[photopress:canadians.jpg,full,alignright]My latest National Post column, or at least 550 of the 900 words I wrote, appears in today’s paper. Since Edward Scissorhands had a go at this one, I’m putting up the whole unedited column here:
The last time Mike Weir was at Glen Abbey Golf Club, he was battling in a playoff with Vijay Singh to determine the 2004 Canadian Open. The Canadian from Brights Grove, Ont. would lose a heartbreaker to the big Fijian, and in the ensuing years, Weir wondered whether hed have a chance to tackle The Abbey in a Canadian Open again. Lacking a sponsor, saddled with a tough date and a weak field, Weir wondered how long the tournament would exist.
Yes, I was worried that it could disappear, he said, standing in the clubhouse at Glen Abbey on Monday as part of an event designed to introduce the Canadians in this years field. Without a title sponsor there were a lot of questions.
But Weir isnt worried anymore and many of those questions now have answers.
Hell be at Glen Abbey again later this month, once again trying to become the first Canadian since Pat Fletcher in 1954 to win the countrys top golf tournament. Weir played the course on Monday and unlike past appearances where the Abbeys mischievous greens baffled him and kept him away from the leaderboard, Weir thinks hes got a better chance than ever.
I think I might have a shot at this, he said. Why? Weir said the swing changes he implemented last year allow him to hit the ball higher which gives him a better shot at holding the often slight greens at the course. In the past he was disdainful of playing at Glen Abbey, the perennial home of the Canadian Open. Now hes optimistic.
And Weir feels that hes not the only one who needs a change in mindset when it comes to the Canadian Open. Though rarely outspoken, the normally reserved Weir came out swinging when he took the microphone to address the media and golf officials at Glen Abbey at the event. The time has come, Weir said, to applaud those who come to Canada for the tournament, as opposed to dwelling on those who havent made the trip from England following the British Open.
Id rather see us talk about who we have here rather than who we don’t have here, he said. That seems to have been a theme Ive heard over the last few years.
While the event was ostensibly a way of introducing the 13 Canadians who would be guaranteed a spot in the countrys national tournament, it was more a celebration of the Canadian Open itself, which seems to be breathing on its own after several years on life support.
Along with Weir, PGA Tour golfers Stephen Ames and Jon Mills will be at the tournament, along with Nationwide Tour members, Bryan DeCorso from Guelph, Ont., who captured the Nationwide Tours South Georgia Classic earlier this year; David Morland IV from Aurora, Ont.; Brantfords David Hearn, Brad Fritsch from Ottawa; Jim Rutledge From Victoria, B.C., and Cambridges Ian Leggatt. Canadian PGA Club Professional Championship winner Eric Landreville, from Ville de LÃƒ©ry, Que., as well as Canadian amateur winner Nick Taylor and runner-up Michael Knight, will also be in the field. Taylor, regarded as one of the countrys hottest golf prospects, also qualified for the U.S. Open in June, missing the cut.
It may still have a long way to go until it can once again be considered a fifth major again, but Ames thinks it is at least on the right path.
The outspoken Ames, who resides in Calgary, says recognizing the countrys national championship by celebrating Canadas best golfers.
This event is a lot better than what weve had in the past, Ames said, referring to an annual dinner for Canadian golfers that was annually held on Wednesday night before the start of the tournament. It allows us to get the ear of the sponsor and for them to get some insight from us.
In this case the sponsor, Royal Bank, which stepped up to bank roll the tournament last year, is as much a factor in its success as is Ames or Weir.
The event, with its US$5-million purse, had been without a title sponsor for the previous two years following a decision by Bell Canada to drop its long-term commitment to the tournament. That move coincided with a change of dates for the tournament “ from early September to the week following the British Open, and alteration, coupled with the invention of the FedEx Cup, and questions around the title sponsor, made it extremely difficult for the tournament to attract top-tier players. Tiger Woods has not played in the tournament since 2001, and Phil Mickelson, the worlds No. 2 golfer, last teed it up in Canada in 2004.
Even with RBCs involvement, seeing Woods or Mickelson at a tournament in Canada following the British Open isnt likely any time in the near future. The current PGA Tour deal with the Canadian Open will almost certainly keep the tournament in its current date until 2013. But the lobbying for a move has already begin and Weir says hell keep PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem aware of the need to a better time for the tournament.
I think I have a pretty good relationship with the commissioner, said Weir, who helped lobby to bring last years Presidents Cup to Canada. Ill certainly do whatever I can.
Will that be enough? No one can be sure. But if the Canadian Open continues to restore its lustre in coming years, with stronger fields, better courses and excited crowds, it will be increasingly difficult for Finchem to ignore.