Lending a helping hand

BILL LANKHOF -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:07 AM ET

Davis Love, the man who redesigned the Angus Glen golf course for the Canadian Open was trying to spread some yesterday.

The love, that is.

It might've helped if he'd confirmed that he was actually going to play in the event.

But, with the tournament scheduled the week after the British Open, it's on the "no-go" list for many players. Love acknowledged the only player who has asked about his redesign in any detail is Mike Weir -- which kind of shows how much the event is not on the minds of the PGA Tour's rank and file.

There may be one salvation -- The FedEx Cup. It's the new $35-million US playoff and golfers such as Love need to accumulate enough points to get a chance at that windfall. As Love admitted, when it comes to making plans "the guys are going to look at schedule, golf course and purse." Not, we assume, necessarily in that order.

CHANGE THEIR STRATEGIES

Suddenly, name golfers may need the Canadian Open as much as it needs them.

"You're going to see guys start making decisions (to play in tourneys like the Canadian Open). Obviously Tiger (Woods) doesn't need the points, but players such as myself do ... guys are going to have to change their strategies.

"I'm in a chase position. I might not want to play eight or nine tournaments at the end of the year ... but I might have to. Tournaments that players might've skipped; now they're going to play."

The Angus Glen course, like Love and Canada's national championship, has had to accept change to polish its image. The Open's turmoils have been documented. No title sponsor. A lousy date. A perception that its cache is withered. As for Angus Glen, players muttered it wasn't up to championship status when the Open was played here in 2002. All of which has left the July 23-29 event looking like the poor cousin of the pro golf fraternity.

Looks, said tournament director Bill Paul, and Love, can be deceiving.

Paul insisted the tournament still carries cache, that it is the world that surrounds it which has changed.

"We needed to retool and we've started with Angus Glen. But, it's still a national championship and players still want to win it," Paul said yesterday at a press conference highlighting the changes Love has made to the course. "Players used to play in North America. Now, they're going around the world and we're all competing for the same players' time. I don't think we've lost ground. A lot of things have grown up around us; the addition of a world championships ... the prevalence of agents. I never used to deal with agents ... they get paid if Davis Love plays in a corporate outing but not if he wins the Canadian Open. So you battle them."

Paul said the Open may once have fancied itself as the fifth major but that "The Colonial, the L.A. Open claim to be a fifth major, too.

"I've never seen a fifth major. Was (the Canadian Open) a highly regarded tournament? Absolutely. But the tour has changed. Twenty years ago there were 20 players who could win a tournament; now there are probably 120. I think the years of trying to get every top player are probably gone for everyone, including The Players Championship, which didn't get 144 of the top players in the world, either."

The facelift at Angus Glen began in 2004 when Love was recruited to lend a player's perspective. He raised the rough, narrowed fairways, repositioned bunkers and has tried to make it challenging for the pros while keeping it playable for casual golfers.

GREENS REMAIN LARGE

"When I first had a look, I noticed there were two or three groups on each hole having fun and I said: 'If we screw that up we've got a problem.' "

So, the greens remain large. But, they can be tricky.

"We just made the course flow better ... before there were some odd-looking holes. It's open, wild traditional Scottish linkish style," Love said. "It's a bold, exciting course."

If anything, Love is more concerned now about the course being too difficult rather than too easy.

"Fans don't want to see pros putting for par," he said. "Like baseball, people want to see a guy hit a home run once in a while; they want to see birdies and some eagles."

But, what does it say about the Open when the guy who redesigned the course won't even commit to playing?

Maybe it says love might not be the only thing he's spreading.


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