Tournament names: CN Canadian Women’s Open (2006-present), BMO Financial Group Canadian Open (2003-05), Bank of Montreal Canadian Women’s Open (2001-02), du Maurier Ltd Classic (1988-2000), du Maurier Classic (1984-87), Peter Jackson Classic (1979-1983), La Canadienne (1973-78)
Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Course: St. Charles Country Club – 6,572 yards, par 72
2010 purse: $2.25 million
Winner’s share: $337,500
2009 winner: Suzann Pettersen (15-under)
Inaugural (1973) winner: Jocelyne Bourassa
Multiple winners: 3 – Pat Bradley (1980, 1985, 1986), Meg Mallon (2000, 2002, 2004); 2 – JoAnne Carner (1975, 1978), Brandie Burton (1993, 1998)
Tournament low score: 18-under – Brandie Burton (1998), Meg Mallon (2004)
Make no mistake about it, the Canadian Open is one of the most prestigious, most lucrative stops on the LPGA Tour each year. In fact, from 1979-2000 it was an official major.
With a $2.25-million purse (down $500,000 from a year ago) the Canadian ranks fourth, tied with the LPGA Championship, on tour for highest purse. Only the U.S. Open ($3.25 million), the Evian Masters ($3.25 million) and the British Open ($2.5 million) surpass it.
Canada first became an annual stop on the LPGA Tour in 1966 with an event called the Ladies’ Supertest Open. That tournament lasted five years. Four years later in 1973, the Royal Canadian Golf Association established La Canadienne, the official national championship of Canada, and it was placed on the LPGA schedule and has been there ever since.
The event, which like the U.S. and British Opens alternates playing sites each year, has undergone numerous name/sponsorship changes. In 1979 the RCGA decided to look for a title sponsor for the event and found Imperial Tobacco, which first used its brand name Peter Jackson cigarettes in the title. In 1984, it changed it to du Maurier cigarettes and that lasted until 2001 when Golf Canada, governed by the RCGA, took over management of the event and the Bank of Montreal took over as title sponsor. Since 2006, the Canadian National Railway Company has been the title sponsor, thus the CN preceding the Canadian Open in the event’s official name.
By any name, it is one of the LPGA’s most historic tournaments and has provided a plethora of exciting moments, including five playoffs (though none since 1993) and 10 different champions now in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
This year at the Canadian
Though not an official major anymore, most players treat the Canadian as one. Not too surprising then that 48 of the top 50 on the LPGA money list are scheduled to tee off on Thursday. Only Lorena Ochoa (retired, of course) at No. 36 and fan favorite Natalie Gulbis (back injury) at No. 47 will be missing.
But, in truth, this season has been all about the top 5 in the world. It seems week-in, week-out one of these players wins. Often that has been Ai Miyazato, five-time champion this year and the new/old No. 1 in the world after her victory at last week’s Safeway Classic in Oregon.
Miyazato, also No. 1 on the money list ($1,311,818), regained the top spot on the world-rankings merry-go-round for the third time this season, wrestling it away from Cristie Kerr who was her biggest challenger on Sunday in Oregon until the 72nd hole when her approach to the green was gobbled up by Ghost Creek, resulting in a bogey and a tie for second. Nevertheless, Kerr is one of the hottest players on tour and is ranked fourth in money ($1,198,737) and second in the world.
Jiyai Shin, tied for sixth last week, has dropped to fourth in the world but is third on the money list ($1,258,048). Shin was leap-frogged by Suzann Pettersen, who moves up to third in the world and is fifth on the money list ($1,158,520). Pettersen is the reigning Canadian champ, winning it almost wire-to-wire a year ago at Priddis Greens in Alberta.
Yani Tseng, whose two victories this year were majors (Kraft Nabisco and the British), did not play well last week, tying for 45th, but is fifth in the world, not very far behind Shin or Pettersen, and is sixth in money ($1,127,064).
Those are the names we’ve heard about and talked about all season – with good reason. But maybe the favorite this week isn’t one of them at all.
Na Yeon Choi is on some kind of roll, and has been the best player on tour over the last two months. Since missing the cut for the first time as a tour member at the LPGA Championship at the end of June – a streak of 62 straight tournaments – the 22-year-old South Korean has been on fire. She won the Jamie Farr the week after the LPGA and has run off a remarkable stretch of results since – 2nd, 2nd, 3rd, 2nd. So, for the record, in the last five events, three of which (U.S. Open, Evian Masters, British Open) are among the most prestigious in world, she’s won, had three runners-up and took third.
The blistering run has her only a handful of bucks behind Miyazato on the money list at $1,297,082 and has her firmly ensconced at sixth in the world and not too far behind Tseng, Shin and Pettersen.
Maybe there’ll be a real surprise this week. It is the Canadian national championship, after all. But no Canadian has won since the inaugural event of 1973 when Canadian Hall-of-Famer and 1972 LPGA Rookie of the Year Jocelyne Bourassa did the trick.
There are 14 Canadians in the field. Among the notables is 45-year-old Lori Kane, a four-time winner on the LPGA Tour, though none since 2001. Also playing is LPGA Tour vet Alena Sharp. The 29-year-old Hamilton native has no wins and only three top-10s in five full years on tour, but is having her best season to date this year, including a tie for 10th at the Jamie Farr. She’s 55th on the money list with $113,340.
Other Canadians to watch include 28-year-old LPGA rookie Lisa Meldrum. The Montreal native has made two cuts in eight events, won on the Futures Tour last year and was the Canadian Tour Player of the Year back in 2006.
The more ballyhooed Canadian LPGA rookie this year is Samantha Richdale. The 24-year-old from Calgary has two victories (one each in 2008 and ’09) on the Futures Tour, finished fourth on the Futures money list a year ago, won on the Taiwan Tour earlier this year and has made three of 10 cuts on the LPGA Tour this season. Her best finish was a tie for 35th at the ShopRite Classic in June.