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Furyk looking for Canadian three-peat

The people in charge of organizing the RBC Canadian Open believe that the tournament is heading into a period of prosperity.


The people in charge of organizing the RBC Canadian Open believe that the tournament is heading into a period of prosperity.

A little under seven months has passed since RBC took over sponsorship of golf's third-oldest national championship, but that's been more than enough time for them to bring a different feel to this year's event.

The RBC Canadian Open should have a more festive atmosphere when it's played at Glen Abbey in July, with a series of concerts planned after the first three tournament rounds and other events scheduled during the week.

Tournament staff have tried to look at everything when evaluating ways to better stage the event and were feeling good when discussing what they had come up with during a meeting last week.

"The momentum and the feeling in the room is palpably better (and more) positive," Jim Little, RBC's marketing chief, said Monday. "This thing feels like we're on the right trajectory."

One key shift in thinking surrounds the tournament's current date, which has it sandwiched between the British Open, a world golf championship event and the PGA Championship on the PGA Tour's schedule.

That position won't change for the next five years so Canadian Open organizers have elected to focus on other ways to improve the tournament.

"We're not waiting for a date chance to make our event great," said RCGA executive director Scott Simmons. "We think we can take a good event and turn it into a great event in the date we're in."

From a fan's perspective, that will include concerts from Blue Rodeo, 54-40 and Tom Cochrane on the grounds of Glen Abbey. From a player's perspective, that means a better dining setup, more activities for families and better facilities for caddies.

Events are also planned in nearby Toronto to try and further extend the tournament's reach in Canada's largest city. It's an operation model that organizers copied from other successful PGA Tour events.

"If you look at the best-in-class events throughout the calendar, the ones that are getting the most attention are the ones that are doing a full week concept," said Little. "We're trying to emulate and quickly get ours back up to speed."

It remains to be seen how it will affect the most important thing of all - the quality of the golf tournament.

The Canadian Open was played without a title sponsor the last two years and has been struggling to consistently attract big names for almost a decade. That won't totally change now that RBC has come on board, but organizers are hoping to start attracting more recognizable players starting this summer.

The early indications are good. Two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen and former Masters winner Fred Couples are among the players who have already committed to this year's tournament and neither has played a Canadian Open since 1995.

"Both those guys, when I first started talking to them (I did it) with very little intent of having them play," said tournament director Bill Paul. "They kind of came out of the woodwork and said that they'd do it.

"I'm pleasantly surprised."

Jim Furyk will also be back looking to become the first player ever to win three straight titles at the 104-year-old event. He'll be joined by Canadians Stephen Ames and Mike Weir and four other PGA Tour winners from this season: Sean O'Hair, Ryuji Imada, Boo Weekley and J.B. Holmes.

RBC is one of the biggest companies to currently sponsor a PGA Tour event and that should give the Canadian Open a big boost moving forward.

Tournament organizers flew to Florida earlier this month and met with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and some of his staff at The Players Championship. During that meeting, they outlined a five-year strategic plan for the tournament that was well received by the tour.

"They understand the value that this championship brings to their tour," said Simmons.

The enthusiasm in his voice was clear.

It's been an undeniably rough period for the Canadian Open but the current caretakers of the game clearly believe that better days lie ahead. Even though a new date will ultimately be needed for the tournament to again draw major-quality fields, there is still reason for optimism now.

"We think that if we take care of our event, the rest will take care of itself," said Simmons.

 
 
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