Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.
Golf Canada has announced that Glen Abbey will host the 2018 RBC Canadian Open but after that all bets are off as ClubLink seeks approval to develop the property. Looking ahead to a time when the Abbey won’t be available, what would you suggest as a credible course or rota of courses to host our national championship?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Picking courses out of thin air is easy. But in reality it’s very difficult. First of all, the owners/members have to WANT to hold the Open, which very few do. I don’t know what Golf Canada is willing to pay these days, but no matter what the fee, it’s very disruptive to the normal management of the course, and most private clubs think it’s just not worth it. Then, the club needs to have, or have adjacent access to, much open space for spectator parking, corporate hospitality, television and food compound, etc. It needs to be fairly close to hotels, to house players, caddies, officials, etc. And it has to be an outstanding golf course, over 7,000 yards, with easy spectator flow. All this narrows down the field considerably. I thought Golf Canada was looking at buying Eagles Nest or property adjacent to that venue, and building its own new course, but I haven’t heard anything on that topic for months. That solution, to me, is just about the only practicable approach.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): It would be ideal if the National Championship could be moved around the country, but by all accounts, the only place it is financially successful is in the Toronto area. There are hints of it heading out to the new Mickelson course in Calgary, but I can’t see that happening until the oil industry rebounds a bit and there is sufficient corporate money to back the event. So if it needs to stay in Toronto, then there are a few venues that come to mind. I love watching them play Hamilton and St George’s, although the latter was a bit of a logistical nightmare. I would love to see them tackle The National, but not sure if the members would vote to allow the tourney there. Perhaps it’s time to build a new course that is set up to host such a tournament, and Mr Nicklaus hinted at that when he was in town last week.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I think that Bond Head would make a really great venue for the Canadian Open. You have two courses there for the field to compete on (South and North) like they do at Torrey Pines for the Farmers Insurance Open and plenty of standing room for spectators to watch the action. The terrain and the clubhouse at Bond Head are both phenomenal, the greens can be made to play incredibly difficult, and it is not too far of a drive from the city. Plus, the South course — which, in my estimation, is where the weekend rounds should be played, can be lengthened to 7,500 yards. If those courses are jacked up and the fairways are narrowed a bit for the event, I guarantee you that we will not see a winning score that is even close to -21!
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: As we all know, it has nothing to do with the quality of the venue (Exhibit A – Glen Abbey) but everything to do with space for corporate hospitality suites and TV trucks. If the RCGA (sorry, what’s it called now?) was as wealthy and influential and well staffed as the USGA or the R&A, we could have a rota of superb courses so loved by the players (like Shaughnessy, Royal Montreal, etc, etc) that they would come and the Toronto-based corporations would have to follow. But that’s clearly not the case. Let’s pray they don’t build a permanent site near Toronto in slavering submission to the GTA-based CEOs. Would love to see the Mounties guarding the trophy on the great new courses down East, and would like to see the blazers try the modestly-named Mickelson National Golf Club near Calgary when it grows in. All we need is RBC to sign another half dozen top 20 players, though, as we all know, appearance fees are verboten on Tour. Right?
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): The evidence would indicate that a steady diet of GTA courses yields the best results for corporate sponsors, Golf Canada, the fans and players. Occasional forays to Montreal and Vancouver have had mixed success. With that in mind I’d recommend a permanent site in the GTA that has a) the capacity to host the championship and all its infrastructure, b) easy access and lots of parking, c) a course that is demanding yet appealing to the players and d) is fan friendly. There are a couple of venues that could be made to fit that criteria with some course tweaks such as Rattlesnake Point or the Club at Bond Head but probably the best solution would be for Golf Canada to design and build a Canadian Open course from scratch.
Jhonattan Vegas is the Canadian Open champion for the second straight year. What was your takeaway from the tournament?
Deeks: I suppose it was as good as any other recent Canadian Open, but as someone who was personally involved in it a long time ago, I think it’s unfortunately declined in prestige and quality. Unless something drastic happens, I really wonder if the Open will exist after RBC finally calls it a day as its sponsor. No one is to blame for this decline; Golf Canada and RBC have done all they can to maintain and increase its appeal. But being arbitrarily slotted by the PGA Tour right after the British Open, and being played on a course that not many players love, have dampened interest among the top players, and reduced the prestige of being Canadian Open champ. I give the tournament an A for effort, but I can’t say I really give a hoot anymore.
