RCGA gets its wish

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:08 AM ET

For 10 years or more, the Royal Canadian Golf Association has been lobbying for a summer date on the PGA Tour schedule.

As of yesterday, that dream has come true.

So why aren't all the guys in blazers dancing in the street?

Maybe because they are concerned this development may fall under the old "be careful what you wish for because you just might get it" syndrome.

Yes, the Bell Canadian Open has a summer date, starting in 2007, but they've been stuck with the week following the British Open into the foreseeable future. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem presented the date, the third week in July, to the RCGA without discussion or option.

"I'd like to say there was a negotiation, but there wasn't," RCGA executive director Stephen Ross said.

That said, Ross did his best to put a brave face on the situation. This year, the Open will be played at Hamilton Golf and Country Club in Ancaster the first week of September. Next year, it will be played in its new slot on the renovated North Course at Markham's Angus Glen Golf Club the last week of July.

There are many good reasons for the Canadian Open to be played in mid-summer as opposed to the cusp of autumn, and Ross dug deep to find them all.

"We're sure to get good weather," he said. "And there will be no conflict with the NFL as there is now. The kids won't be back at school, which has always impacted our volunteers. We're in the heart of the PGA Tour season, rather than at the end as we are now. And the players will be earning Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup and FedEx Cup points."

Finchem is putting a lot -- some would say an inordinate amount -- of faith in the FedEx Cup series as incentive to keep top players playing all summer in search of the $10-million US first prize. He argues that since the Canadian Open falls near the end of the period when players are scrambling to be seeded for the FedEx playoffs, there is hope some of the heavy hitters will ignore the jet lag and play in Canada to improve their standing.

Fat chance.

Last year, as this year, the Bank One Championship in Milwaukee followed in the wake of the British Open.

In 2005, that Milwaukee event attracted just two players -- No. 6 Kenny Perry and No. 8 Fred Funk -- from the top-20 money leaders at the time.

"I don't think you can conclude what player behaviour will be until after the fact," said Finchem, hedging his bets. "But based on our conversations with players, we are confident about field quality throughout the PGA Tour schedule."

While it may be true the FedEx buzz may catch the interest of a few players coming back from the British Isles, the truth is the lure of the Canadian Open will still be underwhelming to the vast majority, especially since the next week is a $6-million World Golf Championship event and the week after that is the PGA Championship.

"We're not unhappy about where we are," Ross said. "We're feeling good about our ability to attract a better field."

Over the years, the RCGA has had a secure and strong relationship with Bell Canada as its title sponsor. This is the last year of their sponsorship and negotiations on a renewal have been delayed until the dust settled on these changes.

"Based upon what I know, I think Bell is bullish," Ross said.

The bottom line on this reshuffling is simple. The Canadian Open was stuck in a bad spot in September and, given the dramatic changes Finchem is making to the schedule, the tournament could have been reduced to minor-league status.

Instead, the RCGA has its long-sought summer date, albeit in the shadow of a major championship.

Yes, it could have been better.

But it also could have been much worse.


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