Canadian Open making strides

STEVE BUFFERY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:40 AM ET

OAKVILLE -- It won't exactly be a field of dreams at the RBC Canadian Open this week, with only two golfers in the top-10 of the FedExCup standings competing.

But tournament director Bill Paul said yesterday that this year's field is, at least, better than last year's.

"It's fine," said Paul of the entry list for the Open, which begins Thursday at Oakville's Glen Abbey Golf Club. "We haven't had very many withdrawals, which is good. Last year at this time we had over 33, and since last Wednesday there have only been about 12. Some of those guys, like Boo Weekly and Hunter Mahan, that's disappointing, but I think the field we have is strong. We're ahead of where we were last year."

Rising PGA star Anthony Kim (5th), of the U.S., and Japan's Ryuji Imada (7th) are the top-ranked players in this year's field, which also includes Calgary's Stephen Ames, who finished in the top 15 at the British Open on the weekend, and sits 25th overall in the FedExCup standings, and Mike Weir, of Brights Grove, ranked 49th overall.

No Canadian has won the national open since 1954, when Pat Fletcher did it. Two-time defending champion Jim Furyk, who finished tied for fifth at the British Open and is No. 13 in the FedEx standings, is back gunning for this third straight title.

Attracting a top field to the Canadian Open has been a challenge for a number of years, particularly since the PGA positioned the event right after the British Open.

Most of the world's top golfers competing at the British Open, including Ireland's Padraig Harrington, who defended his title Sunday, and surprise fourth-place finisher and former Canadian Open champion Greg Norman, will not make the trip. And, once again, Tiger Woods will not be present.

Woods, the world No. 1, underwent season-ending knee surgery after winning the U.S. Open last month.

The Royal Canadian Golf Association has been handcuffed with the present date for the next four years (including this year's event), so there's not a lot it can do -- date-wise at least -- to make the event more attractive to the top players. But one thing the association did do again this year was charter a luxury jet from the U.K. to Canada for the players who were competing at the British Open playing here.

This year, the RCGA rented a 757 from Dallas Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban. Unlike last year, Paul said organizers did not allow any players on board who were not planning on playing here. "We had a lot of requests this year (from players not playing) and we said no," Paul said.

As far as the unfortunate placement on the PGA calender, Paul said all the RCGA can do is make the best of it, and it has, by offering a generous $5 million-US purse, with $900,000 going to the winner. The RCGA also has organized a number of concerts following the day's competitions.

'MAKE IT BETTER'

"We can moan and groan about the date or we can do something to make it better," Paul said. "What is the perfect date? I always wanted July 1 and July 4, and have Canada Day there."

That's not going to happen in the foreseeable future, although, as Paul says, PGA events come and go, so there's a chance the Canadian Open can be positioned in a better spot on the calender. But, other than the majors, there's never going to be a guarantee that the top players show up.

"You can't tell with these guys. They'll come as they want," Paul said. "I'm not going to build everything around who's here. We'll build the house and hopefully they will come."

Practice rounds and the Pro-Am scheduled for yesterday were cancelled because of heavy rains that fell on the weekend.


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