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Canadian Open: Its past was not prologue

ANCASTER, Ontario, Canada -- The RBC Canadian Open is history with a title sponsor, a working relic that began its run in 1904 and recalls the best the game has had to offer, from A to W, Armour to Woods.

Its roll call of winners also includes Hagen, Snead, Nelson, Palmer, Casper, Trevino and Norman, each contributing to the prestige that once earned it the unofficial label of fifth major.

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In 1919, J. Douglas Edgar won it by 16 shots, still a PGA Tour record nearly a century later. Incidentally, Bobby Jones tied for second.

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In 1910, Canadian George Lyon finished second. Lyon is the last player to have won an Olympic gold medal in golf, in 1904, and the trophy he also received for doing so was on display at Hamilton Golf and Country Club here last week, on loan from the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and Museum.

The Canadian Open is played on quality golf courses, too, including this year's site, Hamilton, G&CC, designed by renowned course architect Harry S. Colt.

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Why is all this important? It's not, and that is the sadness. The Canadian Open has a longer and deeper history than any PGA Tour event, yet it generally is ignored by the game's elite.

Matt Kuchar, ninth, was the only player in the field from the top 10 in the World Ranking. He and Hunter Mahan (13th) and Ernie Els (15th) were the only players from the top 20 in the field.

The winner was Scott Piercy (above), who was ranked 100th and outlasted runners-up William McGirt (303rd in the World Ranking) and Robert Garrigus (70th) to win by one. Piercy completed 72 holes in 263, equalling a tournament record that was set by Johnny Palmer in 1952.

The victory was his second in two years (he won the Reno-Tahoe Open in 2011), suggesting talent. But the combination of Piercy, Garrigus and McGirt vying on Sunday afternoon is a symptom of a tournament that has become a victim of the modern schedule.

The Canadian Open annually falls on the week after the British Open, the week before the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, and two weeks ahead of the PGA Championship. With the FedEx Cup playoffs following shortly, the Canadian Open has been crowded out of many elite players' schedules.

The title sponsor, RBC, has done an admirable job of buttressing the field by signing to endorsement contracts a tour staff that ensures that a handful of recognizable names are entered each year. Els, Furyk and Mahan are all RBC clients and were in the field (though only Mahan made the cut and he finished tied for 48th. Luke Donald, another RBC client and the No. 1 player in the World Ranking, chose to pass.

Moreover, the tournament, by way of providing incentive for British Open participants to participate (or to eliminate a disincentive for some to do so), charters a plane to bring them, their families and caddies from Britain to Canada.

It speaks to the plight of this tournament that deserves better, however, that one year, a player hitched that Britain-to-Toronto shuttle, then withdrew shortly after landing and headed home.

-- John Strege


 
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