Vancouver’s Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club is set to welcome the most formidable Canadian Open field in quite some time. Title sponsor RBC seriously bulked up its golf largesse this past January adding Jim Furyk, Ernie Els and Matt Kuchar to its stable. These PGA studs join an already impressive roster of brand ambassadors that count Anthony Kim, Fred Couples and world No. 1 Luke Donald among its members. Aside from the RBC-sponsored golfer depth charge, young guns Jhonattan Vegas and Rickie Fowler will make the trip as will Charl Schwartzel, Lucas Glover, Nick Watney and a bevy of other top-tier ball strikers. The Canadian Open’s reputation in recent years as just another run of the mill tour stop is about to be shed.

Known for its tight fairways lined with plenty of foliage, Shaughnessy is practically a golf arboretum with over 150 tree species represented on this parkland track. While you hear few complaints about the towering firs and imposing cedars, the small greens and thick rough can get the best of some golfers. 

"I hate it. The front nine is just stupid. The rough is just ridiculous,” Robert Allenby moaned midway through the 2005 Canadian Open, the last time the event was held here. “I know it's a national title, but it's not the U.S. Open. It was easier at the U.S. Open. You’ve got six inches of rough and it’s like Popeye grass, it’s like spinach.”

The Aussie, who finished tied for 74th back then, will not be making the return trip to the course he wishes he could drive over on a riding mower. Allenby’s official story is that it conflicts with his 40th birthday party and has nothing to do with bogey-filled nightmares about Shaughnessy’s long green stuff.

Banking on a Champ

While odds are decent that a player whose caddie is toting around a bag emblazoned with the logo of Canada’s biggest bank will top the leaderboard (the RBC gang is pretty star studded), the same can’t be said of a passport holder ending a drought a decade older than the Maple Leafs’ dry patch. The chances got a little slimmer when Saskatchewan’s Graham DeLaet, Canada’s top ranked PGA card holder last year, opted out of the tourney due to a nagging back injury. 

But there still will be a sizable Canuck contingent highlighted by "The Usual Suspects" in Mike Weir, Stephen Ames and David Hearn. Also sure to attract large galleries are Calgary’s Chris Baryla and Kingston’s Matt McQuillan aka "The Other Guys."

The top five players on the Canadian Tour money list also will be in the mix adding a a couple more native sons to the field, along with Chileans Hugo Leon and Benjamin Alvarado, and Mexico’s Jose de Jesus Rodriguez. Abbostford, B.C. ball blaster Adam Hadwin is currently sitting in ninth but has been extended a sponsor’s exemption as has fellow Abbotsfordian Nick Taylor, the 2010 Ben Hogan Award winner. My magic eight ball says the outlook is good for one of these young guns to shoot the lowest Canadian score at Shaughnessy. Last year when the tournament was held at Etobicoke’s St. George’s, Hadwin was the top Canuck, finishing with a share of 37th. Bright’s Grove, Ont. native Matt Hill, the 2009 Jack Nicklaus Award winner for collegiate player of the year (racked up eight wins that season at N.C. State), was also granted an exemption.

Too much hay is made of the now 57-year old dry spell for Canadians in the National Open. There’s a groundswell of promising talent coming through the pipe and it’ll happen in due course. Heck, the last Englishman to triumph at Wimbledon was Fred Perry back in 1936. That is a 75-year dark cloud on achieving centre court glory for the host country so we’ve got a couple of decades to go before fretting about it. 

While the British Open, where Darren Clarke made it another major victory for Northern ireland, is a big act to follow, title sponsor RBC has established a penchant for basking in major afterglow. Not only does the Canadian Open tee off the Thursday after The Open Championship, but RBC has also signed on as the title sponsor for the Heritage, traditionally slated the week after The Masters on the schedule — although it was bumped up a week this season. It’s Monopoly theory: if Boardwalk is already taken, tony neighbour Park Place is still very much a keeper.    

Most sports fans may only tune into golf four times a year but there is a carryover effect. While it’s been over a generation since the Canadian Open held major prestige, by supersizing the top 100 player quotient to its highest level in a decade, RBC has made sure the 107-year-old tournament is way more than just another stop on the tour.

My Yahoo/ picks for the Canadian Open are Luke Donald, Chad Campbell, Rickie Fowler and Stephen Ames. Sentimental fave Weirsy (yes, it's still cool to call him that) may get subbed in for Ames at the 11th hour. 

About Shaughnessy

Designed by Arthur Vernon Macan, the 7,010-yard par 70 is routinely lauded as one of the nation’s top golf spots. Its predecessor, Shaughnessy Heights Golf Course, was carved out along an enclave on Granville Street between 33rd and 37th avenues in 1911 on land leased by the Canadian Pacific Railway.  CPR reacquired the property in 1956 and Shaughnessy was reborn at its current location overlooking the Fraser River and the Straight of Georgia on University of British Columbia Endowment lands in 1960. Shaughnessy’s narrow tree-lined fairways and small greens reward precision hitters so grip-it-and-rip-it proponent John Daly, who was granted a sponsor’s exemption, may want to rethink his balls to the wind credo.

Past Winners

2010 Carl Pettersson
2009 Nathan Green
2008 Chez Reavie
2007 Jim Furyk
2006 Jim Furyk

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