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Canadian Open: Is Fred Couples and Blue Rodeo Enough?

Yesterday the Royal Canadian Golf Association and sponsor RBC announced a number of players that would apparently be playing, as well as an ambitious marketing and support program, some of which involves a couple of Canadian rock bands.

Among those announced:

  • Retief Goosen, currently #31 in the world rankings
  • Sean O’Hair, currently #34 in the world rankings
  • Boo Weekley (how did this redneck get to #26 in the world?)
  • Jeff Quinney (#49 in the world)
  • Presidents Cup captain and silly season king Fred Couples. Oh, and I think I recall something about a Masters win
  • Jim Furyk (did we really think this guy wasn’t coming? It would have stunned me if Furyk skipped.)
  • Mike Weir and Stephen Ames (Ditto.)

On the face of it, it is certainly a stronger field than we’ve seen since 2004 when the Ryder Cup was right down the road in Michigan. That’s also the take of RBC.

“The momentum and the feeling in the room is palpably better,” RBC marketing chief Jim Little said on a May 26 conference call. “This thing feels like we’re on the right trajectory.”

So what is missing? Actual stars that people will pay to see. Goosen is in the midst of steep decline. Fred Couples is nearer the senior tour than winning on the PGA Tour. O’Hair and Weekley are potentially stars, but I wonder if people would rather see Boo’s press tent interview televised than see him play. Furyk is a star, but he’s the defending champion. Was there really a worry he wouldn’t return?

Of course then there’s the bands and rock stars — Blue Rodeo, Tom Cochrane and 54-40. Blue Rodeo are undoubtedly big Canadian stars, but 54-40 are a long way from hit records. Cochrane is a golf nut, and probably is thrilled to participate. Sounds like a good way of trying to make an event of the tournament once the golf is done — and I hope people stick around to see it. But I’m not certain they will. Perhaps it is aimed more at the corporate types that fill up the tents during the day.

Beyond players and rock bands, the RCGA is promising to announce more details on courses for upcoming Canadian Opens. We know all about St. George’s, and the Hamilton Spectator reports that Hamilton is in the mix, though GM George Pinches doesn’t make it sound like it will happen any time soon:

“We’ve indicated that we’re certainly willing to enter into discussions but in terms of us hosting one, that’s off in the distant future not the near future,” he says. “The club has a lot on its plate right now.

The other courses mentioned? Vancouver’s Shaughnessy, and Montreal’s Royal Montreal. What does that mean for Angus Glen owner Gordon Stollery’s much-discussed Terrebonne project, a course being built by Tom Fazio that was supposed to hold the Canadian Open? It is way off schedule in terms of being built and RCGA ED Scott Simmons acknowledged that Royal Montreal is now in the plans. The end of Terrebonne?

Other points of note — the Score awards are now part of the tournament. That’s great. Let’s hope they make this interesting, as opposed to just handing out awards to pros that know they are about to receive them. How about a little drama? Oh, and while we’re at it, how about an invite for a regular contributor to the magazine? The Score Awards have long been odd for not inviting the media that actually write for the magazine. Very strange. Does that mean I want an invite? Damn straight.

But there are no big stars announced so far — no Phil Mickelson or Ernie Els. And surely no Tiger Woods, who reportedly told the RCGA he wouldn’t be attending earlier this year. Bill Paul said he was told by Woods earlier that Tiger wouldn’t be appearing. Paul remains hopeful he might change his mind:

“You never give up on Tiger,” Paul said of the 2000 champion.

Maybe you don’t give up, but I wouldn’t hold my breathe for him for fear of passing out.

++++++

Update: Just got off the phone with Scott Simmons, ED of the RCGA. He told me he took exception to this blog post, and felt I didn’t give the organization enough credit for making the right steps. I agree that they organization is making the appropriate steps. As Simmons explained, you can’t hope for a better date until the Open demonstrates it is a better event. That means better courses, better treatment of the players and perhaps other factors, like a larger purse. Simmons also assured me there would be more top players in the field. The goal — to create a “best in class,” event, as the marketing lingo goes. When pushed on what that means, Simmons agreed that a “best in class” PGA Tour event has to include much of the Top 10 players of the time — and in this instance at least Phil Mickelson or Tiger Woods. I doubt we’ll see either this year, and you probably won’t see either until after the tournament moves away from Glen Abbey. Mickelson didn’t play well there last year, and though Tiger won there, it doesn’t appear to be enough to draw him back.

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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.

3 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I do think we won’t know until the 2010 – assuming it is going to be held at St George’s – to know for certain how significant the bad date is.

  • KC,

    Stuck between the British Open and a World Golf Tour event???? Are you seriously saying you don’t already know it’s a bad date? Don’t hold your breath that the golf course venue is going to save the Canadian Open……..won’t happen.

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