I caught an early morning flight out of Hamilton yesterday, bound for Calgary where I participated in a media day with Phil Mickelson to discuss his new project to the north-west of the city.
“We will anticipate this will hold the Canadian Open,” Mickelson said at a press conference to showcase the course he’s designing near the Springbank Airport, just north-west of the city.
Mickelson, 45, has won 42 PGA Tour tournaments, including five major championships and is one of the most widely recognized golfers in the game’s history. The course, called Mickelson National and expected to operate as a private club, was commissioned by Windmill Golf, the operator of several Alberta golf courses, and is expected to open in 2018.
The interesting question is whether Mickelson will be there. Assuming the course doesn’t get the Canadian Open until 2020-22, that would make Phil past 50. He hasn’t won since taking the British Open two years ago, and you wonder if age is catching up with him already. Still, having him in the field would be a big deal—he hasn’t played a Canadian Open since 2004, and I don’t expect to see him at Glen Abbey any time soon.
Mickelson really sells his involvement with the project, despite the fact he was there for the first time yesterday. He talks passionately about his vision for the course, about having tees for children and loops of holes that would allow one to play a couple and then play back in. He’s even talking about creating something so the first hole could be played in reverse. I think he lost some of the crowd by discussing the fairway contours and the slope on the greens (they wanted to hear big picture ideas, not nuances), but it showed to me that he’d involved, though Rick Smith really has the lead on the project and has been out a lot.
But as he was leaving and preparing to fly out, Mickelson insisted he return to the course just to check a few details and was already discussing his return in a few weeks.
How is the project? Coming along, though it is still two years away from completion. Still, many of the holes are pretty clear now, especially the 10th, and 11th. And membership sales for the course have been brisk, despite the slowdown in oil pricing.