Rule: It’s good that the tournament was close, or else there wouldn’t have been much reason to watch on Sunday with the names that were contending. I attended on Friday and as much as they tear that course apart with low scores, it remains a great tournament venue for the fans. Here’s hoping this National Championship gets a new week sooner than later, as it rightfully deserves, so that it can attract a better roster of highly ranked players.
Kaplan: My takeaway is that although it is historic, Glen Abbey has become far too easy for these guys! There are too many par 5s on the back nine for the guys to take advantage of (three over the last six holes) and, when it is not windy, the course offers basically no defence and turns into a pitch and putt for the longer players. Plus, the course is so bland in its appearance and design that it makes for some pretty dull viewing on television.
Quinn: Watching a bit of the featured group’s coverage on opening day, you get the impression that this is a pretty darn good field. Tune in Saturday and a traditional Canadian Open of ‘who are these guys’ had broken out. That those guys went so low in a national Open drops its credibility even further for non-Canuck golf fans. And, as I’ve said for decades, if a star doesn’t win it, it falls right off the sports pages beyond Oakville.
Mumford: I spent the week in Thailand so didn’t see any of the tournament live or on TV. However, the reaction from fellow golf writers who were with me, most of whom were American, was “ho hum, another second tier PGA Tour event with a weak field.” It’s interesting to see how internationals view our national championship but unfortunately, too many of the top players see it that way too. If the Canadian Open is to be considered a top tier event with all the hoopla and attention that follows, it needs a different date and a best-in-class venue. Oh, congratulations to Jhonattan Vegas.
Both Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy are one major away from a career Grand Slam. Lots of great players have never completed their personal slam including Phil Mickelson, Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead, Ray Floyd and Tom Watson. Do either Spieth or McIlroy complete the Slam and if so, which one gets it first?
Deeks: I’d definitely be putting my money on Spieth right now. His last nine holes in The Open Championship were unbelievable and said to me he’s already joined the Top 20 of All Time, just days before his 24th birthday. I see a dozen majors in this guy’s career. I might’ve said that about McIlroy five years ago, but I don’t say it now.
Rule: They are both so young, you would get pretty good odds to bet against both of them completing the slam. I think it’s inevitable for both of them. You would think that Augusta National fits Rory’s game to a tee, and with top 10’s in each of the last 4 years, you know he’s close. I think he completes it in the next couple of years. As for Spieth, I don’t think anyone would be surprised it he completed the task at Quail Hollow next week.
Kaplan: I think both players are going to complete their career Grand Slams in the near future and I have no idea who is going to get it done first. Right now, I would put money on Spieth completing his quest next week at Quail Hollow. However, if the Texan comes up empty at the PGA Championship, McIlroy could very well be the one to get it done first with a Masters victory in April. Rory has been closing in on his first Green Jacket in recent years with finishes of T-8, 4, T10, and T-7 over his last four appearances at Augusta National, and even though he is struggling as of late (excluding the Open) and he just parted ways with his long-time caddy, McIlroy has that ability to flip the switch and turn into a golfing assassin seemingly overnight. Just look at what he did at the FedEx and Ryder Cups last year after playing like garbage all season long. There’s no reason to think he can’t do something like that again in April.
Quinn: Would really like to see Rory get back on track — don’t think firing the caddy is the answer, nor is going ‘Eldrick’ by repeatedly saying he’s “close” — but right now Spieth is far better at handling the Major pressure and is far more likely to pull it off. He should get it, and get it first.
Mumford: I think both of them will ultimately complete their personal Grand Slams and would bet on Jordan getting it done first – maybe even next week. Rory has the kind of game to win at Augusta but Spieth has a special affinity for the place and might block McIlroy’s attempts to complete his Slam – at least for a while. When all is said and done, I expect both of these players will have double digit Major victories while their contemporaries are content with a few at best.