion, is a simple case of economics. Hunter could afford to leave. He has earnings of what $25 million. A player struggling I would think would have his wife agree or even demand him to stay if there was a good chance of a million dollar cheque. I asked my wife if I was in a good position to win a million dollars and without hesitation she said you would stay at the tournament. But then, I am a pensioner! I must commend RBC for they way they treated this situation ie providing a plane, etc. To me that would mean a great deal in convincing golfers what a good sponsor they are.

  • The discussion between David Feschuk and Brad Fritsch had nothing to do with whether “Mahan made the right call”, as you suggest. It was about Fritsch’s own experience.

  • I don’t think we’re in a position to say what was/is right or wrong.

    I support anyone who makes a decision that he/she thinks needs to be made.

    Congratulations to Brandt Snedeker on the win and to Hunter Mahan on a happy, healthy baby…a win win situation.

  • What’s more important – the emotional support of being in person for the birth of your child or ensuring long term financial stability for the family? Interestingly, the research on individual happiness suggests that happiness is correlated with money only to the extent that money enables for basic needs to be met (food, housing, safety etc). Beyond that, there is little correlation between money and happiness.

    Thus, the rational decision is to provide emotional support in person for the birth if basic needs are being met. Whether that is the right decision is really a personal preference.

    For Hunter Mahan, I would suggest the decision at the Canadian Open was an easy one. I think the decision becomes much more complex for Hunter if (hypothetically) he was leading after 2 or 3 rounds of the PGA Championship having already won the Masters, US Open, and The Open Championship in that year. Then if he WD, he would deserve the over the board accolades by Jim Nantz as “Father of the Year” provided in the telecast on Sunday.

  • I watched your commentary on television and I want to correct you. At one point you were commenting how Canadians cannot elevate their games for the Canadian Open, like other players like Phil and Tiger do for the majors.

    Tiger’s win percentage for PGA tour. 78/303. 25.7
    Tiger’s win percentage for majors. 14/70 20
    Phil’s win percentage for PGA tour 42/480 8.75
    Phils’s win percentage for majors 6/64 7.1

    The facts are that in both cases their win percentages are slightly lower for the majors than for regular tour events.

    You might want to check your facts next time you slam our Canadians.

  • No Canadian has won the Canadian Open since 1954. Only Mike Weir had a realistic chance at victory in 2004 but could not close the door. And a relative rookie in Adam Hadwin took at run at the Canadian Open a couple of years ago but again could not sustain the momentum on the last day.

    Right….Canadians have sure elevated their game for their National Open.

    No question, a Canadian winning our National Open is hard. But winning majors is hard as well. The fact that Phil and Tiger are close to matching their PGA winning record in Major events is impressive. The same cannot be said for our Canadians. This is not to down play the effort of the Canadian guys for this tournament. But it does reflect strong performances by Phil and Tiger in major events.

  • Stats Guy: How was I slamming anyone? I think it is asking an awful lot for a Canadian to rise to the challenge of playing great the one week there’s the most attention on them. I think your point about Phil and Tiger is bang on — how about picking other guys who win a lot on tour. What about Brandt Snedeker? How many majors has he won vs. regular events?
    My point is this — Canadians expect a lot out of our players at our national open. It is very difficult for any play well on any given week. I’ve spoken to DeLaet, Hearn, Ames, Weir about this — and they all agree. That’s all I was pointing out.

  • Hey u sure that the picture of Brandt hitting into 18 was ‘yesterday’. That was not the flag location for Sunday. On top of that, the place locks empty,

    The point I was trying to make is that Canadians rarely win on the PGA tour so it is unreasonable for one to assume that they somehow cannot elevate their game for the Canadian Open. They rarely win to begin with. Your comparisons to Tiger or Phil are silly. We do not have a player at that level and on top of that they do not in fact elevate their game for the big events.

  • This kid/career debate amongst sportsmen gets really tedious because it could so easily be avoided:

    SPORT/’WINDOW’ FOR PROCREATIVE SEX

    PGA TOUR/FEB-MAR
    NFL/JUL-OCT
    NBA/OCT-DEC
    MLB/FEB-APR
    NHL/SEP-NOV

    Can’t believe so many guys in sports where timing is everything seem to check it at the bedroom door.

  • stats guy, try being a little less focused on stats and a little more focused on the concept. Robert was only conveying the idea that our golfers have not been able to play well enough to win our national open in the specific week the tournament is played. That would be elevating their games. It’s simple. It wasn’t a knock on our pros. You might like your moniker but your message to Thompson was out of line. I don’t know of anyone who does more to promote Canadian golf than he does. I’ll go with his assessment over yours.

  • By the way, with respect to “stats”, Jim Nance and his merry band of clowns on the broadcast of the Bridgestone Invitational today was speculating on what state Eldrick has the most wins in. Many stats are unhelpful and not worth dwelling on. Those who focus too much on stats would have us on the road to a baseball approach to stats in golf, the notorious “has batted .199 in last 29 at bats on the road in light rain”, this sort of foolishness.

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