Open in a tough spot

Canadian golfer Stephen Ames scratches his head on the putting green during a practice round in...

Canadian golfer Stephen Ames scratches his head on the putting green during a practice round in Hamilton on Tuesday, site of the Canadian Open which begins on Thursday. (Toronto Sun/Craig Robertson)

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:53 AM ET

ANCASTER -- If it weren't for his newly minted citizenship, Calgary's Stephen Ames said he would likely take a pass on the 2007 Canadian Open.

If that's the case, what hope does the Royal Canadian Golf Association have of attracting even a passable field in the future?

When the 102nd edition of the national championship tees off this morning at stately Hamilton Golf and Country Club, the attractions will be thin enough.

But beginning next year, when the event will be hidden the week after the British Open for at least its next six editions, this group may look like a major in comparison.

"Normally, if I wasn't Canadian, I wouldn't be playing," the outspoken Ames said yesterday of the 2007 event scheduled for Angus Glen. "It's going to be a hard sell, a very, very hard sell."

While others weren't quite as blunt, Ames wasn't alone in his gloomy outlook for one of the PGA Tour's oldest events.

As bad as it is being dumped behind the British Open, there is more reason the Canadian Open is in one of the deadest spots on the schedule. The following week, the World Golf Championship Bridgestone Invitational is scheduled and two weeks after that, it's the PGA Championship.

Other than fringe players looking for points in the Tour's new FedEx Series, a trip to Canada will be an automatic pass.

"For (top players), it is a difficult date, no question," U.S. Ryder Cupper Jim Furyk said. "It's in a really tough spot."

Furyk, who is second to Woods in earnings this year, Vijay Singh and Canadian hero Mike Weir are the marquee names in this year's field that has 12 of the top 26 money winners on the PGA Tour.

The RCGA took a hit earlier in the week with the withdrawal of crowd favourite John Daly and another U.S. Ryder Cup member, Chris DiMarco.

Golf fans can forget about seeing Tiger Woods, who previously played in the Open in 2001, anytime soon.

The PGA Tour hardly seems worried, however.

Commissioner Tim Finchem, in town yesterday to apply damage control, laughably tried to whitewash the bleak future and said the event will survive because the Tour itself has never been stronger.

Finchem said moving to a summer date will help, as will the exposure of being added to U.S. network CBS' schedule. As for hopes of being scheduled away from the British, the commissioner was adamant it won't happen anytime soon.

"We always maintain some flexibility in our schedule, but right now the tournament is slated for that date," Finchem said. "You may think I'm posturing, (but) I don't think it is an unattractive date."

That would make him a lone voice in that opinion.

Compounding the problems, for next year at least, is the fact that the Open will be played at Angus Glen's North Course, a tough sell even with a design makeover by Tour veteran Davis Love III.

"I think we're starting to realize (maybe) we've lost some of the flare of the Canadian Open because of some of the golf courses we've been playing," said Ames, a native of Trinidad who became a Canadian citizen last year.

"The players, (Weir) and myself are aware of that fact ... It's really a tough situation."


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