It is being played on one of the best tests of golf on the PGA Tour, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be seeing Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson anywhere near the Canadian Open this year. But despite apparently not having the world’s top two players in the field, Canadian Open tournament director Bill Paul is pleased with those he’s attracted to tee off at Hamilton Golf and Country Club in Ancaster next week.
Right now, the list of players committed to the tournament includes seven of the 12 U.S. Ryder Cup players, including the likes of Jim Furyk, Chris DiMarco, Zach Johnson and Scott Verplank, as well as Canadian Open regular Vijay Singh.
Even U.S. Ryder Cup assistant captain Corey Pavin will be in the field, though captain Tom Lehman will be sitting out the week before the team heads to Ireland to battle a tough European squad.
The situation is a vast improvement over the problems the Canadian Open faced three years ago when it was last in Ancaster. With the SARS scare threatening much of Ontario that summer, dozens of top PGA Tour pros dropped out in the week leading up to the tournament.
This year’s field should be the strongest in several years, a fact Paul attributes to the golf course, a classic track rarely seen on the PGA Tour these days.
The course received accolades from the likes of Brad Faxon and eventual winner Bob Tway as being tough but fair in 2003.
Despite being less than 7,000 yards long in an era when many new tour courses tip the scales at 7,500 yards, Hamilton’s slight fairways and slanted, tricky greens managed to keep the winning score at eight-under par, ridiculously high at a time when some PGA Tour pros can shoot five or six under par each day.
“The course certainly has something to do with this year’s field,” says Paul, who has been pounding the pavement at tournaments throughout the year talking up the virtues of Hamilton.
“It is nice to see it has helped attract some names. Name players give you credibility.”
While the field should be attractive to the fans who flock to the course next week, it could have been even more impressive.
U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy decided to chase the cash that comes from winning a major championship and will play the Buddha Cup Challenge, a skins game in China. Paul said he was disappointed in Ogilvy’s decision, but understood the choice the Australian was making.
“It is a by-product of winning the U.S. Open,” Paul said, noting he’d never even heard of the tournament. Former U.S. Open champions Michael Campbell and Retief Goosen played in it last year.
As for Mickelson, various media reports have stated he’s not coming, but Paul has not had anything confirmed from Team Phil.
On the other hand, PGA Tour pros only have to let tournament directors know if they are coming to play, not if they are skipping a week. With that in mind, Davis Love III and David Toms could both be in the field, but neither have yet said they will head north to play.
Interestingly, there is one golfer who would love to be in the field who apparently won’t be asked to come to Ancaster. Ryan Yip, the 21-year-old Calgary resident who lost in the semi-final of the U.S. Amateur last week, won’t be getting an invite to the tournament.
Instead, David Morland IV, who is struggling through a miserable year on the Nationwide Tour, was offered a spot in the tournament. Paul says the explanation has more to do with having limited exemptions to offer, noting that three-time Canadian Amateur champ Richard Scott is already in the field.
More Canadians could get into the field through the Monday qualifying event at Hidden Lake Golf Club in Burlington. Four spots will be up for grabs.
Paul says it’s not just players such as Yip he’s had to leave out. There is also Steve Stricker, who is having a strong year and has supported the Canadian Open in the past.
“There are a lot of veteran players that would like in the field,” says Paul. “I want to help them, but right now, I can’t.”