No Woods, but plenty else to follow: Is this the year a Canadian does it again?

Robert Thompson: On Golf
With arguably one of the strongest fields for a Canadian Open
since Tiger Woods won the event in 2000, this year’s version may not feature the world’s best player, but there are still plenty of story
lines and great golfers testing Hamilton Golf and Country Club’s
classic fairways.

Five stories to watch for this week:

1) Weir and Ames — Any chance? It has been more than 50 years
since a Canadian won our country’s national open. Mike Weir came
extremely close in 2004 before a sour flatstick handed Vijay Singh
the win at Glen Abbey. Could this be Weir’s year? The last time the
open was held in Hamilton, the Brights Grove, Ont., native struggled
and still finished 10th. This year he has six top 10 finishes, but
has had trouble closing on Sunday. Perhaps being in front of his
avid Canadian fans can change that.

With all the pressure on Weir, maybe Canadian-via-Trinidad golfer
Stephen Ames can make his presence felt. Ames doesn’t have a good record at the Canadian Open, but he did finish seventh last year in Vancouver and is coming off a breakthrough year. The course this week will play well for those can find fairways and putt well — the strengths of both Ames and Weir.

2) U.S. Ryder Cup team U.S. team captain Tom Lehman now looks
pretty sharp having picked Stewart Cink as part of his team after
Cink played his best tournament of the year last week, losing in a
playoff to Tiger Woods. All told, seven of 12 U.S. Ryder Cup players
are in the field, including Jim Furyk, the world’s No. 3 ranked
player. Lehman is surely hoping for a good tournament out of his
players as they head to Ireland a week later as underdogs against a
European squad that has dominated them in the last two outings.

3) End of the line for O’Meara, Price and Funk With Fred Funk
already eligible for the Champions Tour, and Canadian Open champs
Mark O’Meara and Nick Price heading to the wrong side of 50 next
January, this week might be the last time Canadian golf fans have
the chance to see these three talented, classy golfers.

4) John Daly hands his long bomb title to Bubba The erratic Daly,
who is in the field this week, has long been regarded as the PGA
Tour’s biggest hitter. But that’s no longer the case. In the field
this week is the new reigning champion, blaster Bubba Watson, who is averaging 320 yards off the tee to this point in the year. Watson
doesn’t necessarily hit it straight though (he ranks 196th in
driving accuracy), so fans following Florida’s long-drive champ
better keep their wits about them. Similarly, if you want to get up
close and personal with the beer-swilling Daly, keep your eyes out
for his million-dollar RV. At Hamilton in 2003, he sold merchandise
and signed autographs next to the monstrous vehicle, which was
parked in the lot of a restaurant not far from the course.
(Note: John Daly withdrew yesterday, as did Chris DiMarco and Ben Crane)
5) Canadians on the move Chris Baryla, who became the first
Canadian amateur in 20 years to play on the weekend in a Canadian
Open when he made the cut in Hamilton in 2003, should have been one
to watch this week. But Baryla withdrew from yesterday after
finishing fourth on Sunday at a Nationwide Tour event in Cleveland,
a result that allows him to play on the tour again this week.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t others worth following. Former
NCAA golf champ James Lepp will be playing in his third PGA Tour
event this year (he missed the cut in his first two events), and
three time Canadian Amateur champ Richard Scott will also be teeing
it up before turning pro later this year and heading to the PGA
Tour’s Qualifying School.

On the veteran side, Ian Leggatt is struggling to simply make cuts
these days in a desperate attempt to retain his tour card. The same
holds true for rookie Jon Mills, who sits a distant 219th at the PGA
Tour’s money list.

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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.

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