Should we sacrifice the RBC Canadian Open?
That seems to be what Golf Canada executive director Scott Simmons was raising while talking to the Globe’s Lorne Rubenstein at the Canadian Open. Simmons was apparently discussing the possibility of turning the RBC Canadian Open into a World Golf Championship event, like the one in Ohio on the weekend.
Of course it isn’t that simple – there are a lot of moving parts and RBC would have to be willing to spend upwards of $10-million on the event. But it is an interesting question. Lost would be the Canadian element – if it were a WGC event this year, for instance, none of the Canadians would have been in the field. No David Hearn. No Graham DeLaet. Surely no Mike Weir.
Simmons told me at Glen Abbey that he would be all for seeing the RBC Canadian Open become a World Golf Championships event or become part of the four-tournament FedEx Cup playoff series. Most all the top players enter these tournaments. The field of 72 players at this week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio includes Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. Need more be said? At the same time, it’s worth pointing out that 19-year-old phenom Jordan Spieth has decided not to play so that he can prepare more effectively for next week’s PGA Championship.
A spot as a WGC event or, even better, in the FedEx Cup playoff series with its payoff of $10,000,000 to the winner, would ensure a super-elite field for the RBC Canadian Open. RBC also assumed title sponsorship of the (now) RBC Heritage Classic in Hilton Head Island, S.C. Gord Nixon, its President and CEO, is a keen golfer who belongs to the Rosedale Golf Club in Toronto, for one. It’s not a stretch to believe he could make things happen with Finchem should a spot open in the FedEx Cup playoff series. Nixon and RBC are players in the PGA Tour world.
“A WGC or playoff event ‘could’ yield much higher revenues and profits,” Simmons wrote in an e-mail after the Canadian Open concluded. “The costs are a lot higher too, so we’d have to work that all out with RBC. But I’m almost positive that with ALL (his caps) the top players in the world there, we could increase our ticket sales as described.”
By “as described,” Simmons meant the figures he had cited to me. He said that he could see 10,000 more spectators for each of the four days of the tournament. At $100 a ticket, the price he mentioned, that would mean $4,000,000 more in revenue.
“But purse and other costs go up too,” Simmons emphasized. “So we’d have to look at it very carefully before I could give you a definitive assessment of impact to our bottom line. But my hypothesis is that we’d make a lot more.”
There’s been plenty of discussion about the future of the RBC Canadian Open. I’ve heard plenty of ideas floated. Make it a WGC event. Or a FedEx Cup event. Or run it without a PGA Tour affiliation.
The WGC event is a tradeoff. The concept is this – with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and the likes in the field, Golf Canada could make millions more running the tournament. Though there wouldn’t be any Canadians in the field unless they were in the top group of players in the world, the extra money generated could be pumped back into development, hopefully giving Canada a better chance of having representation at the tournament.
And let’s be honest – there were 18 Canadians in the field last month at the RBC Canadian Open, but four made the cut – and all four already play on the PGA Tour. Should we be offering spots to young Canadians just so they get the opportunity to “experience” a PGA Tour event? Is that developing talent?
There are issues facing the Canadian Open, though I think people are being pretty myopic about many of them. The date isn’t that big an issue any longer, unless you think having Tiger Woods in the field should be the ultimate goal of Golf Canada. Right now the tournament has a better than average field for a PGA Tour event, and had a very competitive leaderboard with numerous big names in contention. And RBC still doesn’t pay the same rate as the typical PGA Tour event. Can you say win-win?
There are issues with the current setup for the Canadian Open. Interest seems to have stalled – witness the fact the tournament struggled to get 20,000 people in the gates on the weekend this year. That, by the way, should eliminate the debate over which courses have the space needed to hold the tournament – apparently a lot of space isn’t needed any longer. What was the last time the tournament drew 25,000 people? Exactly – I can’t recall either. The last time a date was sold out was 2004, according to Scott Simmons.
I personally like the notion of turning the Canadian Open into a WGC event – though I think it is a pipe dream. I don’t think it’ll be offered and if it is I don’t think it is coming to Canada. On top of that there’s no guarantee RBC would pony up the cash. I think the tradeoff of the money for a handful of exemptions would be a worthwhile bet.
However, I think Golf Canada’s directors would shoot the idea down preferring to maintain the status quo than taking the risk that would be required to turn it into something greater.