What’s to become of the RBC Canadian Open?

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.

Scottie Scheffler pretty much lapped the field at the Players Championship on Sunday, winning for the sixth time in the past 14 months and regaining the World #1 ranking. As for a designated event pitting all the best players together, Jon Rahm withdrew, Rory McIlroy missed the cut and most of the rest of the elite were well down the leaderboard, leaving Scheffler alone to romp to a five shot victory. In the third round, Tom Hoge shot a course record 62, while the rest of those making the cut made a record number of birdies and eagles on a course that was particularly soft. Did the Players Championship live up to its lofty perch as the fifth major? 

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Yes, it did, and almost always does.  I’ve considered it the fifth major for years, and in fact, think it’s a better event than the PGA Championship.  But I kinda wish the golf world would stop raising this question every year.  Nothing is going to change, so let’s give it (the question of the fifth major) a rest, already.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Although an elevated event, a field of 156 will always produce a leaderboard with new-comers and world top 10’s. And the course cannot be overpowered, it really doesn’t favour a long hitter (you have to plot your way around the course). Just a note, that the Players Championship is not a major, but it is a fantastic event that deserves recognition and accolade. Unfortunately, the final round was really pretty ordinary, especially the back nine as we all knew the outcome. But I still very much enjoyed watching it.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: Absolutely! Look at the trail of devastation and destruction left in the final round. Each round offered a different set-up (because it can) we saw guarded swings, free swings, confident swings and cautious swings. In the end, only one player conquered and nobody else survived. Why? This event has the most meaning to the players. It is ‘their’ championship. They own it. The pressure they put on themselves to win is exceptional. In regard to ‘lapping the field’, in 1948, Bobby Locke won an event by 16 strokes, and in 1975 Johnny Miller by 14; in 1990 Jose Maria Olazabal by 12; in the 2000 US Open, Tiger by 15. The TOUR didn’t fall apart the next week. The fact, the top players were conspicuous by their absence takes nothing away from the fine performance of Scheffler. The Players is not the 5th major. It is the #1 Major. I miss Cam Smith. BTW Azinger, Faxon and Byrum were incredible. One last gripe. I’m glad to see a return to calling the previous winner the Past Champion, not the Former Champion. Once a champion, always a champion! Former is when is taken away.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I have never considered it the 5th major to be honest, I get that it’s the toughest field in golf, but it doesn’t get me excited.  I barely even watch on Sunday once I knew the Canadians were no longer in contention.  I was ok with seeing the course set up for low numbers on Saturday and then tough on Championship Sunday.  I was way off on my prediction of Rory winning, what the heck happened there?  Golf is so unpredictable.  It would have been nice to have a couple of more big names near the top on Sunday, it just wasn’t exciting once Scheffler started pulling away.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Remember when the Canadian Open was on that lofty perch? Well, The Players’ Championship (its correct name) deserves the spot now. The course has matured and evolved, the field is second to none, and like Augusta National the tournament can start on the back nine on Sunday. It is must-see TV for four days, with tourney # 6 a long way back.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Majors have the best players, exceptional courses and rich histories. The Players Championship ticks all those boxes. TPC Sawgrass is designed for excitement and drama, and like Augusta National, fans and players know exactly what to expect. That adds to the anticipation and makes watching it a real treat. This past weekend didn’t disappoint. Scheffler was superb. Not his fault that the rest of the designated troops couldn’t keep up.

During the lead-up to the Players, several in the golf media penned what amounted to an obituary for LIV Golf after PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan announced all his changes, especially the designated small-field, no-cut events. In your opinion, was that the death-knell for LIV?

Deeks: Not necessarily, although I think LIV will be gone by the end of 2024 anyway.  I think it’ll just mean that there won’t be any more big-name defections to LIV, so they’ll have to make-do with the few really good players they have.  I’m more interested in the progress of the LIV vs. PGA Tour anti-trust lawsuit, and whether the Saudi guy will agree to be “deposed” as a judge has ruled he must agree to if asked by the Tour.  The last thing the Saudis want is a probe into how it all works.

Loughry: The PGA Tour announcements certainly don’t help LIV Golf and their future. I’m not ready to say it’s the death-knell though, not yet. Norman’s ego won’t let him quit; he’ll have more things up his sleeve. It would be great if there was some kind of compromise (and soon) for everyone’s sake. By everything I’m reading, that is a long shot, this is going to be a long-dragged out battle to the bitter end.

Schurman: The PGA TOUR owes LIV a debt for clearing out a bunch of complainers, guys past their best-before dates past and others bouncing between 100 and 150 on the World Rankings. The loss of these players opened the door for the next wave of young players who were suddenly forced onto the big stage. We just saw this at the Players. The newfound riches Monahan has discovered have given the PGA TOUR a long overdue new look. The best players are the ‘best’. Just like in every other sport, they should earn ridiculous amounts of money and be pitted against each other more often. The future for LIV is not in competition with the PGA TOUR. It is with the DP TOUR and the Asian Tour. They should include women in their events and play in every country around the world. It should be a real team format with no individual money and play a Ryder Cup style with two teams in a city once a week playing a full season schedule.

