My latest National Post column (below) is an attempt to use the British Open course rotation concept and illustrate how it might work for the Royal Canadian Golf Association. Of course Royal Liverpool might not be a good example; the course is getting kicked pretty hard by the players today (when was the last time the cut line in a major was even?). But I still think the notion of having a regular schedule of strong courses would be a big boost to the Canadian Open in the long run. The column is below.
Worth checking out:
The Guardian has a regularly updated blog covering the Open. For those Canadians who were pleased to actually see Mike Weir on the television for a change yesterday, you can read all of his post-game comments here.
Canadian Open in need of a facelift: Organizers should view British Open as example
Robert Thompson On Golf
In the midst of the British Open, it might seem like an odd time to consider the future of the Canadian Open. But with some big issues on the horizon, including the location of a new sponsor and the impact of the event’s new July date, some questions can be answered by looking to Britain for an example. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club, which sets the rules for the Open Championship, determined early on that a rotation of top-grade courses would keep the tournament at the forefront. Though this week’s Royal Liverpool stop is unusual, the course has a great history. In that respect it fits nicely alongside Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George’s, The Old Course, Muirfield, Carnoustie and the like.Canada doesn’t have the same number of great courses, but it didn’t help the prestige of the tournament when the Royal Canadian Golf Association kept the tournament at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, for 25 years. A national tournament is not national in nature if it is kept in the same suburban town. Now that the tournament is being moved around, visiting Vancouver’s Shaughnessy last year, and Hamilton in 2003 and this year interest seems to be growing. But the has still made some strange decisions.
They raffled the tournament off to Angus Glen Golf Club for both the 2002 and 2007 tournaments. The strong South Course at Angus held the earlier event, but the North Course, best known for hosting corporate tournaments, came under fire by many as not being up to the task. A $2-million facelift later by Davis Love III in an attempt to improve the field next year has made the course better, but still far from great.
The real question for the RCGA is how does the organization proceed with event selection for its top tournament? The issues surrounding the tournament don’t end with the reworking of Angus Glen North. In 2008, the event is scheduled for a course in Terrebonne, Que. that has yet to be built. The course’s designer, Tom Fazio, recently said construction on the course has commenced, but environmental approvals and other factors have delayed the process. There’s no certainty it can be completed in time, and no guarantee players are going to venture north if it is completed.
That leaves some big questions about where the tournament could be heading. As per the terms of the deal by ClubLink Corp. to acquire Glen Abbey, the tournament has to return to one of the company’s courses by the end of the decade. The Abbey has recently been refurbished and some have speculated the RCGA will announce it is holding off on taking the Canadian Open to Terrebonne until 2009.
The sleeper pick to fill the void? It could well be London, Ont.’s Hunt Golf and Country Club, which will host this year’s Canadian Women’s Open. The Robert Trent Jones design is smart and is long enough to challenge the pros. RCGA officials have also toured Coppinwood, a Fazio layout north of Toronto that, at 7,500 yards, would offer plenty of bite.
Regardless of which direction the RCGA chooses, the organization needs to settle on a regular schedule of top-grade courses with which PGA Tour players can become familiar. Only then will the Canadian Open have any chance of returning to the lofty status in which it was once held.