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No Woods, no Mickelson: no problem: Canadian Open's challenging course draws strong field

Robert Thompson
On Golf

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.”

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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.

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Why is everyone having the wool pulled over their eyes by Bill Paul. David Toms is NOT coming he has committed to play a charity event for kids on the Friday of the Open and will go to the LSU game. DIfficult to find, how about on the front page of his website. Is he lying to Bill Paul or is Bill Paul lying to the media. How about #2. Steve Stricker can be given an invite to the even as 1 of the 2 veteran player exemptions the Open gets from the Tour the reality is the field is going to be so poor he will draw in as a past champion on tour anyhow. Bill Paul is ridiculous. The Singapore Open will have a stronger top end field than our National Championship. When will Bill Paul be let go to go destroy another event, probably a Nationwide because no one would hire him to run a PGA event. He has destroyed the Canadian Open as the TD over the past 14 years. Anyone please tell me if the Open is better now or in 1991 the last year before he took over. The answer is simple he bears the responsibility for the shape of the Tournament today. As soon as he is gone perhaps the event will grow in stature again. Please do not get me started on Stephen Ross.

  • I am with bc golfer…

    Ryan Yip deserves consideration for his play at the toughest amateur event in the world. Steve Stricker is a past PGA winner and had a strong performance at the US Open.

  • Hey BC Golfer….

    Do you even know what you are talking about?

    As far as I can tell, there is only one PGA Tour event and one LPGA Tour event in this country. BC tried with their PGA event and it lasted a few years and failed. The conclusion that one can draw from the above noted facts is that it isn’t that easy to conduct a golf tournament, because if it were there would be many more tournaments in Canada.

    From what I can see the field for the event is strong. How much influence do your really think a tournament director can have on a soon to be billionaire’s (Tiger Woods) decision to play or not play an event such as the Canadian Open? BC Golfer, what would you offer Tiger Woods? The Canadian Open is not a major, nor a World Golf Championship event, nor a tournament with which Tiger Woods has any special interest (it is not an event tied to one of his sponsors nor is he a Canadian). So BC Golfer, what would you offer Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson to compete in the Canadian Open?? Any suggestions? What would you do differently? Tell him how great Canada is? or how great the golf course is? and do you think Bill Paul hasn’t done that? Any more brilliant suggestions from anyone, because I am sure Mr. Paul can us the suggestions.

    Is there any reason why there are more NHL hockey teams in the US than there are in Canada, notwithstanding that hockey is our national sport? I’ll give you a reason…..CASH$US. There is more money south of the border in every single industry or sport, so do you think that might be the reason that a Tiger or a Phil doesn’t come to Canada? What would you like Bill Paul to do?

    So enjoy the event for what it is. Our national championship, and stop the whining.

  • Mr Tonin,
    Not once did I even metion Tiger Woods. Bill Paul is constantly mentioning his lunches and dialogue with Tiger. He says it is good that we are considered, hogwosh. Forget about Tiger, Phil, everyone and start looking at using some of the 24 exemptions the RCGA gets to support Canadian golfers. Maybe if the RCGA supports local up and coming players, Ryan Yip, Wes Hefernan, Lee Curry Darren Griff etc we will see the calibre of play increase. Instead he reponds to the agents and gives exemptions to Casey Wittenburg, Eric Compton, Nick Cassini, Bryce Molder and the like. Bill Paul is a disgrace to Canadian Golf. Bill Paul runs the Canadian Open like his own personal fiefdom and Stephen Ross is the same way. Mr Tonin the RCGA gets 24 exemptions to the Open and decided in the past to use them in a disgraceful fashion supporting young American over Canadians. Imagine if Mike Weir won the Open, well support youngsters and Canadian Pro’s and the pool might increase and money will flow to the Tournament if more than one player is capable of winning.
    Money is not and I repeat not the reason Phil playes in Hartford over Canada. 1 example of the poor player relations of the RCGA , in the past they provided 2 tickets to each player while all other events provide 8 per player. They select poor venues for the event in order to make money over quality of the course. (Angus Glenn, Terrebonne, Glen Abbey) I know plenty about this situation and would gladly discuss the failures of the RCGA and Bill Paul. In closing putting the demise of the Open on the PGA tour, the corporate community, the players choices etc is a joke. Why do Hartford,the Wachovia, the Colonial etc all have better fields than the Open with equal purses.Last year the Open had the second weakest field out of any unencumbered event on the PGA Tour (sagarin Golfstats) and unfortunately no one is to blame but Bill Paul and Stepehn Ross. Look and see what the Canadian Open was in 1991 the year before Bill Paul took over the event as TD. Defend them if you like Mr. Tonin but who else is to blame. Hopefully you would not allow someone with this record to manage your retirement portfolio because you would be broke.

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