Bigger Fish to Fry in Canada
The main bone to gnaw on is the theory that the Open is supposed to be in a rotation of prestigious courses and '09 will be the second consecutive year at the Abbey.
A rotation is a charming idea that's been discussed openly by the Royal Canadian Golf Association, which should know better since fiction quickly becomes perceived reality once an idea goes public.
As nice as it would be to follow the leads of the British Open and U.S. Open, a regular rotation is fantasy at this point for a few reasons. There are few courses in Canada with the infrastructure to host an Open and very few willing to disrupt their businesses every few years to prepare for the national championship.
However, the main reason that a regular rotation can't be promised right now is that the title sponsor will play a major role in where the Open will be played. Until it has that precious commodity, there is no way the RCGA can promise where it will be held beyond the immediate future.
So, it makes business sense for the RCGA to place the Open at the Abbey for now and if a title sponsor comes on board sometime soon, it will kick off its relationship with the tournament at a stadium course in the Toronto area. Canada's largest market is attractive to most corporations.
Where that sponsor takes the Open after '09 -- assuming there is a sponsor or an Open after '09 -- is anybody's guess, but it will depend on its own demographics and needs, not the desires of golf purists.
It's the purists who buy into the traditional line that an outstanding course translates into an outstanding field. The Abbey has received mixed reviews from PGA TOUR players, but even if the Open were held every year at Hamilton, with the raves it's received, the number of marquee names would still be few.
As much as TOUR players talk up venue as an important part of making their decisions on where to play, it's actually only a minor factor these days.
What chance does the Canadian Open have when even the over-hyped FedExCup playoffs, which put the Open in such an awkward position on the schedule, are being blown off by the likes of Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson?
That being the case, can a tournament right after the British Open in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary or Vancouver be seen as anything other than a week off by marquee players, whose whining fuels to the fire of those who feel their own testosterone levels rise when they question the status of golfers as athletes?
The players' latest pout is about their lack of input into how the fiasco that is the playoffs has been set up, but if they were so upset, why didn't they go public with their concerns a long time ago when everyone outside the tour was teeing off on the new post-season set-up?
Now that it's clear that the criticism was justified, some of the big names in golf are jumping on the bandwagon, even though it was them who wanted a shortened season in the first place, which placed a lot of events behind the this week's TOUR Championship in a graveyard on the schedule.
The 'independent contractor' card is played all the time when players blow off tournaments, but in how many other businesses do you see independent contractors called on to make important decisions for companies that use their services?
This all-about-me thing is getting tiresome, especially since the only reason some players are ticked about the playoffs is because they have to play four weeks in a row if they go all the way.
The tour is far from innocent. It's a marketing machine in overdrive, trying to manufacture big ticket events almost on a weekly basis throughout the summer, which changes the nature of a schedule that used to peak when the majors were played. It's an engine fuelled by greed and ego that's about to blow.
It's in this toxic environment that the Canadian Open must struggle to survive. The choice of Glen Abbey for the '09 Open is the least of the RCGA's concerns right now.
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Editor's Note: Ian Hutchinson is golf columnist for the Toronto Sun and senior writer for Pro Shop Magazine, a Canadian golf trade publication, and Canadian Golfer Magazine. He is also a frequent contributor to Golf Scene and Golf Canada Magazine, the official magazine of the Royal Canadian Golf Association.
Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead
New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.
The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.
"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."
Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.
It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.
Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.
Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore
SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.
Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.
He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.
Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.
Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.
The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.
''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''
Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.
He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.
Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.
Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.
''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''
13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest
Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.
Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.
“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”
Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.
Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings.
McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi
It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.
Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.
Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.
“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”
Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.
“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.
This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.