Interesting and very busy day at a warm RBC Canadian Open. First of all, in response to the blurb I wrote about a speed trap on Islington Ave. that pulled over a van with a player in it traveling to the range, turns out that player was Paul Azinger. And one driver told me Zinger got out of the van and tried to talk the cop out of the ticket. Maybe the cop wasn’t a golf fan…
It was interview day, which means a group of players — Mike Weir, Stephen Ames, Paul Casey, Anthony Kim — were paraded through the small media room. All of the media facilities are located in St. George’s curling area, which has worked pretty darn well. The only issue is the media room for interviews, which is on a different floor and quite small. It’ll be interesting to see what happens on Sunday for the winner’s press conference. Oh, and apparently this is the only tour stop with curling facilities. Who knew?
I wrote two pieces yesterday. The first was a column on Weir and Ames. Weir is hurt — my bet is that he’d be on a plane home if this was any other tournament. He wouldn’t shake hands with people — clutching his right arm to his chest. Ames, on the other hand, was gregarious and fun, praising St. George’s, though he did say the rough was nearly “tricked up.” That’s apparently because they cut it against play, meaning the ball will sit down. I’ve never been a proponent of making the Canadian Open some version of the U.S. Open — and I don’t think St. George’s needs to be made overly difficult anyway.
My second piece was a notes package. Among the interesting tidbits was a lengthy conversation withgym teacher and golfer Dave Bunker, the Canadian mid-am champ who is playing in his first Canadian Open at 45. He was a lot of fun to talk to. Anthony Kim was also in the media centre, though he’s still hurt and not playing this week. Interestingly he said friends in Vegas asked him who to bet on at the British Open and he said stick with the faves. Two things struck me about this — one that friends are asking a tour pro who they should put money on and two, that he didn’t see Louis Oosthuizen as a fave. Are PGA Tour pros supposed to tell friends who to bet on? Oh, and asked whether he watched any golf while recovering from surgery, Kim replied: “When I want to go to sleep sometimes.”
I then spent two hours interviewing Sean Foley for a feature. Foley’s talk was, as expected, wide ranging, and included my blog where I asked whether he was this country’s next great swing doctor or a “pretentious wanker.”Foley admitted he might have come across a bit pretentious in the story by Lorne Rubenstein, but the conversation was not confrontational. Instead Foley talked about his early life, challenges he faced in his final years of college and how he decided to learn as much as he could about the golf swing. He says most swing theory is wrong and that a lot of what he teaches is simply ignoring what he knows to be incorrect and focusing on what is left. He also talked about Tiger Woods. Would he like to coach him? Yes. Will he dump Justin Rose, Sean O’Hair and Hunter Mahan for the opportunity? “I’m not going to do that to my guys,” he said forcefully. For the record, he’s engaging, and a lot of fun to have a conversation with even if you don’t buy everything he says. His next goal is really lofty, but I’ll leave that for the feature….
I also spoke withtop Canadian amateur Nick Taylor, who still plans on touring pro after the U.S. Amateur. Given the tough conditions, Taylor thinks he can be competitive at St. George’s this week. Oh, and he was knocked out of the US Publinx in the first round after making the final last year.
The Globe’s Lorne Rubenstein has an interesting column that suggests the penal rough at St. George’s is limiting options for recovery. I think there’s a fine line between making the course engaging and making it too hard. A few years back Jack Nicklaus was accused of making Muirfield Village too hard and players started staying away. I think the talk about the rough is a bit overdone — that all the players are talking about it now, but that it isn’t out of hand. Weir pegged the winning score in the high single digits, and that was the take of a couple of other players who came through the media room.
Sometimes the best defence is no defence at all – little or no rough, that is. The ingenious St. George’s Golf and Country Club, where the RBC Canadian Open will start Thursday, will be presented in a different way, though, with punishing rough that will force one-dimensional golf.
There’s nothing particularly wrong with such an approach if the idea is to emphasize accuracy to the exclusion of ingenuity. But there’s so little opportunity to hit creative shots out of the rough, which is dense and four inches long, that players who miss fairways will have little chance to do anything but return the ball back to the fairway. That’s golf spelled b-o-r-i-n-g.
Stanley Thompson didn’t design St. George’s to play that way. Its rolling fairways, with their humps and bumps and steep falloffs from greens, were meant to take the ball away rather than have it settle where it lands. The course would be just as challenging and it would offer a wider range of shot possibilities – and hence introduce confusion into a player’s mind – if the natural slopes were allowed to have their say.
Speaking of St. George’s, golf designer Ian Andrew has a blog on “10 things you didn’t know about St. George’s,” including the fact the 16th hole used to have a boomerang green.
