Canadian Open Week Round Up — Day two

Victor Ciesielski, star of the 2006 Canadian Open at Hamilton, returns this year as a qualifier.

The Canadian Open round up starts with changes to the field — U.S. Open winner Webb Simpson, whose wife is due with their second child this Thursday, is out, as is Jonathan Byrd, who apparently hurt his ribs at the British Open. In are a bunch of Canadians including Jon Mills, Chris Ross, and the hero of the 2006 CanOpen at Hamilton, Victor Ciesielski.

The Hamilton Spec has a story on Ciesielski, who hadn’t qualified when the story appeared.

The story isn’t exactly flattering, and raises questions of why Ciesielski isn’t playing regularly — anywhere:

The floppy hair is gone. He’s a little thicker. And, through a sly smile, he grudgingly admits he’s slightly more mature.

But, six years after he stole the spotlight at the Canadian Open and came one tough round away from maybe stealing more than that, the one thing that hasn’t changed is the pants.

“You should see my wardrobe,” Victor Ciesielski laughs.

Ross, a Hamilton member whose father was once the executive director of the RCGA, also was given an exemption into the event. Scott Simmons, the current CEO of Golf Canada, told me last night that Ross was given the exemption because the tournament gained some additional exemption spots when Matt McQuillan qualified through traditional routes, and only had less than a half hour to decide who to give the spots to. Ross got one, though he actually didn’t get through the qualifying. Simmons said there’s a chance he could be criticized for making the decision, but felt it was better to have additional Canadians in the field.

In all there are 23 Canadians in the field. That led one golf industry source to send me a note questioning whether half of the Canadians in the field could actually be competitive this week. The same source raised questions about whether the field was only a step above last week’s conflict event in Mississippi, which ran against the British Open and had a notoriously weak showing.

That said, organizers seem to be pegging all their hopes on Ernie Els drawing the attention after winning the British Open on the weekend. Els, who initially scared a number of RBC execs by appearing to indicate he might skip the Canadian tournament, arrives in Canada today. The CBC’s Peter Robinson reports on Els’ comments — and the ensuing chaos they caused for Golf Canada:

Shortly after winning the British Open on Sunday, Els said in his victory speech that he planned to visit his family in London.

“I’m going to try and come and see you this evening. I’m supposed to go to Canada but I think I’m going to blow that thing off,” Els said to laughter.

Yesterday, at an awards function, someone asked me whether it mattered that Simpson wasn’t coming.

“Is anyone coming out to watch him anyway?”

It is an interesting question. Golf Canada apparently thought so — they used Simpson and Jason Day, who also decided against coming to the tournament, in its marketing for the event. But does Simpson and Day turn the dial and make it more engaging for fans? And if they don’t, who does? Are we really down to three names that draw — Woods, Mickelson and McIlroy? Surely Els will engage some — but if the U.S. Open winner (and one of the game’s young bright lights) doesn’t capture people’s imaginations and sell tickets, who does? And if Simpson doesn’t matter, then maybe RBC should put all their money to pulling off a Greenbrier-like scenario and simply pay Woods $2-million to turn up.

What really surprises me is that anyone through Simpson was coming in the first place. It seems naive, especially since he was announced on Friday as being in the field and taken out two days later.Canadian Open Tournament Director Bill Paul told the Ken Fidlin at the Toronto Sun that he told Simpson to stay home:

Paul helped make Simpson’s decision not to play an easy one.

“I told him, ‘Selfishly, I still want you to come up but the reality is that you’ve got to feel comfortable with it. If I put myself in your shoes, my advice would be not to come up. If I put myself in your shoes, my head and my heart would be at home. That’s what I think you should do.'”

Monday, Simpson called Paul back and said he appreciated the advice he had given him and that he was going to stay at home.

Later Monday, Paul spoke a bit wistfully of the brief window when it was possible both Els and Simpson would be here.

“That would have been pretty cool,” said the man who has endured many years in the past when he had to use all his persuasive powers to get even journeymen pros to come to Canada, let along major champions.

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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.

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