Spent the day out at the terrific St. George’s G&CC this morning, first playing the course as part of a media outing, then spending some time with Mike Weir, defending champ Nathan Green, and finally interviewing RBC CEO Gord Nixon for a magazine story. Yep, been a busy day.
First and foremost, let’s talk about the players for the event that were announced:
This year’s RBC Canadian Open will feature 10 of this season’s 23 PGA TOUR event winners to date, including Ryan Palmer (Sony Open in Hawaii), Bill Haas (Bob Hope Classic), Ben Crane (Farmers Insurance Open), Hunter Mahan (Waste Management Phoenix Open), Camilo Villegas (The Honda Classic), Derek Lamely (Puerto Rico Open presented by Banco Popular), Cameron Beckman (Mayakoba Golf Classic at Riviera Maya-Cancun), Anthony Kim (Shell Houston Open), Jason Bohn (Zurich Classic of New Orleans) and Tim Clark (THE PLAYERS Championship).
OFFICIAL WORLD GOLF RANKINGS:
The field for the 101st playing of Canada’s National Open Championship will feature 13 of top 50 players on the official World Golf Ranking including, Paul Casey (#8), Luke Donald (#9), Anthony Kim (#11), Camilo Villegas (#15), Retief Goosen (#18), Hunter Mahan (#19), Y.E. Yang (#21), Tim Clark (#22), Sean O’Hair (#25), Matt Kuchar (#32), Ben Crane (#39), Kevin Na (#46) and Michael Sim (#50).
FEDEX CUP POINTS CHASE:
To date, 15 of the current top 30 on the FedEx Cup ranking have confirmed their intention to compete at St. George’s Golf and Country Club including Anthony Kim (#4), Ben Crane (#5), Tim Clark (#6), Camilo Villegas (#10), Matt Kuchar (#11), Bill Haas (#12), Hunter Mahan (#13), Jeff Overton (#16), Jason Bohn (#18), Luke Donald (#19), Bo Van Pelt (#21), Brian Davis (#23), Paul Casey (#26), Ricky Fowler (#28) and Ryan Palmer (#30). Overall, the current field projections feature 28 of the top 50 players in the points chase.
PGA TOUR MONEY LIST:
Similarly, 15 of the top 30 and 29 of the top 50 players on the current PGA TOUR money list – including Tim Clark (#4), Anthony Kim (#5), Ben Crane (#7) and Camilo Villegas (#8) – have confirmed their intention to compete in the 2010 RBC Canadian Open.
Let’s look at this a little more closely and discount things like the FedEx Cup points chase, since frankly no one gives two bogeys about that. It is more about the names and the fact that Golf Canada and RBC feel strongly enough about the players they’ve players they are bringing that they’ve broken it out for all the world to see. In the past I’d break down the numbers and find the tournament would have a handful of players within the Top 50 in the World Rankings. That’s changed. Let’s look at them — several are clearly stars:
- Anthony Kim: Having one of his best year’s before an injury derailed him. The CanOpen will be his first event back, according to his agent.
- Luke Donald is having another solid year. He’s also affiliated with RBC, so it isn’t surprising to see him coming.
- Camilo has faded, but started the year hot and is very identifible. He announced he was coming to Canada earlier on a conference call to promote the Telus Skins Game.
- YE Yang probably isn’t a real star (or at least not a guy who will draw a lot of fans) — but he did win the PGA Championship and is a nice addition.
- Goosen returns after nearly winning last year.
- The affable Tim Clark comes to Canada after winning the Players. He once played the Canadian Tour and held the course record at Forest City National in London for a long time (Still?)
- Paul Casey was once in the Top 5 in the world. He’s now #8, but he’s a great addition to the field. Given his remarks on Ernie Els’ work at Wentworth, I think Casey could be a fan of St. George’s before the tournament is done.
- Mahan has come regularly for the past few years.
- Fred Couples is back — another RBC guy. Sense a theme here?
Beyond those players the metrics are really strong. The event current has 15 of the Top 30 money leaders and 29 of the Top 50. That’s a big step forward from a few years back when there used to be four — and Weir and Ames were two of them. Additionally, Bill Paul said they were very close with Steve Stricker and that he is trying to move a corporate commitment to allow him to play. Other players were promised as well in coming weeks.
One of the things that struck me about the names is the young players — Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan, Camilo Villegas, Sean O’Hair — who are coming to the tournament regularly now. Clearly RBC and Golf Canada are doing something right — as those are the stars of the game now and likely for the next decade.
All in all, I’d say a B+ field, perhaps moving to an A if Stricker shows up. And it is a better field than many other PGA Tour events. I think at long last we can stop complaining about the lack of attention our national open gets from the best in the business.
Notes from the day : Spoke with Mike Weir for a while as he toured the course with one of the kids from Bloorview, the children’s rehab centre that is the charity of choice for Weir’s foundation at this year’s RBC Canadian Open. RBC, BTW, guaranteed $250,000 — which was pretty amazing (the goal was $500,000). Anyway, Weir asked what I thought of the course this year and we spoke about specific holes — namely #3 and #4, which were concerns to him. He wasn’t sure how he’d play #4, given that it will be a 480-yard par-4 for the tournament. He was also concerned about the tree to the left of the green and whether it would preclude certain pin positions. The greens on 3 and 4 were his main concern +++ St. George’s rough is thick, but not crazy long and the golf course will be in fine shape for the tournament. The notorious third green seems to be slowed in preparation for the tournament. Interestingly, the plan is to grow the rough to 4.5 inches for the tournament. Doesn’t this happen every year? And doesn’t the PGA Tour always make them cut it after members have had to deal with it for a month? Isn’t it time someone considered this might be a factor in the reason some members are opposed to hosting the tournament? +++ RBC CEO Gord Nixon told me today that PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem is expected to show up at the Canadian Open. +++ Defending Canadian Open champ Nathan Green played St. George’s for the first time this morning. He said it was comparable to only four of five courses the PGA Tour plays each year. Winning score? It could be 12-15 under if the course is wet, but much closer to par if it is dry. He added that he loved the bunker work and the green complexes. He also expected the greens wouldn’t play much faster than 10 on the stimp given the amount of slope on some of them. +++ Golf Canada executive director Scott Simmons says he is near to announcing the 2012, 2013, and 2014 Canadian Opens. Since the RCGA has to go back to Glen Abbey once before 2014, you can guess that one. I’m betting one will be held at a course in the Golden Horseshoe and the other at a Quebec club — and it won’t be Laval as rumored. +++ Attendance at the tournament will be capped at 22,000 per day, and Simmons says Sunday is nearly sold out. +++
Quote(s) of the day: “Having walked with Tiger for two holes at the Players Championship, I think we have the premier players here.”
-RBC Canadian Open tournament director Bill Paul when questioned about whether the tournament was missing the “premier” players in the game.
– Mike Weir when asked to characterize the state of his game.
“Imagine an Aussie going into a bar.”
– Mike Weir to defending Canadian Open champ Nathan Green, after Green spoke about staying in downtown Toronto for the nightlife.
“I think the answer is yes. But I say this tongue in cheek — only if the price is right. The economics have to be reasonable.”
– Royal Bank CEO Gord Nixon on whether RBC will renew its deal for the Canadian Open after it expires in 2012.