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.
Starting next year, the RBC Canadian Open will have a new spot on the PGA Tour schedule, moving to the week prior to the U.S. Open in June. The Bank, Golf Canada and the PGA Tour all seem giddy about the new date. How do you see it?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Well, I hate to be Mr. Poopy Pants, but I don’t see this new date as much of an improvement. In fact, I don’t see any dates that will rejuvenate the Canadian Open to its former glory. The problem with early June: iffy weather, kids not out of school, big name players may want to rest the week before the US Open. Our Open did have June dates for a couple of seasons, back in the early 90s, I think, and they weren’t considered ideal then. Then came September dates, but the weather was too unpredictable. When I ran the Open, it was on the Civic Holiday weekend, but everyone complained that it was too hot, and most of the spectators were at the cottage! All that said, I hope I’m wrong, and that the new date is a blessing.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Life Member: I think it will have a positive bearing. One thing that will help is to have the Canadian site correspond to the USGA Open site. In other words, Toronto or Montreal when the USGA Open is in the east and Vancouver when it is in the west. Another would be a 5 or 6 course ‘rota’. The players love the old-style courses and we (Canada) have/has a lot of them. Although only one of these is an ‘oldie’, three I’d love to see used are: Coppinwood, Summit and The National.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): I would be giddy too. That’s a really good spot on the calendar with so many players looking to get that last competitive round in before the U.S. Open. That being said, three of the next five U.S. Opens are being held in California, which is not exactly a short flight from southern Ontario. But it certainly still beats asking some of the world’s best players to fly across the Atlantic Ocean every year after the conclusion of the Open. I normally don’t agree with anything that Golf Canada does, but I’m actually going to give the organization some credit here. Not only did they get the date changed, but the purse is going up over $1 million next year and they’re finally starting to rotate venues once again!
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): No question, it’s great news for the tournament that was screwed over by the last change in dates. Although it’s still just a week from a major, at least it’s the week before and the major is on the same continent! There are always top players that don’t like playing the week before a major, so you won’t get everyone playing, but many players like to tune up by playing the week before, so that can only help. Now it’s on Golf Canada to choose courses that are geographically close to the US Open venues to make travel as little of a factor as possible. Let’s hope the date change and increase in purse size will help attract more top 20 players, it’s a tournament that deserves that respect!
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: It will help, but it will never regain its status as the fifth Major (pre-The Players Championship days). Escaping Glen Abbey will help too. But the Bank will keep it hovering around corporate HQ so doubtful that it will ever erase the well-earned perception that it’s just a nice Southern Ontario Open.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I’m afraid the RBC Canadian Open has exchanged one bad spot on the schedule for another that may not be a whole lot better. Nothing to get giddy about. Certainly, there are advantages to a spring date, but the tournament is still connected to a major championship and still lodged in a string of events where it would likely be the one to skip if a player didn’t want to play four or five weeks in a row. Then there’s the fact that some top players don’t play the week before a major. And finally this: U.S. Open sectional qualifying will be held on the Monday of Canadian Open week. Given that only half the field at the U.S. Open is exempt from qualifying, nearly 100 PGA Tour regulars will have to play a 36-hole qualifier on that Monday, then scramble to get to Canada for a short week at our national championship. I see the move as going from Awful to Awkward.
It would appear that a $10 million match between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson is close to becoming a reality. What’s your take on such an exhibition between the two aging superstars?
Deeks: Pretty silly, in my view. And what does it all prove, except these guys will get even more money that they don’t need.
Schurman: I’m not a fan of either and they are both past their ‘best before date’. The ‘old’ Tiger has already played a final round for $10M having win the FedEx Cup so IF he can conjure up those memories he should have the edge. However, Phil has not had the career interruptions of Tiger so maybe the pendulum swings his way. Regardless, it will fun if it goes into sudden death!
Kaplan: It’s more than a decade overdue and both guys are way past their primes, but I’m still going to watch and so are you! Personally, I think they should make this event really fun and put the guys from #SB2K17 in the booth to call the entire match while Smiley Kauffman walks inside the ropes, interviewing Tiger and Phil between shots.
Rule: If it’s their own money they are playing for, it would be very interesting! Although that’s kind of like me playing a $10 match I suppose! It’s an interesting dynamic, with the Woods/Mickelson rivalry turning into a friendship, which is nice to see. I would be interested in watching it, but only if it’s at an interesting venue. What about playing it at Augusta? That would be interesting (and of course would never happen!). OK, I’ll settle for watching them play it at Pebble or Pine Valley!
