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.
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:
Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.
While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.
As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.
Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.
And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.
And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.
McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.
The Ryder Cup topped his list.
Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.
When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.
“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.
Or similar assertions from TV analysts.
“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.
And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.
The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.
Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.
And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.
Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.
The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.
The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.
More bulletin board material, too.
Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.
The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.
It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.
The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”
Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.