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.
COVID restrictions for the City of Toronto plus international travel protocols may cause the RBC Canadian Open to be cancelled for a second straight year. Currently, it is scheduled for June 10-13 at St. George’s Golf & Country Club (above) in Islington. The WGC Mexico Championship, which was played last week, was moved to Florida on short notice due to similar COVID travel restrictions. Would you be in favour of moving our national championship to the US for this year?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Interesting question, and not a proposal I’ve yet heard. But unless there’s a major alteration (i.e., relaxation) of the current COVID restrictions, I’d be against moving the tournament. One of the positive features of the Canadian Open is the number of exemptions offered to Canadian players… and often, an obscure Canadian ends up near the top of the leaderboard, which is great for Canadian golf. If the event were moved to the US, would Canadian players be allowed to travel, and/or would they be forced into a hotel stay and quarantine for two weeks afterward? I suspect a lot would pass on the opportunity if that were the case. And the fact that spectators would (presumably) still be disallowed makes one wonder, what really is the point? So, I’d suggest that, unless Doug Ford gives the Open a free pass to proceed at St. George’s, they should just give up on 2021.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): I’d really like to see the Canadian Open conducted this year, no matter the location, but its such a complex issue involving so many moving parts. We can all just hope for the best for all involved.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: I would support holding the Canadian Open in a USA city even though that thought never occurred to me. Continuity is extremely important and simply holding the event anywhere provides hope for its survival. Second, I am one who believes the Gov’t and the average person haven’t done nearly enough to defeat this disease. Our borders should have been in ‘lock-down’ starting last summer which means people walking across the border, driving a vehicle, a boat or a plane. Everyone should have faced a 14-day quarantine. I understand the need for shipping but I’m talking about non-essential travel. So far, the general attitude has been very carefree and lax. Let’s step up and win this war.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (GolfAwayTJ): I’m torn on this one. Selfishly I would prefer it to be cancelled, as our National Championship should be our National Championship. But I understand the need to keep as many tourneys on the schedule as possible for both the players and the sponsors. It certainly doesn’t look like there is any chance it’s held at St. George’s this year, so I guess we’ll have to wait until 2022 to see them return to that classic track.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): No. The RBC Canadian Open always struggles to have an identity as more than just another stop on the PGA Tour. Some players recognize the importance of a national championship but for most it’s another week, another tournament, another payday. The Canadian Open needs to be more Canadian, not less. The Tour may indeed fill the slot with something else if a course and a sponsor can be found but it won’t be our national championship. I’d rather that they skip another year and run it the way it was meant to be in 2022.
As we all know, Tiger Woods was in a serious car accident last week and will be sidelined for several months at least, maybe much longer. Not that he needs the money, but at 45 years old and nearing the end of his career anyway, Tiger is certainly getting closer to whatever comes next. Apart from a miracle comeback, where do you think Tiger could have the greatest impact in his post-playing career?
Deeks: His father once suggested that Tiger’s influence could potentially amount to the Second Coming. In view of his still elevated status among the Gods of Sport, Tiger could really have an impact on helping and inspiring young, underprivileged black people to escape their circumstances and apply themselves in whatever paths they choose. He’s never really embraced that role, but perhaps realizing that his career may well be finished, he may find an even higher calling.
Loughry: Tiger’s impact will most certainly be off the course (other than his children) with his Foundation. I think he’ll stay around golf maybe dabble in some design. Maybe one of those multiple announcements about a course in Dubai actually happens? I don’t see much playing being in his future, unless he comes out of another surgery with some kind of bionics like Steve Austin with a new title “The upgraded Six Million Dollar Man”.
Schurman: Tiger can totally recover from his injuries in this accident. Granted he could have died or worse, killed someone else. However, he will be approximately 8 to 10 months before he can resume activities at a reasonable level. The question begins to arise, how many times can he come back to top form given the huge time gaps between surgeries and considering his age. People say age 50 is the new 40. That might be true for someone living a normal life. In Tiger’s case, his body is probably 55, not 45. What’s next? He already has the Tiger Woods Foundation that does incredible work. With his ability to open doors and his vast resources he has an opportunity known only to people like Past Presidents, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet etc. Let’s hope he does something absolutely incredible.
