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Canadians on Tour; Rubenstein on the greens

Quiet week from a Canadian perspective as Mike Weir is skiing and Stephen Ames has been hanging out in Hawaii. But neither won last year — so neither is playing in the season opening Mercedes Championship, which is probably just as well given that Geoff Ogilvy is running away with the tournament anyway.

Both players will be in the field in Palm Springs to kick off the Bob Hope . Interesting to see that Weir has decided to make a public statement about the replacing of George Lopez as the host of the tournament. Weir won’t play in the celebrity component of the even because he was unhappy that Lopez’s role has been usurped (according to GolfDigest.com):

Arnold Palmer, who won the first Hope 50 years ago, is coming back this month to serve as honorary host of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, and that’s a nice touch. Palmer replaces, at least in title, comedian George Lopez, who was unceremoniously dumped after tournament officials were somehow shocked to learn that Lopez tends to track toward, well, edgy humor, even though that’s been his act his entire career. Lopez had many fans among the players, including former champion Mike Weir, who isn’t going to play in the celebrity field to make his feelings known.

Since Weir has rarely — if ever — courted controversy, it is interesting to see him sticking his neck out on this one, if only in his own cautious way.

One Canadian playing this week is London, Ont. resident Alan McLean, who has been in South Africa since the start of December playing on the European Tour. McLean, who is playing on a medical exemption, finished in the Top 10 at the Alfred Dunhill, and looks like he’ll be in the Top 30 for the third straight tournament. He has ground to make up, having a limited number of tournaments in which he’ll gain entrance, but this week’s tournament, the Joburg Open, shows McLean having a strange week. He has three eagles on the week and an ace during the first round, but will still finish week back. He’s also averaging over 300 yards on his tee shots. His scorecard — strange as it is — can be found here.

UPDATE: Missed Graham Delaet’s participation in the event. He eventually finished 12th, which is a terrific showing. Can’t quite figure out what Graham, who is from Saskatchewan, is doing in South Africa. Last year, he struggled on the Canadian Tour before playing well at the end of the season. Money was also an issue, as was his putter. But it came around and he played well at the World Cup event in China. However, a 12th place showing won’t get him into the next European Tour event, so it’ll be interesting to see what he does next. However, you’ve got to figure with the Canadian Tour moving to South America and Mexico for early season events, neither of which are inexpensive in terms of travel, perhaps more Canadians will consider the Sunshine Tour in South Africa as a viable option.

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Lorne Rubenstein in the Globe writes a column about green speeds vs. slope.

The essence of his article is this:

Greens should never be that treacherous. They should be challenging, and stimulate creative rather than fearful putting. That transpires when there’s a balance between contour and speed. As much as possible, greens ought to be smooth. But that doesn’t have to mean slippery trickery.

Rubenstein argues that in our quest to find speed in greens, we’re losing great pin positions at classic courses.

He also drops this interesting element in the column, suggesting Mike Weir and his newly-formed Weir Golf Design, should involve itself in prepping St. George’s G&CC for the 2010 Canadian Open:

What about the green speed for the 2010 RBC Canadian Open at St. George’s in Toronto, where preparations have started? Will the speeds be pushed so far that it will be impossible to use some hole locations on the beautifully meandering greens that Stanley Thompson designed?

Mike Weir played the course for the first time on the Monday of the 2008 Canadian Open. He was concerned about what could happen if the greens get too fast.

“There’s some pretty severe greens [and it would be] unfortunate if you couldn’t put the pins over there if the greens were Tour speed, because there’s some pins you couldn’t use,” Weir said. “No way.”

Weir said he wouldn’t mind if the greens were slower to allow more hole locations.

St. George’s and the PGA Tour could make an important statement if the greens were kept at a sensible speed. In fact, Weir himself, along with Brantford, Ont., architect Ian Andrew should take a stand and argue for that. Why Andrew? You can take it to the bank that Weir has picked him as his design associate for his fledgling architecture business.

“Remember, every time you raise the speed, you lose area which can be fairly pinned,” Andrew once wrote in a blog.

Interesting remarks re: Andrew. Nothing official as far as I know has been announced re: designer for Weir Golf Design, so I’m neither confirming nor denying… but the I think the idea of dealing with green speeds at St. George’s is a PGA Tour matter and even Weir won’t have influence there. Now if St. George’s could be talked into rebuilding the third green…

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