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Canadian Open Sponsors Make It A Small World

A number of factors are coming together to help ensure a quality field at the RBC Canadian Open July 21-24 at Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club in Vancouver. But who would have thought that the most fundamental fact about the earth could be as important, or more important, than any other factor?

That fact, simply, is that the earth is round. Matt Kuchar, who will play the tournament, said recently that he has been told that the flight from England, where the Open Championship will be held the week before the Canadian Open, will be only half-an-hour longer than a flight from there to Toronto. Other information suggests that the flight will be an hour shorter, seven hours and not eight, because the flight goes over the North Pole.

“Now I know geography,” Kuchar said, “and I understand that the world is round. But it’s still surprising [that the flight to Vancouver doesn’t take much longer than to Toronto].”

Of course, there is another reason Kuchar, the 2010 PGA Tour Vardon Trophy winner, for the low scoring average, and the leading money-winner, will be at Shaughnessy. That’s because RBC in January signed him to a sponsorship deal, along with Ernie Els and two-time Canadian Open champion Jim Furyk.

RBC’s move added to the company’s roster of top players that the bank has signed. The list includes Anthony Kim, Luke Donald, Fred Couples, Morgan Pressel and Canadians Stephen Ames and Mike Weir.

Meanwhile, RBC is a PGA of America presenting sponsor, as the organization noted during a state of the game press conference during last week’s merchandise show in Orlando. RBC isn’t holding back when it comes to its involvement in golf.

The RBC guys are expected to play the Canadian Open, where possible. It would be understandable, to be sure, if Couples didn’t play. The Senior British Open is on the same week at the Walton Heath club near London, and it follows the Open Championship at Royal St. George’s in Sandwich, England.

“We have indications from Ernie, Matt and Jim that they all intend to play Canada, which goes a long way to solving the field-strength challenges of the past,” Jim Little, RBC’s chief brands and communications officer, said last week.

This is all a delicate dance around the PGA Tour’s rule that sponsors cannot pay appearance money. That is permitted on the European Tour. Of course, there have always been ways around the rule. Earlier, Canadian Open sponsors used to organize an outing for its clients early in the week of the tournament. Top players were invited and were paid. The number of players varied, but it was always limited to around a dozen or a few more. The outing was private and held at a club that the sponsor did not identify publicly. Media were not welcome.

“To be clear, we cannot contract anyone to play the [RBC], but through the negotiations, we were very clear about the importance of Canada to our golf strategy, and everyone totally understood that,” Little said.

RBC’s sponsorship arrangement with the players isn’t the only initiative that has been undertaken to enhance the field at Shaughnessy. The Vancouver company CK Golf Solutions Ltd. has led a campaign to tweet Tiger Woods all the way to the tournament.

“Hey #TweetTiger @TigerWoods we want you to play in the #RBC CanadianOpen11 @ShaughnessyGolf,” went out, and a Tweeting Tiger campaign was born. It is unlikely this will have the same effect as RBC’s sponsorship of players.

All this said, it’s possible that Shaughnessy won’t have the player who won the 2005 Canadian Open, the last time the tournament was held at this very fine course. Mark Calcavecchia is now a Champions Tour player. He is also a former Open Championship winner. Calcavecchia will play the Open in Sandwich. He said recently that he is undecided about Shaughnessy. It should be mentioned here that Ryan Moore, who finished second in 2005, has said he will return. Moore said that the quality of the course will bring him back.

As for Calcavecchia, he told Global Golf Post, “I’d love to play there but I’m up in the air about it. It would be a no-brainer to stay in England and play the Senior Open there. I’ll see how I’m doing then.”

Calcavecchia is always a draw at tournaments. He is colorful and open with the media. He also won the PGA Tour’s Air Canada Championship (then the Greater Vancouver Open) in 1997. The tournament is now defunct. Twelve years later, Calcavecchia set a PGA Tour record in the 2009 RBC Canadian Open at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ont., when he made nine straight birdies in the second round.

Here is hoping Calcavecchia will take the charter flight that is provided players from the Open to the Canadian Open. Maybe RBC should sign him. Or maybe Canadian Open officials should tell him, and all players, that Paul Galon, the head executive chef in 2005, is still at the club. The food he prepared was a big hit. There is more to getting players to a tournament, after all, than sponsorships and the course, or a flight over the North Pole.


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