Shaughnessy is ideal course for Canadian Open
The players got what they wanted with the RBC Canadian Open returning to Vancouver's Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club this week.
The tree-lined layout with breathtaking views of the Strait of Georgia is almost universally loved by touring pros, many of whom consider it the top course in all of Canada.
"It's actually got players talking on Tour, which is kind of cool," Englishman Paul Casey said in a recent interview.
"I think RBC is on to something by taking (the tournament) around Canada to the best golf courses they can find. Word on the street is it's just tough and long and big trees and beautiful — a ball striker's golf course, which is nice."
If 2005 is any indication of the test that awaits starting Thursday, some of the players might want to be careful what they wish for.
The last time the third oldest national championship in golf was staged at Shaughnessy, Mark Calcavecchia won despite making just one birdie over the final two rounds. He finished with a score of 5-under 275 at the end of an extremely tough four days.
"A golf course like this, you can play one great round, maybe two, but you're sure as hell not going to beat it four days in a row," Calcavecchia said after lifting the trophy in 2005.
"Thank God, we ran out of holes."
The popular venue is one of the main reasons tournament organizers were able to draw a few notable names despite the fact it's being held more than 7,000 kilometres away from last week's British Open at Royal St. George's. The overall field is a little weaker at the top end than a year ago, with six of the Top 30 in the tour's FedExCup standings having entered compared with 11 in 2010.
World's No. 1 Luke Donald, Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, Rickie Fowler, Anthony Kim, Geoff Ogilviy and Casey are among the golfers that took Golf Canada's charter for the long trip from Sandwich, England, to Vancouver.
They arrived at a venue that could be every bit as demanding as what they face at a major championship. The thick rough and small greens at Shaughnessy put a premium on shotmaking and penalize sloppy play.
"It's a typical lower mainland golf course here in B.C.," said Adam Hadwin, who hails from nearby Abbotsford.
"It's tight, it's tree-lined, it's got thick rough and I think with a lot of the par-4s being upwards of 450-, 460-[yards] and how narrow the fairways are and how thick that rough is, it's going to be a premium on driving this week. You've got to get the ball in the fairway to give yourself a chance."
'Canada's golf public is hungry'
Hadwin is one of 17 homegrown players entered in the $5.2-million US event. The Canadian Tour regular finished as the low Canadian at last year's tournament — he tied for 37th at St. George's Golf and Country Club in Toronto — and left feeling almost as good as champion Carl Pettersson.
The 23-year-old hopes to become the country's marquee golfer, a position that is wide open with Calgary's Stephen Ames currently the top-rated Canadian at No. 198.
"Canada's golf public is hungry for another player," said Hadwin. "We had Mike Weir.
"We were riding Mike Weir for so long and he was our guy. He's struggling a little bit now [ranked 475th] and I'm sure he'll get it back and he'll find a way to get it done.
"But I think that there's some young guys that are going to step up here pretty soon and take over and be that guy for Canada again."
Ames and Weir will draw much of the attention among the Canadian contingent along with fellow PGA Tour members David Hearn of Brantford, Ont., Matt McQuillan of Kingston, Ont., and Chris Baryla of Vernon, B.C.
Graham DeLaet of Weyburn, Sask., remains sidelined with a lingering back injury and is being forced to sit out.
The biggest homegrown star this week could end up being Shaughnessy. The course is hosting the national championship for just the fourth time in history and will likely open some eyes once again — just as it did in 2005.
"It's probably one of the best golf courses we're going to play all year, we've played all year," Vijay Singh said then. "It's very demanding off the tees, small greens, it's incredible the conditions it's in.
"Par is a good score over here on every hole."