Thursday, July 21, 2011

Top-ranked Donald fond of Canadian Open

The last time the world's top-ranked golfer showed up at the Canadian Open, he left with the trophy in tow.

No pressure, Luke Donald.

"(The top ranking) always brings a little more expectation, a little bit more media, a little bit more time commitment, but I'm excited for the challenge," Donald said after Wednesday's pro-am event at Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club.

"Since being No. 1, I've been able to hold on to it for a number of weeks now. I'm trying to draw on all the good things that got me to No. 1. I draw from all of those positives and bring that to each week."

This week's showdown at Shaughnessy marks Donald's fifth appearance at what's now known as the RBC Canadian Open, but it's his first since he reached the summit of the world golf rankings earlier this year.

Vijay Singh had just finished his ascent to the top of the point-based standings when he arrived at Glen Abbey in 2004, continuing his roll in what turned out to be a dream season and spoiling what would have been a national celebration when he clipped Canada's beloved lefty, Mike Weir, in a playoff.

Ironically, Donald is paired with Weir and world-No. 8 Matt Kuchar for Thursday's opening round at Shaughnessy.

That threesome would create a stir at any PGA Tour stop, but they're certainly not the only big names in the field for the latest instalment of 'our' national open championship.

Golf fans can thank RBC for that.

Not only is the financial institution entitled to splash its logo across Shaughnessy as the title sponsor of this week's Canadian Open, it also provides backing for a handful of golf's big names, including Donald, Kuchar, Ernie Els, Jim Furyk and Anthony Kim, plus Weir, Stephen Ames and a slew of up-and-coming Canucks.

Appearance fees are outlawed on the PGA Tour, but you bet can the guys with the RBC logo on their hats and bags were "¦ um "¦ encouraged to attend this event, and it's no surprise they're all at Shaughnessy this week. Kinda like Tiger Woods always showed up at the Buick Invitational during his partnership with the automotive company.

This week's event has also attracted darn good golfers that don't belong to Team RBC, with Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, Puma posterboy Rickie Fowler and 'Long' John Daly among the headliners.

Names like Paul Casey, Justin Leonard, Hunter Mahan, Louis Oosthuizen, Geoff Ogilvy, Camilo Villegas and defending champion Carl Pettersson should also ring a bell for most golf fans.

All told, seven of the current top 25 players in the world will tee it up at the latest instalment of 'our' open championship. That might seem like a watered-down field for an event that counts Arnold Palmer, Greg Norman and Woods among its past champions and Jack Nicklaus as a seven-time runner-up, but the truth is it's not a bad turnout for the week after a major that's contested on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

After missing the cut at the British Open, Donald jetted to Chicago for the weekend and then continued on to Vancouver.

With US$5.6-million in earnings around the world so far this season, he could have afforded a vacation.

And with most of his contenders taking a week off, he likely doesn't have to worry about losing his top billing this week, either.

But the 33-year-old has always had a soft spot for the Canadian Open, where he survived his first cut as a professional at Royal Montreal in 2001. The archived world rankings for the following week don't even show his name, meaning he wasn't yet among the top 200.

"The focus really isn't on the world rankings," Donald added. "It's nice to be world-ranked No. 1, but the focus for me is always the same -- that is to continually try to improve every aspect of my game a little bit each day and continue to get better and continue to put myself in position to win tournaments."


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