When Summer Dwindles So Do the Stars

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The good neighbors up Canada way are a bit upset, as well they should be. Only three players among the worlds top 20 ' and one of those Canadian Mike Weir ' bothered to show up this weekend. This, in spite of a wonderful old course, in spite of a national championship full of history.
 
The fact is, though, that most of the golf greats put their clubs away after the WCG ' NEC, one tournament after the PGA. The rest of the year is meant for storing away memories of the season, giving themselves a well-deserved pat on the back for another season of excelling. Very seldom will they peek their heads out until the big-money circuses of the off-season start shelling out the enormous television booty.
 
They turn the PGA Tour over to those struggling to keep their cards for next season, or the young players who see this as the opportunity to maybe win a tournament. The Bell Canadian Open shouldnt be lumped into this category. But it is
 
You can hardly blame the big boys. Theyve played 20-25 tournaments, they won well over a million - or two or three. Its time to go the barn, gentlemen.
 
The PGA Tour is much to blame for this. The tour has jacked up the purses to such extremes that a player can make a small fortune by the end of August and well afford to take the rest of the year off. Fourteen guys have already made $2 million. Fifty-three had at least $1 million. Fifty-three! The last two months of the season can be spent sitting on the couch playing pinochle when youve got your million.
 
They will emerge to play the World Championship of Golf event in Atlanta the first week in October and the Tour Championship the first week in November. A few will go to the Presidents Cup later that month. Then comes the big-bucks season when EVERYONE gets a small fortune.
 
What happens to the John Deere Classic, the 84 Lumber Classic, the Valero Texas Open? The Southern Farm Bureau Classic, Las Vegas Invitational, Chrysler in Greensboro, the Chrysler near Tampa, or the Funai Classic at Disney? They will get by, as will the Bell Canadian, on two or three from the worlds top 20, plus a whole lot of fresh new faces.
 
Would the Canadian get more big names if it were played, say, three weeks earlier? Of course. Would it get more big names if the rest of the tournaments hadnt already tipped the wheelbarrels and the cash came flooding out? Probably. And are the stars to blame for this turn events? Absolutely not.
 
It, unfortunately, is just a fact of life of the end-of-summer tournaments. Undoubtedly some dont mind. The 84 Lumber and the Chrysler in the Tampa Bay area are just glad to have a tournament.
 
The others, like the Canadian and like Greensboro, are understandably a bit chafed. They wont complain ' complain too loud, they know, and the stars will NEVER come. But they obviously are a little annoyed. Football has started to butt into the sports psyche, the players have already stuffed their piggy banks, and golf is now an afterthought for much of the country.
 
And in Canada, a great old tournament on a fabulous old course goes begging. Is anybody listening?