Canadians claim the ‘5th major’ in tennis and golf

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In addition to the four major championships in their respective sports, the golfers’ championship and the Indian Wells tennis event are about as big. Both offer huge prize money, are highly prestigious and popular with athletes and fans alike.

Here’s a look at this year’s “fifth majors,” including Canadians vying for one of their sport’s top titles:


Officially the BNP Paribas Open, this jewel of the pro tennis circuit is better known by the name of the picturesque Southern California town where it takes place. Like a major, the men’s and women’s tournaments are played simultaneously at the same venue, with equal prize money. Both singles champions will collect US$1.262 million — a salary that can only be surpassed in four Grand Slams and the season-ending Tour Finals.

Another feature that Indian Wells shares with the majors is that the singles tournaments are seven rounds. However, all 32 players get a bye in the first round. So while the singles main draws technically started yesterday, they really start on Friday when the top players enter the round of 64.

Four of the five Canadian singles players at Indian Wells received first-round byes. The highest-seeded Canadian is men’s No. 8 Felix Auger-Aliassime. The 22-year-old won his first four ATP Tour titles last year, including three in a row late in the season, but that’s how he starts 2023. Auger-Aliassime fell in the fourth round of the Australian Open in January and has not reached a final this year, going 8 -5 in total.

Joining Felix in the men’s draw is 25th seed Denis Shapovalov. Neither has ever made it past the Indian Wells quarterfinals.

The top Canadians in the women’s event are No. 30 Leylah Fernandez and No. 32 Bianca Andreescu. The latter’s breakthrough came at Indian Wells in 2019, when, as a scrappy player, she lost four top-20s to capture her first WTA Tour title. Andreescu won the Rogers Cup in Toronto and the US Open, becoming the first Canadian to win a Slam singles. But she hasn’t been the same since and is just 5-5 in 2023.

Fernandez, 20, has reached the fourth round at Indian Wells the past two years, but hasn’t really been able to build on her stunning run to the US Open final in 2021. Rebecca Marino, ranked 75th, may join Fernandez and Andreescu in the round of 64 winning her first round match this afternoon. Canadian doubles specialist Gabriela Dabrowski is also competing in Indian Wells with Brazilian teammate Luisa Stefani.

The women’s singles event has a clear favorite in Poland’s Iga Swiatek, the defending champion and world No.1. Men are darker. Top seed Novak Djokovic is out due to his vaccination status and Rafael Nadal is out with a hip injury. Spanish phenom Carlos Alcaraz is the No. 1 seed, while defending champion Taylor Fritz of the United States is the No. 4 seed.

Players Championship

This event in a bustling enclave of north Florida now competes with the four majors in men’s golf. The US$25 million prize is significantly larger than any of the majors, and the winner will earn a record $4.5 million. The venue is also top-notch – TPC Sawgrass, with its famous island green on the par-3 17th.

But the majors still trump the players in terms of prestige and, now, quality of competition. Anyone who jumped ship at LIV Golf in the past year has been banned from the PGA Tour. That means the big names missing from the Tour’s flagship this week include two-time major winner Dustin Johnson and, very inconveniently, defending champion Cameron Smith. The Aussie now lives just down the road from Sawgrass, where his old pitching wedge is on display, in keeping with the Players champion’s tradition of leaving a club that helped him win. Smith, Johnson and the other LIV defectors are still welcome to play in the majors, which are controlled by separate entities.

Also conspicuously absent is Tiger Woods, who last month played his first official Tour event since July but opted to skip the Players to rest his frazzled body. Tiger was in the news again yesterday when his ex-girlfriend asked a judge to release her from an NDA she claims Woods forced her to sign.

The pre-tournament favorites to win the Players were Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler and 2019 champion Rory McIlroy, the top three players in the world rankings. The top Canadian entering was 38th-ranked Corey Conners, who is ranked seventh in 2021. But he opened with a 3-over round today, while Taylor Pendrith, the lowest-ranked Canadian at No. 114, shot 5-under. to be in third place at the time of our publication. Canadians Adam Svensson (4-under) and Adam Hadwin (1-under) are also in the hunt. See an updated leaderboard here.

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