Rule: What a sad day last Tuesday, and first and foremost I’m so happy that he survived the crash and is recovering. Whether or not he returns to play competitively someday, he’ll always have a major impact on the sport. He has had the biggest impact of any player in the history of the game, mostly by just being a great player, and a minority in a very white sport. That should continue and I’m sure he’ll be putting more time into his foundation and helping to grow the game that has been so good to him and will likely be good to his son.
Mumford: It’s hard to imagine Tiger rolling up his sleeves and getting into something else. He may donate his celebrity and money to pet causes but actually “working” in them seems a stretch. He could probably land a gig as semi-permanent US Ryder Cup Captain or course designer to the rich and richer but ultimately, he can have the greatest impact with kids. Working with them is one of the few times we see Tiger energized and motivated outside of competition.
Annika Sorenstam walked away from competitive golf 13 years ago at the peak of her career, so it was certainly nice to see her compete again last week, even if only for this one outing. Many PGA Tour players hang on long after their best before date, hoping for one more win or even a few more good years. Some weeks on the PGA Tour it seems like “nostalgia week” when most of the elite players take the week off and all you see are rookies and players past their prime. Are you ok with this or does the PGA Tour need to tweak something to showcase the best more often?
Deeks: As long as the PGA Tour exists as an agency and enabler for independent contractors (the players), I don’t see it being able to impose more restrictive rules on forcing the elite players to play more often, or in places they don’t necessarily want to visit. Your question says players hang on “hoping for one more win or even a few more good years” … which sounds somewhat pathetic, but even the has-beens realize that as long as they can stay on the circuit, and make enough cuts, staying on Tour is as good a life as they can possibly achieve, so why not? And there’s the desire to stay competitive until they reach age 50 and get another kick at the cat on the Champions Tour. So, while there may indeed be a need to “tweak something”, I’m not sure there’d be a groundswell of impetus to do so, at least among the players.
Loughry: I enjoyed following Annika this week. She made the cut, when some top players did not, pretty impressive. As for PGA Tour, the back 1/4 of any field always contains players on the way up or down. This will only change if they go strictly to a performance-based system and toss out exemptions for sponsors and old outdated (historical) performance. At some point, players stop playing/performing at a level to truly play or reasonably compete on the big circuit. However, there are times when exemptions are given that really add to the storyline of the week and can bring some needed attention to the Tour or Tour stop in any given week. Those times are few and far between though. Sometimes, I’m not sure the top players appreciate the magnitude of their decisions on taking weeks off or skipping an event every year…. UNTIL their play doesn’t allow them the “luxury” of choice, then I’m sure they don’t mind playing in the XYZ Championship or XYZ Open.
Schurman: I think the PGA TOUR is about to begin living on borrowed time. They will have a bit of a resurgence once betting becomes more active but that will wear thin quickly. Other than the Masters, the US Open and the Open Championship, every week is a repeat of the week before. The only differentiating factor is the geography. Purses are so big they don’t have any impact. I’d like to see a league made up of 20 player teams representing about 24 to 36 cities around the world with teams made up of men and women. There would be a regular season of weekly events within some divisions using a Ryder Cup format except the draw would be ‘blind’. Meaning, based on an adjusted, handicapped system, women might play against men culminating in an elimination play-off just like other sports. In answer to the question, this would reduce the problem of weak and starless fields.
Rule: I can totally understand professional athletes wanting to play as long as they can, even if they aren’t nearly as competitive as they once were. It’s tough to give up what you likely have only knows in terms of a profession, and the camaraderie that goes along with it. Not every event needs to be filled with superstars. It’s good to give other players a chance to make a mark. It shouldn’t be a sport where only the top 50-100 in the world can reap the rewards offered as prize money at each tournament. There needs to be the opportunity for up and comers to be successful, otherwise why would anyone chase the dream?
Mumford: Even the so-called “past their prime” players are extremely good and usually more entertaining than the robotic stiffs that are struggling to get established. It’s really the media’s fault. They, especially the TV guys, spent so much time on Tiger in the last 25 years that we never really got to know a lot of the “others”. We just got snippets. And most of the others have really great stories, not always about winning, usually about struggling. The media needs to do a better job of shining some light on the others so that when the single name crowd (Tiger, Phil, Brooks, DJ, Rory, etc.) take the week off, we have a reason to root for the guys with two names. They really are good.