Garry McKay at the Spectator talksabout the vote at Hamilton Golf & CC to host the 2012 CanOpen:
Scott Simmons, executive director of Golf Canada, was all smiles yesterday morning with word that the members of the Hamilton Golf and Country Club had voted to accept hosting the 2012 RBC Canadian Open.
Simmons said he wasn’t smiling Tuesday night, however, when Hamilton Golf and Country Club president Mike Hughes called to give him the news.
According to Simmons, Hughes had a sombre tone to his voice when he said that he had some news and even sighed once, giving him the indication that the members had turned down the request.
“When he told me it was a yes, I called him a (expletive deleted),” said Simmons with a laugh yesterday.
“This gives us three great old courses in a row.
“St. George’s this week, Shaughnessy next year in Vancouver and Hamilton in 2012.”
Speaking at his annual state of golf in Canada media scrum, Simmons also indirectly confirmed that the Open will be played at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville in either 2013 or 2014.
It almost assuredly will also go to a course in Montreal, likely either Royal Montreal or Club De Golf Laval Sur Le Lac, in 2013 or 2014.
With Hamilton in 2012, my sources say the tournament is all but assured to go to Royal Montreal in 2013 and Glen Abbey (a contractural obligation) in 2014.
One place it apparently isn’t going is Ottawa, according to the Citizen’s Gord Holder:
Golf Canada’s title sponsorship deal with RBC covers the 2011 and 2012 Opens at Vancouver and Hamilton, but, even if that contract and another with the PGA Tour are renewed or replaced, those significant financial obligations remain the key reasons why it’s unlikely this country’s only stop on the PGA Tour schedule and its national men’s open golf championship will be back in the capital region in the foreseeable future.
“If you look at the markets in Canada that can host the Open, there are some obvious ones, like the big three that everyone always talks about: Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal,” says Scott Simmons, Golf Canada’s executive director.
“I think you would have to include Calgary in there, obviously, but, then where do you go from there? Golf course aside, just look at the market, and Ottawa’s Achilles heel is a lack of corporate presence. It’s a government town.”
In his prime, Weir was one of the top golfers in terms of overall number of birdies. In 2003, he averaged 4.03 per round, 14th best on the Tour. In 2009, that number dropped to 3.54 (93rd) and this year 3.30 (127th).
His putting, always one of his stronger suits, is still strong but, unfortunately for Weir, you need more than a putter to win on the Tour.
Weir resorted to hiring his former coach Mike Wilson this season in hopes of finding his swing, but that move has yet to pay off to any real degree. And physical challenges, such as tendonitis, which flared up last week at the British Open, only increase with age.
Still, Weir insists that he has some good years left and expects to make the Canadian team for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, when golf returns to the Games for the first time since 1904, when Toronto’s George Lyon won the gold for Canada.
“As long as you’re fit and healthy, there’s no reason you can’t play really well into your 40s,” he said. “There’s been plenty of guys who have.”
Unfortunately, Weir has yet to show that he can walk the walk. And at 5-foot-9, 155 pounds, he certainly isn’t getting any stronger.
The good news is, three young Canadians seem primed to make a name for themselves in the pros. Graham DeLaet, 28, of Weyburn, Sa., already posted a third-place finish this season at the Shell Houston Open and has recorded four top 25 finishes on the PGA Tour. He has earned $564,040 on the Tour this season, more than Weir.
Nick Taylor, 22, of Abbotsford, B.C., the No.1 ranked world amateur for 20 weeks in 2009, and the low amateur at the 2009 U.S Open, is expected to turn pro later this year, while 21-year-old Matt Hill of Brights Grove, the 2009 NCAA individual champion, has already left the amateur circuit. All three appear to have a bright future.
And with Weir fading like the evening sun over the 18th green at St. George’s, their arrival comes just in time.
Weir is hurt — and has had a lousy year. “Fading like the evening sun?” A bit prosaic, isn’t it?
Why is Paul Casey at St. George’s? Partly because “fading like the evening sun” Weir asked him to come, and partially because he has a buddy who is a member:
The Englishman, currently ranked No. 8 in the world, belongs to The Wisleyclub outside London. His friend and fellow member Steve Lobb is also a member of St. George’s Country Club, the site of this week’s PGA Tour event.
“Obviously he loves this place,” said Casey, who employed Lobb as his caddy for Wednesday’s pro-am.
“He’s like, ‘It’s the best course in Canada — you gotta come play it.’ And I’ve always said, ‘Yeah, yeah, I’ll come play it.’ And here it is. I had to come play it. I couldn’t back down.”