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Turnout for Canadian Women’s Open puts men firmly in shade

Here's a thought: Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore, Augusta National Golf Club's first female members, aren't the most important women in golf this week. That status belongs to the golfers entered in the CN Canadian Women's Open that starts Thursday at the Vancouver Golf Club in Coquitlam, B.C.

The field is impressive. Forty-eight of the top 50 LPGA Tour money winners this year are entered. Nine of the top 10 players in the Rolex world ranking are scheduled to tee it up. Eighteen of the top 20 are entered, and 21 of the top 25. The men's RBC Canadian Open in Ancaster, Ont., last month included just five of the top 25 in the world ranking.

The comparison isn't without flaws, given that the RBC Canadian Open followed the Open Championship in England. The date is obviously a problem. The tournament in Vancouver follows the LPGA event last week in North Plains, Ore., and a 5-iron away by comparison.

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There's also the fact that the LPGA Tour schedule this year includes just 28 tournaments, while the PGA Tour has 45 events. The 45 include 37 regular-season tournaments, the four-event FedEx Cup playoffs that start this week in Farmingdale, N.Y., and the four-tournament Fall Series. LPGA players don't have enough tournaments to provide the luxury of much time off.

There's also no real equivalent of a women's tour that would compete against the LPGA Tour as the European Tour does against the PGA Tour. The Ladies European Tour is more akin to the (formerly Nationwide) Tour.

Tournaments on the LPGA Tour, being the only game of the week, so to speak, therefore have an excellent chance of drawing a first-rate field. That's especially true of the Canadian Women's Open, which has become one of the stellar LPGA events. It's been that way for years. It was even a major from 1979 through 2000, when it was the du Maurier Classic.

The field is strong enough year after year for it to be a major again. The players feel it's right up there with the acknowledged majors, even the fifth major.

Well, make that one rung lower when the tournament is in Edmonton next year. The LPGA Tour announced in July of 2011 that the Evian Masters will change its name to The Evian and become the real fifth major next year. The tournament will be played in September of 2013.

Never mind, though. The Canadian Women's Open will continue to draw an elite field whether or not the LPGA considers it again for major status. (And how many majors can the LPGA Tour have and be taken seriously?) As for this week, golf-watchers can have a field day with the terrific field.

There's defending champion Brittany Lincicome. The powerful golfer placed second last week, so she's in form. There's world No. 1 Yani Tseng, whose game has slipped since she won three of the first five tournaments this year. But she showed better form last week when she tied for 11th place, notwithstanding the 73 she shot in the last round.

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Then there's Stacy Lewis, a four-time All-American who has won twice on the LPGA Tour this year. She made a remarkable recovery from back surgery to become one of the game's best players as a college golfer and now as a professional. Lewis is ranked second in the world. Lydia Ko, the 15-year-old New Zealander who recently won the U.S. Women's Amateur and is the world's top-rated female amateur, is playing. Brooke Henderson, the 14-year-old from Smith Falls, Ont. who this month won the Canadian Junior Girls Championship in Calgary as well as a professional event in Quebec earlier, is playing.

It's impossible to do justice to the quality of the field without writing another 1,500 words. Suffice it to say that for authentic action in the world of women's golf this week, look no further than the Vancouver Golf Club. The important female golfers this week are there, showing what they can do with a golf ball. It's the art of the deal, their deal, and it's a tricky and difficult week after week after week.

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