Rule: I think it’s going to take a lot more to put the final nail in LIV’s coffin, they aren’t going to go down easy.  They haven’t been able to draw any other big names lately, so it definitely seems to be losing steam, but Norman won’t let it fail this quickly, if he can help it.

Quinn: Does anyone really care anymore? The fans who cared about Rahm’s WD and Rory missing the cut, cheered for Hoge and Min Woo Lee (and marvelled at his club head speed), and enjoyed Terrell Hatton getting out of his own way, don’t give a flying fig, so to speak, about the Saudi Tour. If it’s over, who’ll notice aside from the accountants and estate advisors?

Mumford: Most of the LIV Golf obituaries seem to take as much delight in the downfall of Greg Norman as they do of the Saudi-backed Tour. Lots of long-held grudges there, it would seem. The PGA Tour has countered with a masterful stroke and presumably stopped high-level defections for the foreseeable future. Advantage PGA Tour. Even so, I haven’t heard of any LIVers clamoring to come back. The battle isn’t over by any means but it’s no longer about money and players. Now it’s about eyeballs and sponsors. LIV needs to differentiate its product and show that it’s marketable, watchable and can generate real fan interest, not just vs the PGA Tour but against every other entertainment option too.

This week we’ll get some idea of what a non-designated event looks like as the Valspar event kicks off in Tampa. It may be a pre-cursor to what awaits the RBC Canadian Open, which is also non-designated but to make matters worse, sandwiched in the middle of a stretch of four must play events including majors. This year is already set, so what can the RBC Canadian Open do going forward to be the kind of championship Canadians want?

Deeks: Dog-sled races, a putting contest featuring Timbits instead of golf balls, horseshoe pitching, a corn roast, a tractor pull, and Nelly Furtado vs. Shania Twain mudwrestling.  That would be a start. Seriously, I think if there’s a death-knell going around, it might (and should) be the Canadian Open within the next couple of years.  As a former Executive Director of the tournament, I’m sorry to say that, but say it I will.  I think the non-designated events will draw fewer and fewer fans, and therefore, sponsor interest.

Loughry: All I know, is that this will be very difficult environment to navigate for the next few years. We (Canada) deserve a world class field, but how this is shaping up I’m not sure will work in our favour. I do hope players support the RBC Canadian Open, one of the oldest Championships in the world, but history has shown they have tended to skip it.

Schurman: If it wasn’t for RBC, the Canadian Open would be long gone after Bell left. Two factors affected the decline of the tournament, the aging of Dick Grimm and Glen Abbey. The players hate Glen Abbey! They also disliked the Canadian Gov’t withholding a % of their earnings until tax time but they loved Dick. He was a master at attracting the best players to attend. Last, the Canadian Open is the only PGA TOUR event not played during Covid. Quite simply, the players had a reason not to play here. In the past three years, a lot of things have changed around the world. Coming out of Covid, many businesses, activities and events couldn’t be rejuvenated or revived for myriad reasons, one being they just lost their relevance. For the Canadian Open to survive, it will require an entirely new business model. Perhaps something like the first two rounds being a Pro Am featuring Juniors as the Ams.

Rule: I’m worried for the Canadian Open and its future.  It has such a great past and long history, so I don’t see it disappearing, but it needs to move to a better date to remain a relevant event on the schedule.  They will get their RBC guys, but no other big names will show up unfortunately.  It’s a shame they didn’t designate it as a big event, hopefully RBC sticks around for a while because without them the tournament will be in trouble.

Quinn: For decades, Canadian golf fans (and a lot of Tour players) wanted an Open anywhere but Jack’s Glen Abbey. Once it was moving around a bit to classic layouts, the Tour guys were talking to each other, and the fields got better. Now it’s on a Mayakoba level, all about what can be laid on to even get the second-tier guys enticed by daycare, excursions for significant others, etc, etc. All that costs big bucks while revenue is plummeting. Gonna be tough to tune in just to watch guys trying to qualify for a real (sorry), an elevated (sorry), a designated event.

Mumford: Part of the reason a tournament wants to be affiliated with the PGA Tour is because they can deliver the best players. That never really happened in Canada. Bad dates, bad course, bad food, too far to travel – whatever! Top players found an excuse to stay away. The new designated event format now gives them another one. The best option for the Canadian Open would be a new date close to the end of the season. At that time some top players would be looking to cement their position in the playoffs and everybody else would be looking for one more chance to play their way inside the Top 50 for the following year.

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

2 thoughts on “What’s to become of the RBC Canadian Open?

    1. Hope you’re right Lars. RBC could step up with a purse increase but I think it will take more than being a designated event once every three years. They also need to make the Canadian Open a must play event for more than money. That could be points and standing towards the end of the season.

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