July 25, 2007

Opening the doors to the Canadian Open: Canadian Open director Bill Paul is grousing about the poor field, but Tour players want him to show them both the love and the money.

Cam Cole of CanWest News Service has an interesting piece up this morning in the National Post about the struggles of the Canadian Open to land big-name talent.

Much of the article centres on the Royal Canadian Golf Association's chartering a jet to fly golfers home from the British Open and deposit them neatly in Toronto for this week's tourney. According to the Open's tournament director, Bill Paul, five players -- Steve Stricker, Jerry Kelly, Carl Petterson, Ryan Moore and Boo Weekley -- took the flight and then took off.

This sounds unsporting, but Paul charged each passenger $1,000 for the flight, and later he says the RCGA allowed the players on as a matter of goodwill, and ...

"You know what? There are players that have been good to us, and we let them on," Paul said. "Will it pay dividends? I don't know, but I think it's goodwill and it's positive. I won't lose any sleep over it ? but I will definitely remind them."

So why the complaining then? It's not as if they were freeloading -- those five seats being filled is $5,000 back into the RCGA's pockets, and could fund a nice day camp for local youth, I'd think. In addition, any goodwill gained is definitely going to be dampened once word gets back to these players Paul has dumped on them after the fact.

It's possible Cole may have found this out on his own and pressed Paul for an explanation, but perhaps Paul needs to have someone hold up one of those "QUIET" signs in instances such as this.

Cole also takes David Love III to task for not playing in the Open. No use asking why Love took a quarter of a million United States dollars from Angus Glen to re-design the North course two years ago -- move some tee boxes and bunkers, grow in the rough here and there, toughen it up -- then didn't show up at the tournament where the quality of his work will be judged.

Well, Cam, I'm guessing he took the $250,000US to, I don't know ... redesign the course? I mean, is Love not supposed to be paid for his work? And unless the deal had an appearance contract attached to it, Angus Glen has probably gotten $250,000 worth of publicity from having a PGA Tour star pimp its course.

Want to attract more players? Start with a larger purse. Apparently $5M doesn't buy what it used to, because that's one of the smaller payouts on the Tour. It puts the Canadian Open behind such Tour classics as the PODS Championship, the Frys Electronics Open and the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

It's a tough go with no major sponsor, but that falls on the shoulders on the Open to find someone with deep pockets (Mr. Balsillie to the first tee, please). A big sponsor and a big purse means more of the little goodies for players Cole mentions -- a Mercedes loaner and a bottle of Dom at the Wachovia vs. a BMW at the Canadian -- and that could translate to a deeper field.

By the way, the Wachovia Open's purse is $6.3M.

The other big factor is playing the week after the British Open. Players are tired, full of haggis and looking to take a week off and recharge for the PGA and the NASCARization of golf, the Fed Ex Cup, but the chance to take home a huge first-place cheque -- say, $1.5M instead of $810,000 -- might make a few fellows take notice.

There isn't much the Open can do to force a change in the schedule, so it's going to have to be money and perks. Too bad a two-four of Moosehead and some autographed copies of "Strange Brew" won't cut it.

posted by wfrazerjr to commentary at 02:02 PM - 0 comments

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