(AP) — Buick ended more than 50 years of PGA Tour sponsorship Tuesday when it announced that it no longer will sponsor golf tournaments in Michigan and California because of the court-ordered restructuring of parent General Motors.
The decision came two days after Tiger Woods won the Buick Open in Grand Blanc, Mich. Woods acknowledged the end of the tournament, which he won for the third time, by heaving his golf ball toward a massive gallery after his final putt.
The additional blow came with the end of the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines, where Woods has won a record six times. The Buick Invitational is among the top tournaments in the early part of the PGA Tour schedule because it typically is the first event on network TV and has the highest TV rating because of Woods.
“While this is disappointing news, both the PGA Tour and Buick remain in discussions regarding future sponsorship possibilities,” Buick and the tour said in a statement.
The Buick Open will be replaced on the schedule next year by a new tournament at The Greenbrier in West Virginia, according to two officials with knowledge of the deal. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the tour does not plan to announce the new event until Wednesday. Golfweek was the first to report on The Greenbrier getting a tournament.
Buick was the oldest, continuous corporate sponsor on the PGA Tour and once had its name on four tournaments – the Buick Classic in New York, the Buick Challenge in Georgia, the Buick Open and the Buick Invitational. It also took over the Buick Championship in Connecticut for three years after its Georgia event folded.
It also had an endorsement contract with Woods, who carried its logo on his golf bag. As it headed for bankruptcy, Buick and Woods agreed last November to cut off the final year of a five-year endorsement.
The tour said it remains “very interested” in keeping a tournament in Michigan and was exploring opportunities.
One of the officials said General Motors was trying to put together a consortium of sponsors to keep a tour event in Michigan, but the tour signed off on The Greenbrier before that could be pulled together.
The PGA Tour now has lost four title sponsors this year – Buick’s two events, U.S. Bank in Milwaukee and Stanford Financial in Memphis, which was played in June without a sponsor.
It has extended contracts with Zurich (New Orleans), Accenture (Match Play) and Travelers (Connecticut) through 2014, and found a new title sponsor for Kapalua in SBS, which has signed up through 2020.
At least 10 other tournaments have title sponsorships that expire after 2010.
Buick had been the title sponsor at Torrey Pines since 1992. Woods missed the tournament this year – won by Nick Watney – while recovering from knee surgery.
The tournament is run by The Century Club of San Diego, and president Tom Wornham said he was optimistic about finding a new sponsor. He also said the 2010 tournament would he played regardless.
“We are 100 percent confident that we’ll have a new title sponsor in place for the January 2010 golf tournament,” Wornham said. “We’ve got five or six great (corporate) names we’re talking to, all of which you’d recognize. I’m not trying to be coy, nor arrogant nor cocky. We’ve been at this for awhile with the tour. We’ve already been going through the motions.”