One of the biggest reasons for the RBC Canadian Open's improved standing on the PGA Tour in recent years is because event organizers charter a plane to take players from the British Open directly to the site of the Canadian event.
This year, that plane will land in Hamilton and close to 100 players and their caddies will be ready to go by the Sunday evening before tournament week. The arrangement makes the vast distance travelled from England or Scotland a little easier than even a regular tour event. Players get to the Canadian Open about a day before than had they been travelling from, say, Arizona or Florida.
But here is a novel idea. Perhaps organizers should organize a golfers-only (sorry, no wives) in late October. Had they done so last fall, it could well have helped this year's tournament in two weeks.
To wit, reigning U.S. Open champion and world No. 5 Webb Simpson is in a scheduling pinch. His wife, Dowd, is expecting the couple's second child on July 30 -- that's the Monday after the Canadian Open wraps up at Hamilton Golf and Country Club.
Simpson has committed to play in the tournament and Golf Canada has used him as a centerpiece of the advance player announcements. One problem: babies have a way of not co-operating.
"I talked to him right after his [U.S. Open] victory and he plans on coming," Canadian Open tournament director Bill Paul said last week at a media function trumpeting this year's tournament at the charming Harry Colt layout in Ancaster, Ont.
"I plan on talking to his wife this week.'
Pledging his intention to play was an honourable thing for Simpson to do. He didn't just say he wanted to play, he formally committed through the tour. All things being equal, Simpson will play through Sunday, hop on a plane home and welcome the new addition on Monday.
Fingers crossed, of course.
Jason Day may not be so lucky. The Australian's wife, Ellie, is due a little more than a week before the Simpsons are expecting and Day has already scrapped plans to play at the year's third major, the British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in Lancashire, England, because of the conflict.
Though he hasn't yet formally committed to the Canadian Open, he has told Golf Canada officials that he expects to be there and gave them his blessing to use his name in the same advance publicity announcements that have focused largely on Simpson.
Babies are one thing. Defending other tournament titles is another all together.
Luke Donald has a relationship with title sponsor RBC and has played the Canadian Open every year since 2008. But, aye, he won the Scottish Open last year and has many commitments beyond merely defending his title this week at Castle Stuart in Aberdeen.
That tournament is now played on a links course in order to give participants a better feel for the British Open to follow. Donald will also want to play well because his late father, Colin, who died suddenly last fall, was Scottish, so it's not hard to imagine how emotional a week it will be for Donald.
Add it all up and Donald will not be coming to Hamilton.
'You always want more'
Canadians, of course, will be well represented. Our highest-ranked PGA Tour players, Graham DeLaet and David Hearn, joined last week's media availability by teleconference, while Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C., was there in person.
Hearn, who resides in nearby Brantford, Ont., and DeLaet, from Weyburn, Sask., tied for 12th at this past weekend's Greenbrier Classic. Hearn crossed the $700,000 US threshold ($704,915) in the process, good for 94th on the money list. DeLaet is close behind in 100th with $674,230 US. Having lost the 2011 season with a back injury, DeLaet has now extended his medical exemption for the rest of this season with eight events to spare.
All told, both Hearn and DeLaet have settled in nicely on the tour and both acknowledged the next step is to seriously contend more often and, eventually, win.
"You're constantly trying to improve," Hearn said. "That's the competitive nature of the PGA Tour ... any time you have a bit of success, you always want more."
Hadwin's memorable fourth-place showing last year at Shaughnessy in Vancouver was one of the best showings by a Canadian in the modern era. Presently playing on the Web.com Tour (formerly Nationwide), Hadwin's year hasn't gone quite as planned so far, though he told the assembled media throng that he was encouraged by the fact that Hamilton is expected to play similar to how Shaughnessy did last year, with perhaps less penal rough.
Defending champion Sean O'Hair will also be in Hamilton, with the Texan expected to meet with Canadian media this week via teleconference.
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