Open literally a 'who's who'

Clockwise from top left: Dean Wilson, Brent Delahoussaye, Nathan Green, and Stephen Ame tee off at...

Clockwise from top left: Dean Wilson, Brent Delahoussaye, Nathan Green, and Stephen Ame tee off at the RBC Canadian Open Saturday in Toronto. (Stan Behal/QMI Agency)

Steve Buffery, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:19 PM ET

Someday, I’m going to place my grandson, Bubba Jr., on my lap and tell him all about Nathan Green’s win at the Canadian Open back in “ought nine”.

“Who, grandpa?” he’ll say.

“The great Australian golfer, Nathan Green.”

“Never heard of him ... you old fart.”

“What was the second thing you just said Bubba Jr?” (I’ll be holding one of those ear trumpets to my head).

“Nothing grandpa.”

“Okay, then let me tell you about the legend of Chez Reavie, who won the Open a year earlier at Glen Abbey.”

“Chez Reavie? Isn’t that a ballpark in Los Angeles, grandpa?”

“Go play on the freeway, Bubba Jr.”

Yes, another Canadian Open is about to pass into the history books and for the third year in a row, it looks like the winner will be a guy about as well known as the sweaty Bulgarian dude who cleaned out my sink drains. Dean Wilson, who has missed the cut in five of nine tournaments he’s played this season, has the lead heading into Sunday’s final round.

It used to be that the no-shows at the Open was a major source of angst for organizers and fans. But now, unfortunately, it’s become business as usual. South Africa’s Tim Clark is the only player in the top 10 of the PGA Tour’s money list at St. George’s this week.

Not since 2000 has the Open attracted a truly great field, and some would argue that it was long before that.

This year, there’s no Tiger Woods, who last played the Open in 2001 (he won in 2000 at Glen Abbey). No Phil Mickelson. No Justin Rose. No Ernie Els. Two-time champion Jim Furyk isn’t even here.

The Canadian Open used to be considered the unofficial fifth Major. Pretty well every great in golf’s history, with the exception of Jack Nicklaus, a seven-time runner up, has won it, including Woods, Greg Norman, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson.

Now it’s won by guys like Reavie and Green, which is not a knock at the organizers or Golf Canada, who have done pretty well everything in their power, short of bestowing citizenship on Joslyn James, to get the best players to show up. They’ve increased the purse and charter a jet to fly players over from the British Open.

Of course, the date is the biggest problem. The event used to be held in mid-September, but organizers petitioned the PGA to give them a summer date, which they got. But now the Open is sandwiched between three more important events, the British Open the week before, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational a couple of weeks after and the PGA Championship the week after that. The fact that the Canadian Open counts towards the FedEx Cup obviously means nothing.

Tournament organizers are still pushing the PGA to give them a better date, but don’t hold your breath.

The worse part is, nobody seems to care anymore that the superstars aren’t around. And the “name” players here don’t seem to have a lot of cachet.

It was sort of sad walking the front nine on Saturday with Green. The defending champion attracted a gallery of about 11 people as he made his way around St. George’s. It soon occurred to me that many of the fans lining the course, as Green and his playing partner, fellow Aussie Matt Jones, passed by, had no idea who they were. One member of Green’s gallery, David Colbert of Etobicoke, knew who he was, sort of.

“I knew he had done well (at the Open) last year, but I wasn’t aware he won it,” said Colbert. “I just wanted to follow a good golfer.”

To his credit, Green seems to be a man of the people, joking around with Jones and their caddies and making conversation with the crowd, as when they walked up to the tee on the fourth hole.

“Look at the size of that dog, Nathan,” said a fan, pointing to a huge mutt lying in the yard of one of the homes backing on to St. George’s.

“That’s not a dog,” Green replied. “That’s a horse.”

Green, who lives in Toronto, New South Wales (named in honour of Canadian sculler Ned Hanlan who visited Australia in 1884), is definitely a smiler and banterer and a pretty good golfer, though he has struggled this season, his best finish a 12th at the Honda Classic.

Unfortunately, little known pros will continue to be the story at the Canadian Open, and not the true superstars of the sport.

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca


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