By Steve Keating
TORONTO (Reuters) - After being hit with a couple of LIV Golf bombshells, COVD-19 and even forest fires, it is doubtful that any PGA Tour event has endured more adversity than the Canadian Open.
The world's third-oldest national open championship the Canadian Open is taking a double hit this week, pushed out of the golf spotlight on Tuesday by the shock announcement that the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and Saudi-backed LIV Golf had agreed to form one unified commercial entity ending a bitter year-long feud.
If that was not enough, forest fires raging in Northern Ontario and Quebec have left a blanket of smoky air wafting over Oakdale Golf and Country Club prompting some golfers and fans to take some added measures.
After the 2020 and 2021 tournaments were cancelled due to COVID-19 the Canadian Open made a long-awaited return last year only to be overshadowed by the PGA Tour and LIV Golf feud.
With Rory McIlroy back to defend the title he won in 2019, the Canadian Open was the first PGA Tour event to go head-to-head with LIV Golf, who were playing their inaugural event at Centurion Club outside London.
If that wasn't enough of a distraction, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan took the opportunity to come to Canada and declare war on the rebel circuit, banning defectors.
The Canadian Open is also saddled with the added disadvantage of being sandwiched between last week's mandatory stop at the Memorial Tournament and next week's U.S. Open which is followed by yet another mandatory stop the Travelers Championship.
Top golfers rarely play five weeks consecutively and are required to be at mandatory events leaving the Canadian Open as the obvious one to sit out.
"I feel bad for (sponsor) RBC and the Canadian Open," said McIlroy, who will bid to join Sam Snead, Lee Trevino, Tommy Armour and Leo Diegel as a three-time Canadian champion. "To think about what went on this time last year and then the bombshell that was dropped.
"I feel bad because being such a great partner and having this stuff sort of dropped on you two years in a row is very unfair."
Despite the many challenges Golf Canada says tickets are nearly soldout with close to 120,000 spectators expected over the four rounds starting on Thursday.
A huge boost to the tournament's profile could be provided by a strong Canadian contingent who will try to deliver the first home grown champion since Pat Fletcher in 1954.
"I can't help but feel sad for the Canadian Open," said Canada's Adam Hadwin. "Once again, this news drops Tuesday of what is our National Open, a very important event for golf in Canada.
"Now once again we're overshadowed most likely for the entire week.
"My hope is that we end up with if not myself two or three other Canadians in contention or Rory (McIlroy), with Justin Rose or other top players that are here and we can put the emphasis back on the event."
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Toby Davis)