The Canadian Open: A Little Defensive

The RBC Canadian Open begins Thursday at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario, Canada, and everybody seems to be a little defensive.

First of all, it is their national championship, but there are only 18 Canadian players in the 156-player field. It turns out that that’s the most they’ve had in some years, so to seat that many in the bountiful number of American players suggests that the quality of the Canadian players is improving. 

Notable Canadians in the field include: Stephen Ames, Graham DeLaet, Brad Fritsch, David Hearn, Jason Kokrak and Mike Weir. Graham DeLaet has been showing up at the top of more and more leaderboards, David Hearn just had a P2 at the John Deere and Jason Kokrak just had a T3 at Tiger’s AT&T tournament at Congressional. Mike Weir is, of course, a national hero and working hard to find his way back to his former form that won a Masters.

One of the big things that has turned this tournament around — it was once considered a fifth major by the players because it was a national championship…of Canada! — is that it is sponsored by RBC, the Royal Bank of Canada. And that is a good thing because their sponsorship brings with it their prominent stable of their non-Canadian RBC ambassadors: Ernie Els, Hunter Mahan, Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald, Matt Kuchar and Brandt Snedeker.

Having names like that is critical to the success of the tournament because it falls in a bad place on the Tour schedule:

  • British Open
  • Canadian Open
  • WGC-Bridgestone Invitational
  • PGA Championship

On the one hand, it’s attractive to players because, like Hilton Head coming after Augusta, it allows them to decompress from the British Open and shoot a bunch of low scores to blow off some steam. Glen Abbey plays 7,253 yards and the expectation is that it will be a freewheeling birdie fest with the winner around 20-under. When you’re playing well, that’s a lot of fun.

But on the other hand, with the Bridgestone and PGA following, it forces the RBC guys to play four weeks in a row. That only gives them Greensboro off the week after that before they are thrown into the four-tournament playoff run through the Tour Championship and FedExCup.

Greensboro does benefit from its position because it’s the last tournament the players have to both qualify for the playoffs and gain higher seeds, but it may not attract the highest-ranked players. The FedExCup points cutoffs for each successive playoff tournament are: 125, 100, 70 and 30 players, so there might be some concentrations of players around those numbers trying to “get inside the number.”

In the meantime, the Canadians are doing their level best to continue to build up their tournament and much of the goodwill comes from their famous, gracious hospitality.

One year, I was trying to qualify for the Canadian Senior Open in Calgary and the qualifying course, Pinebrook Golf and Country Club, treated us like kings. We got free range balls, free greens fees, free carts and after the qualifier was done, the General Manager invited me to lunch. That kind of carte blanche never happened anywhere else. And after a practice round with a member at Mississauga Golf and Country Club in Toronto, I was invited to an early dinner with him and his wife.

I had been alerted to this graciousness by my father. He was an engineer consulting with an energy exploration company in Calgary. He was invited to the home of his clients for dinner and when the hour grew late, they simply gave him one of their cars and said, “See you at the office in the morning.” My father talked about that for years…and here I still am.

O Canada! It should be a very good week.

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