Death of Buick Open a plus for RBC Canadian Open

IAN HUTCHINSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:28 AM ET

The PGA Tour is expected to announce this week what the future holds for the tournament formerly known as the Buick Open, an event ending a 51-year association with that automobile brand.

It isn't necessary to go into the much-publicized financial difficulties in the auto industry, so the end of the Buick Open under its current name hardly is shocking.

While a new title sponsor and venue are expected, the uncertain future of that event is something Canadians can relate to, dating back to the dark days before RBC took sponsorship of our national championship.

It was in those pre-RBC days that the Canadian Open got saddled with its current dates behind the British Open. As much as the bank folks and the Royal Canadian Golf Association play down the effects of those nasty dates in drawing marquee players, changing them is a priority.

RBC and the RCGA are catching the attention of the tour lately, a far cry from a few years ago when commissioner Tim Finchem bailed on a teleconference to announce the current Open dates, leaving former RCGA executive director Stephen Ross to face tough questions from the media alone.

That same Tim Finchem attended the 2009 Canadian Open, singing its praises.

"The first thing, and I think most important, is I don't recall a time in my tenure where we've had a better relationship between ourselves, the title sponsor and the RCGA," Finchem said.

"The leadership of the RCGA, I think Scott (current executive director Simmons) has done a tremendous job," he added. "The executive leadership at RBC is absolutely committed to the event in creating value out of this investment."

The tour has obviously recognized the importance of extracting the Canadian Open from this quagmire. Money talks and RBC is a global company that can take advantage of the American network TV coverage.

FLEX SCHEDULE

Finchem talked about a possible "flex schedule" that would move certain tournaments around to two or three dates, starting in 2013.

"I can't swear we're going to go to that," he said. "There are a lot of issues with it. There are some down sides to some weeks, but it's something we're looking very carefully at."

"We've had some very preliminary discussions with the RCGA and RBC. We'll be talking about that more over the next six months, but that is certainly something we'll look at going forward as a possibility."

The situation with the Buick Open offers the opportunity to try it now. The Canadian Open was just played for the 100th time, so it should hold seniority over a new event.

At the very least, why wait until 2013 to try the flex schedule? Alternate the Canadian Open's dates with the new event as an experiment. It really wouldn't make much difference to TV.

Finchem is correct in saying that there are down sides to every week on the schedule, but the tour created that with its marketing mindset that force-feeds us that each week's tournament is the greatest on the schedule until next week. That creates gridlock among big events, especially June through August.

As a result, players only attend their traditional favourites, so the only way to add marquee value to others is to mandate that players participate in every tournament at least once every four or five years.

The tour won't, so a change in dates becomes critical for the Open.

RBC and the RCGA would prefer the Canada Day long weekend, but for now, anything is a step up from the current nightmare dates.

Tour in town

The Canadian Tour swings into the Toronto area with the Roxul Jane Rogers Championship starting Thursday at Milton's Greystone Golf Club.

For event details, see the website, www.janerogerschampionship.ca.


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