Tuesday, November 17, 2009

When Buick ended its sponsorship of PGA Tour events last summer, the
organizers of the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines were optimistic
about finding another sponsor. After all, the Buick Invitational is one
of the Tour's marquee regular season events. Tiger Woods wrote the most
stirring chapter of his legend at the photogenic course at the 2008
U.S. Open and always plays the regular season event, and the TV ratings
are excellent. Maybe more marginal Tour events would have trouble
attracting new sponsors, but not Torrey Pines. You'd think they'd be
lining up, right?Not exactly, says Tod Leonard of The San Diego
. Leonard checks in with the Century Club, the group that
runs the Torrey Pines tournament, and finds that even the high-profile
Tour events aren't enough to attract sponsorship dollars in this poor
economy. Yet here the Century Club stands, a suitor spurned by numerous
possible brides over the past three months. Not because the former
Buick Invitational isn't handsome or worthy, but because Dad doesn't
have enough money to pay for the wedding.
This is a dilemma far more dire than the concerns of
the Century Club, and if the PGA Tour was slow in realizing that — and
it's very clear now that it has been — the suits in the headquarters in
Ponte Vedra, Fla., — and the players — are starting to come around.
“I've seen it in the last 90 days. The PGA Tour is
completely aware the world has changed,” said Tom Wornham, the chairman
of the Century Club, who along with tournament director Tom Wilson has
been entrusted with finding a new sponsor.
Century Club has pledged to host the 2010 tournament in January with or
without a sponsor, but the implications for other Tour events are
ominous. Leonard crunches the numbers and can only think of one way to
bring in more sponsors: lower purses. Now look at it from the PGA Tour's perspective. Over the next two
years, the tour has around a dozen events that need to re-up with
sponsors. If one of its premier events in San Diego is having so much
trouble, what does that mean for everyone else?
It means the model will have to change. In a setup
unique to major American sports, the golfers are their own bosses, and
they're going to have to decide to take a pay cut, because the only way
deals are going to get done is if the sponsors are paying less.
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