Quinn: On the face of it, this is an obscene money grab. Looking deeper, it’s even worse but the mouth breathers among the ‘Go in the Hole’ crowd will love it. Guesstimates are that Eldrick is worth about $750M, Phil about $400M. Eldrick makes about $45M a year from endorsements, Phil about $48M. The only way this stunt could be vaguely interesting is if they each put up $5M and play for it. But, that’s never going to happen.
Mumford: It would be easy to say I don’t care. I’m not a fan of either player. From a pure curiosity standpoint, I’d have to watch but it’s really about two guys well past their prime that did everything they possibly could to avoid one another for 20 years. Now we’re supposed to believe they’re buddies? Even if they play for their own money, which I doubt would happen, it proves nothing. This is golf’s version of Billy Jean King versus Bobby Riggs.
Cheating on the PGA Tour has become a hot topic this spring, first with the mention by Jimmy Walker that some players, himself included, sometimes leave a ball in place after chipping, as a favour to another player; then Phil Mickelson’s fiasco at the U. S. Open; and finally, the Joel Dahmen / Sung Kang incident last week, regarding a supposed illegal penalty drop. “Cheater” used to be the worst label in golf and now it seems to be thrown around on a regular basis. Have Tour players suffered a lapse in the time-honoured tradition of fair play or has cheating always been a part of the Tour and is just now coming more to light?
Deeks: I think cheating has always happened, although I hate to call it cheating. More like misunderstanding the incredibly complex, almost incomprehensible, and certainly interpretive Rules of Golf. I like to think that every player tries his/her best to adhere to the Rules. If a player is about to break a rule, I think it should be incumbent on their fellow players to point out the infraction before it occurs, rather than making an accusation afterwards. (And thank God they’re no longer allowing viewer call-ins!)
Schurman: This isn’t new! Greg Norman refused to sign Mark McCumber’s card. Tom Watson called out Gary Player in a TV match. Vijay had some kind of incident. Tiger has had at least 3 suspicious situations. Phil Mickelson’s was by far the most blatant, disrespectful disregard for the game, the USGA and the other competitors. My thoughts are based on the fact that he pre-planned his actions. It was premeditated! He caused the outcome of a tournament to be altered. He should have been D/Q’d and suspended. Sometimes things happen during a round that ‘smell bad’ but usually come down to interpretations, an act in the heat of battle or a slightly ‘grey’ area. Basically, most people are honest; a few are crooked and some walk both sides but go with the honest version more often than not.
Kaplan: I don’t think cheating on the circuit is nearly as pervasive as the media is making it out to be. With the exception of Jimmy Walker and company backstopping — which is ridiculous and should be rooted out of the game immediately — those other two instances referenced were isolated incidents, and do not, in any way, personify the vast majority of players currently competing on the PGA Tour. Golf is still a game that prioritizes honour and etiquette over everything else, and we see far more examples of players calling penalties on themselves throughout the course of each season — like Phil did this past weekend when he unintentionally improved his lie in the fescue — than players who are actively trying to thwart the rulebook for an edge.
Rule: I still think of golf as a gentleman’s game, and for the most part players are very honest. But when the money becomes what it has become and the pressure is heightened as a result, I suppose human nature can take over. As for Jimmy Walker’s comment on leaving a ball to help another player, that’s something I often do when playing a competitive round, and I don’t believe that’s cheating, it’s well within the rules. I also try to chip quickly before my playing partner has a chance to mark their ball if it has the chance of helping me! That’s just taking advantage of a situation and the rules, not cheating!
Quinn: The company of honourable gentlemen has been shrinking dramatically of late, but golf seemed to be above the fray. Maybe not. The Walker blurt is very disturbing. There should always be a courteous and sporting consensus on where a shot crossed the hazard. The consequences of Kang’s opinion holding — after that ridiculous half-hour delay — was a cheque for a quarter of a million and a spot in The Open. There has always been and always will be an underclass. I think in golf they make up a tiny percentage and hope it stays that way. But soon, with the legalization of sport betting across the States, every rules question will be under an even more powerful microscope and every missed three-footer could cause a social media firestorm. Interesting times.
Mumford: I think the Tour did everything they could for a long time to keep infractions behind closed doors in order to protect the integrity of their product and the players. In today’s social media world with instant news and conclusions, it’s impossible to keep these things concealed. Cheating was and always will be a small part of golf and I have no problem with one player calling another out when they see something off-kilter. What’s infuriating though is when the Tour or the USGA bend over backwards to create rulings that absolve a player from disqualification or harsh penalties, especially when it’s a marquee player. That doesn’t protect their brand – it just diminishes it in everybody’s eyes. The Tour shouldn’t be afraid to DQ a player or even assess a longer suspension if warranted. Some players evidently feel they can take advantage and the enforcers need to stop it immediately.