Canadian Open for debate

TIM MCKAY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:33 AM ET

It was a question everyone knew was coming -- it always does.

And when it was asked during the news conference for the 2010 RBC Canadian Open Tuesday at St. George's Golf and Country Club in Toronto, the panel -- a who's who of golf's heavy hitters in this country -- clearly bristled.

The question, of course, was to do with the perceived lack of big-name, or "premier," players the tournament is able to draw. It is trotted out every year and, once again, organizers were quick to defend the Canadian Open field.

Scott Simmons, executive director and CEO of Golf Canada, was first to tee off on the suggestion that the field may be sub-par.

"This is the third oldest national championship in the world and I have never been embarrassed about our event or our field," Simmons said. "These guys are all great."

This on a day that Golf Canada announced the participation of young PGA stars such as Anthony Kim, Sean O'Hair, Paul Casey, Hunter Mahan, Matt Kuchar, Luke Donald and, for the ladies, Camilo Villegas and Rickie Fowler. Add to that veterans such as Retief Goosen, Tim Clark, Y.E. Yang and Fred Couples, and it already is a pretty good field.

The obvious omissions, of course, are Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. But let's face it, Woods, who won the event in 2000 to complete the Triple Crown (British, U.S. and Canadian Open victories) and hasn't been back, likely won't be back. And Mickelson, with the Canadian Open scheduled for the week after the British Open, probably won't find time for it either.

If the world's Nos. 1 and 2 ever do grace us with their presence, they will be welcomed, but don't wait by the phone.

Is it a Canadian thing to consider our national tournament inferior if Tiger doesn't come? Do we need that type of validation? Could it be an issue for Torontonians, who still support the Toronto Maple Leafs despite not having the world's best hockey player for ... maybe ever?

Sadly, it's a perspective thing, and one that isn't going to go away for some. It's the perspective of those who likely aren't watching any golf this year because Tiger is away somewhere licking his wounds.

This tournament has a lot going for it, including this year's venue. Stanley Thompson's gem, although a logistical nightmare for organizers because of its location within Toronto, is a course PGA Tour players long to play.

St. George's, like Hamilton, should have players raving much moreso than Glen Abbey (a debate for another day), with its park-like setting and vintage charm.

A strong sponsor, RBC, also has positioned the Canadian Open on solid footing for the past few years and going forward.

But the biggest thing this tournament has going for it is its Canadian contingent, most notably Mike Weir, who, along with last year's champ Nathan Green, was on hand for Tuesday's news conference.

Weir, who does a lot to promote an event he says is special to him, also shot down the notion (and backhanded insult) that the field may be watered down.

"I'm blown away by the strength of the field," Weir, whose best finish in his home event was second in 2004, said.

"Sure, we'd love to have Tiger and Phil once in a while ... but it's a moot point.

"You're never going to get every player, but outside of a major, this is about the best field you're going to get."

Perhaps tournament director Bill Paul said it best, though.

"Having walked with Tiger for two holes at The Players, I think we will have the premier players here," he said, tongue in cheek. "He wasn't hitting it too well!"


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