Thursday, September 08, 2005

Canadian Open gets underway...

While I'm at the Fox Harb'r golf club working on my book with Ron Joyce, the Canadian Open is in full swing. Much of the talk today has been about how penal the rough is at Shaughnessy, especially around the greens. Interesting that the PGA Tour hasn't made them cut it back as they've forced the last few venues for the open.
Of course there's also lots of talk about changing the time of the open. Here's a Canadian Press story on something I've written about several times this year.

In the meantime, here's my piece on Shaughnessy that appeared in today's Post:

Players descend on superb course
Robert Thompson On Golf

Vancouver's Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club is a great track, arguably one of the 20 best Canada has to offer. It sports wonderful tree-lined fairways, clever, rolling greens and deep, flashed-up bunkering. It is great fun to play for the amateur and the pro alike, something that can't be said for every 7,500-yard monster that is used for PGA Tour events on a weekly basis. It is a very worthy Canadian Open venue.
If the players are to be believed, the verdict on Shaughnessy is already in and is gushingly positive.
The effusive Richard Zokol, who has never turned away from a reporter with a tape recorder in hand, genuflected at the Shaughnessy alter yesterday.
"It has exceeded expectations, and expectations were at the highest level," he told anyone within earshot yesterday. It is even better than Hamilton Golf and Country Club, located in Ancaster, Ont., where the 2003 event was held, Zokol said. Of the courses the veteran Zokol has played in his 27 Canadian Opens, Shaughnessy is the best, he said.
Zokol may be prone to hyperbolic statements, but he's right on one thing: Shaughnessy is a terrific, old-fashioned golf course.
PGA Tour pros only get a chance to tee it up on a handful of these courses each year. There's George Thomas's remarkable Riviera Golf Club in L.A., Walter Travis' Westchester in New York and the likes of Baltusrol or Shinnecock, which often play host to major championships.
So what will the middling field at this week's Canadian Open encounter? Shaughnessy will play very similarly to Hamilton, being a 7,000-yard par 70. Unlike Hamilton, with its dramatic valleys and hills, Shaughnessy is a subtly rolling course that dips near the sea on its back nine.
The course features some fascinating holes, including the third, a Redan-style par three with a green that plays away from the shot.
Using classic Canadian courses to host the Canadian Open was a notion dreamed up by the Royal Canadian Golf Association's executive director, Stephen Ross, and tournament director, Bill Paul, in an attempt to breathe some life back into the tournament.
They took the event to Hamilton in 2003, a course that won raves from the lacklustre field that showed up. Despite being nearly 100 years old, Hamilton, with its severe greens and lumpy fairways, seemed remarkably fresh next to the likes of Glen Abbey Golf Club, which had hosted the Canadian Open for most of the previous 30 years.
The question remains as to whether a great golf course, even one as good as Hamilton, will actually attract players to come to the Canadian Open. In my experience playing with PGA Tour pros, the answer is no.
PGA Tour pros play by schedules that often have little to do with the quality of the courses they play. Mike Weir can run praises of Shaughnessy up a flag poll for all of the tour's top players to see, but if their plan was to take a week off during the Canadian Open, then that's exactly what they'll do. Some expect Hamilton, which will host next year's tournament, will draw a strong field given the buzz around the course. Don't count on it. There are safer bets to be had.
Shaughnessy is a great golf course and Hamilton is even better. But the reality is that neither is enough to help the Canadian Open find its way out of the doldrums.

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