Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 July 2008 10:10 Tuesday, 01 July 2008 09:21
OAKVILLE, Ont. - Mike Weir is tired of seeing Canada's national golf championship get kicked around and criticized.
The former Masters champion attended a luncheon with several of the game's stakeholders Monday and delivered an impassioned message about the upcoming RBC Canadian Open.
"I'd rather see us talk about who we have here rather than who we don't have here," said Weir. "That seems to have been a theme I've heard over the last few years."
Indeed, the crown jewel of Canadian golf has been beaten up pretty good. It was played without a title sponsor the last two years and has been moved to the week directly following the British Open, making it tougher to draw the game's top players.
That string of events cast a cloud over a tournament that was once considered the fifth major by PGA Tour players. With RBC now showing a strong sponsorship commitment and a renewed energy pumping through the offices at the Royal Canadian Golf Association, the landscape appears to be changing for the better.
And that's the only thing Weir wants to talk about now. "You've got to change the mindset and the culture a little bit," he said. "People were talking about it negatively and you can't have a great event when people are taking about it negatively. Whatever that negativity might have been - with the field, the date, whatever."
The country's other top pro couldn't agree more. After hearing Weir speak, Stephen Ames noted that negative thoughts are no good on the golf course and can be equally destructive off of it.
"He's correct," said Ames. "I agree with that, very much so. It's something that you guys on the whole need to stop writing about - who's not here and who should be here and all this. ... I think it's very important that we work in the positive and not the negative."
Weir and Ames lead a group of at least 13 homegrown players into the event, which will be played July 24-27. Several of those guys were at Glen Abbey on Monday to play the course and meet over lunch during an event that coincided with the Canada Day weekend.
It was the first time Weir had been back to Glen Abbey since the 2004 Canadian Open, when Vijay Singh erased a three-shot deficit on the final day and beat the lefty in a three-hole playoff.
That was a tough loss at the time but it's a tournament that Weir is able to look back on fondly now. "It was special," he said. "I just remember the fans were incredible."
Tournament director Bill Paul has been involved with the event for more than two decades and lists the 2004 Canadian Open among his most memorable. "It was a place to be on the weekend here as he built himself up and got into that final group," said Paul. "It was magical."
Another solid performance by a Canadian would be one way to ensure the positive vibes continue. It's been 54 years since Pat Fletcher became the last homegrown player to win this tournament.
Beyond Weir and Ames, fellow PGA Tour player Jon Mills will be trying to end that drought along with Nationwide Tour regulars David Hearn, Brad Fritsch, Jim Rutledge, Ian Leggatt, Bryan DeCorso and David Morland IV. "Hopefully one of us will get it done soon," said Weir.
There will be no shortage of good players looking to stop them. Two-time defending champion Jim Furyk will be back and is hoping to become the first man in the 104-year history of the tournament to win three straight.
The field also includes two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen and former Masters winner Fred Couples along with four PGA Tour players who have a victory already this season: Sean O'Hair, Ryuji Imada, Boo Weekley and J.B. Holmes.
Fans can also expect to see some players that are short on star power but will impress with their play. "There's going to be names on the leaderboard people haven't heard of but they're great players," said Weir. "Us as players on the tour know who these guys are, we know how good they are. You've got to start somewhere. "These guys are going to step their way up and be tour winners, major winners."
A Canadian Open win would feel like a major to many. The tournament isn't quite up to that standard but things appear to be moving into a positive direction under RBC. That, above all else, is why Weir is preaching patience.
"It's a growing process," he said. "It's not going to be a major the first year after a new sponsor takes over. It's going to take time."
By Inside Golf Staff
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