Sandwiched between British Open and PGA, Canadian Open has major flavor
This week's RBC Canadian Open, the third-oldest national open behind the British Open and U.S. Open, is unlike the four men's majors in that it gives out sponsor's exemptions to players like Canada's Brad Fritsch and Adam Hadwin, both of the Web.com Tour. It's also clearly not a major because it is played the week after the season's third major, the Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
Alas, it will feature reigning Open champion Ernie Els, and it will be played on a major-worthy course, the gorgeous, old, Harry Colt-designed Hamilton Golf and Country Club outside Toronto -- a 6,966-yard, tree-lined par 70. Hamilton has hosted the Canadian Open five times, most recently in '06, when one-time major winner Jim Furyk won. This week's weather report in Ancaster, Ontario: wind and rain on Friday, which as Canadian Graham DeLaet said, "Sounds like a pretty standard Canadian Open." The rest of us might call it British Open weather.
In the heart of the golf season, every tournament, every player and every moment is evaluated in terms of the majors. That's why Els is the biggest name in the field at Hamilton, and why 2011 Masters champ Charl Schwartzel is second biggest, and why three-time major winner Vijay Singh, 49, is the third biggest.
The power of the majors also explains why Brandt Snedeker (T3 at British) was among the Canadian Open's featured pre-tournament interviews. And it's why the most interesting thing Snedeker said was not something about the Canadian Open, but something about the British, and how the difficulty of the last four holes and the day's stiff crosswinds led to the late Adam Scott-Els reversal.
"Tiger and I were walking down 11 and we were both four under par, I think," Snedeker said. "We both said the same thing, 'If we get to seven under par we have a chance to win the golf tournament.' That was knowing full well Adam was 11 or 10 under at that point. We didn't know how right we were when we said that." (Els's winning score was seven under par.)
The seniors really are playing a major this week: the Senior British Open at Turnberry's Ailsa Course in Scotland, where Tom Watson won the 1977 British Open, the 2003 Senior British, and nearly won there again at the 2009 British Open. (At age 39, 2009 spoiler Stewart Cink is not in this week's field.) Such is Watson's mastery of the Open rota courses that Snedeker, having picked Watson's brain in practice rounds at Royal Lytham & St. Annes last week, said of his performance at Lytham, "Give [Watson] a lot of credit for what happened last week."
Mark Calcavecchia, who tied for ninth on Lytham's flat greens last week, his best British Open finish since he won the claret jug in 1989, is expected to contend at Turnberry, as is England's Roger Chapman, who's won the Senior PGA Championship and U.S. Senior Open already this year. Tom Lehman, who missed the cut at Lytham, leads the Charles Schwab Cup points list, and Bernhard Langer is a threat every week.
This week's LPGA tournament, the Evian Masters in France, is in its last year as a non-major. Starting next year it will be known simply as "The Evian," and as the circuit's fifth major the event will move deeper down the schedule to September. Ai Miyazato defends her title at this week's Evian at the 6,457-yard, par-72 Evian Masters Golf Club, where past champions in the field include Paula Creamer ('05), Karrie Webb ('06), Natalie Gulbis ('07) and Jiyai Shin ('10).
The Web.com Tour's Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational at Ohio State's Scarlet Course is essentially a major for the college kids. The tournament invites a dozen college All-Americans to play up a level, although the line between elite college players and Web.com players can be extremely thin. The college kids have won the tournament twice in the last six years, including Daniel Summerhays in '07 and Harris English, now on the PGA Tour, in 2011.
Jordan Spieth of the University of Texas, who tied for 21st at the U.S. Open last month, winning low-amateur honors, leads this year's crop of collegians into the NCHI. Justin Thomas, a sophomore to be at Alabama, is less well-known than Spieth, who will turn 19 Friday, but Thomas is the reigning NCAA Player of the Year.
The people that promote the developmental Web.com Tour also would like you to know that three of their alumni, Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson, and yes, even Ernie Els, won the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open. Yes, in any given moment on any tour in any part of the world, in the end it's all about the majors.
Short game: A Canadian has not won the Canadian Open since Pat Fletcher in 1954. … The gap of 10 years between Els's two British Open wins (2002, 2012) is the second longest in Open history, behind Sir Henry Cotton (1937-1948). … Although one writer called Phil Mickelson "clearly the second best player of his generation" entering the British Open, Els ties him with his fourth major, making it a dead heat. … Els, 42, was 58 days younger than Darren Clarke when Clarke won the 2011 Open. … Vijay Singh is less than a year away from being eligible for the Champions tour, but goes to Canada on the heels of a T9 at the British. … Russ Cochran missed last week's British Open with a back injury, but hung around to watch the tournament. He won't be well enough for the Senior British, either. … Isao Aoki, Danny Edwards and Darrell Kestner were among the 28 players to Monday-qualify for Turnberry. Mike Donald and Damon Green, Zach Johnson's caddie, were among those who did not make it through the 18-hole qualifier.