It's been a quick and tragic descent toward mediocrity (or worse) for the Canadian Open. The tournament that was once considered the 5th major has become a mere footnote on the PGA Tour.
Whether you blame Tiger (for removing us from his schedule) or the Tour itself (for sticking us with a horrific date directly following the British Open), it's clear our National Championship has lost much of its considerable luster.
With a list of past champions that includes many of the game's biggest names (Walter Hagen, Tommy Armour, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Greg Norman and Tiger Woods) and as owners of a 104 year-old tournament (3rd longest in golf), how did we (read: the RCGA) let this happen? Ok, that was a lot of brackets, but I needed them.
Instead of the best golfers on the planet competing to be our champion, we now attract a couple of great players, a lot of good ones, and more than a few who should be selling us equipment at Golf Town. When only 6 of the top 50 ranked players in the world show up, it's tough to take an event seriously, especially if it's a national championship. Which is why something, anything, needs to change.
And the Nationwide Tour has already provided the blueprint: attach Wayne Gretzky to the tournament. Make it the RBC Canadian Open hosted by Wayne Gretzky. Invite Canadian celebrities (athletes, actors, entertainers, etc.) to play in a two day pro-am that wraps up Friday and leaves the weekend to the pros.
That preserves the integrity of our national championship and hopefully calms the traditionalists, but also gives the event a much needed facelift. It could be a celebration of Canadian talent and achievement (as long as Pamela Anderson isn't involved), two days to honour our own and raise the tournament's profile.
Some might argue that with two celebrity pro-am tournaments already on Tour, there isn't any need for a third. However, both the Bob Hope and Pebble Beach are amongst the first events of the season, so staging another more than five months later shouldn't be an issue.
Imagine the media attention people like Sydney Crosby, Steve Nash, Ryan Gosling, Jack Bauer and a host of others would command? Couldn't it be sold to the players as a nice change of pace after a major championship week? Or as a chance to meet some of our country's most recognizable faces? Surely it would provide more entertainment value and publicity than four days of grinding golf by players most people have never heard of.
The last time the Canadian Open generated any real buzz was four long years ago when Mike Weir snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and handed Vijay Singh the trophy. Since then the event has been met with less and less enthusiasm, and yet organizers continue to do nothing to change the trend.
If the top players aren't going to show up regardless of what we do, we're pretty much reduced to one single storyline: can a Canadian win or contend? It's like Groundhog Day.
In that case, I say we go all the way and make Bill Murray a part of it.