Advantage Kerr?

JASON HILLS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

Defending champion Cristie Kerr may already have a distinct advantage over the rest of the field at the 2007 CN Canadian Open at the Royal Mayfair Aug. 13-19.

It has nothing to do with the way she is currently playing, although that isn't bad either. She has one tournament victory this season and it was a big one, the US Open last month and she sits third on this season's money list with $993,883 US in earnings.

Her caddy Jason Gilroyed is from the City of Champions and Kerr hopes his familiarity with the Royal Mayfair course will allow her to become a two-time Canadian Champion.

"Having my caddy from Edmonton, born and raised there and who is very familiar with the Royal Mayfair I am sure will be a big advantage for me," said Kerr, during a national media conference call yesterday.

"He's played and caddied that course and he says that's the best place possible for the tournament and it favours our game. I will be leaning on him heavily."

45 OF THE TOP 50

Kerr is one of 45 of the top 50 women golfers who will be participating at the Mayfair next week.

It promises to be a special week for Kerr whether she successfully defends her title or not. Her caddie Jason Gilroyed was born and raised in Edmonton and she'll get to play with Wayne Gretzky during the Wednesday pro-am.

"(That's) going to be one of the highlights of my career -- if you can say playing in a pro-am is," said Kerr. "Playing with the Great One is going to be an incredible honour."

Joining Kerr is the likes of Lorena Ochoa who is the No.1 female golfer in the world and is fresh off her latest victory at the British Open.

One major name missing from the list of the top women golfers is Annika Sorenstam. She hasn't made an appearance in Canada since Vancouver in 2003, and was supposed to be in Edmonton, but due to a lingering back injury, she has pulled out of the event.

There is an LPGA rule that requires golfers to take part in each event at least once every four years, making Edmonton a must stop had she not claimed her injury.

"We've got such a great field that, to be honest with you, it's a non-factor for us," said tournament director Sean Van Kesteren. "We're excited about the field, it's going to be a great event and we wish her a speedy recovery."

HUGE PURSE

With a purse over $2.5 million, including a cheque for over $337,000 for first place, the Canadian Open is not too far behind being considered a major. The DuMaurier Classic (former Canadian Championship) used to be considered a major until 2000.

"(CN) are the ones that put up the purse and pay for the tournament and that's the biggest factor of having a title sponsor that will go the extra mile," said Van Kesteren.

"We expect to continue to go forward through 2010 and we expect to continue to have a strong field through that time."

There has been no dominant winner on the LPGA Tour this season. Of the 19 tournaments so far, there have been 15 different winners. The only repeat winners are Suzann Pettersen and Ochoa.

"There is a lot more depth on tour and a lot of players that can win on any given week," said Kerr.

"There is more talent, that is hungry to win and it's become a much more competitive place to play golf."

Lori Kane and Alena Sharp headline the 14 Canadians who will take part in the event. The tournament also includes past champions, Meena Lee, Karrie Webb, Laura Davies, Sherri Steinhauer, Nancy Scranton, Juli Inkster and Meg Mallon. Mallon will be going for her record fourth Canadian Open title.

The Royal Mayfair has been trimmed into top notch shape, its best in 25 years and ready to host the LPGA's best.

Last year when the event was held at London's Hunt and Country Club, it posed a very tough test for the players.

"The golf course will be challenging. Probably one of the events on the LPGA tour that tries to get as close as the US Open," said Van Kesteren.

"It is our national championship, we're trying to get the best players to win the championship. The rough will be long and the greens will be smaller. It will be similar to what London had last year."


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