MARANA, Ariz. (AP) – The PGA Tour is keeping the FedEx Cup for at least five more years with a significant sponsorship renewal.
Commissioner Tim Finchem announced Wednesday that FedEx has extended its umbrella sponsorship through 2017. That's the final piece of sponsorship renewal that the tour navigated through a troubling economic climate.
Finchem already has kept the PGA Tour fully sponsored – only Tampa, Fla., is missing a title sponsor – along with extending the television agreement through 2021. Now it can keep its FedEx Cup, which culminates with four big events and a $10 million bonus for the winner.
Finchem didn't get into financial details, though he says there will be “some growth'' during the next five years. The FedEx Cup offers a total bonus pool of $35 million.
“FedEx has evaluated this very hard over the last five years, watched it closely,'' Finchem said. “We've seen it grow. It's become a big part of what the PGA Tour is all about. It has had the effect of pulling our season together.''
TRAFFIC MESS: The Match Play Championship had larger crowds than tournament officials expected. That's typically good news, except when a tournament doesn't have enough shuttles to get them from the parking lot to the golf course.
The traffic was so bad that Ernie Els, who is staying in a home about five miles away, left the golf course immediately after beating Luke Donald so that the Big Easy wouldn't have to deal with it again.
“The traffic was crazy this morning coming into the site,'' Els said. “I just wanted to get out of there.''
Gerald Goodman, the executive director at Match Play, issued an apology and promised to make good.
Goodman said he would increase the number of shuttle buses and add volunteers to help speed up the process of getting from the bottom of Dove Mountain to the golf course.
Any fan who bought parking in advance will have access to the preferred lots closer to the course. Also, the tournament said anyone with a Wednesday ticket can use that for general admission on Sunday for the semifinals and championship match.
OPENING AT TOP: Ernie Els beat top-ranked Luke Donald 5 and 4, giving No. 2 Rory McIlroy and No. 3 Lee Westwood an opening to take the No. 1 spot with a tournament victory.
McIlroy edged George Coetzee 2 up.
“To be honest, I came in here yesterday and talked about if I play well and just win matches that will take care of itself,'' McIlroy said. “But, obviously, it's another incentive waking up each morning and knowing that if you win your match at the end of that day, at the end of the week you could be world No. 1.
“I haven't really thought about it. I saw the result on one of the scoreboards on 17, I think. We'll see what happens. I have to get through a lot of matches.''
He'll face Anders Hansen in the second round.
“It's always nice to get past the first one,'' McIlroy said. “I struggled to finish it off. I actually felt like before that I played some great golf. I made a couple of bad swings. … But obviously I was relieved. It's just nice to get through tomorrow.''
Westwood beat Nicolas Colsaerts 3 and 1. The Englishman will play Peter Hanson.
“Another tough match,'' Westwood said. “Let's face it, there are no easy ones there. You have just got to keep playing well and hope your opponent doesn't play better.''
ADVANCING NATIONS: Americans and Europeans, as usual, are represented in big numbers at the Match Play Championship.
Europe had 25 players in the 64-man field, and 12 of them advanced to the second round on Wednesday. The United States had 23 players, and 12 of them survived.
Asia and South Africa each had three players remaining, while Australia has two – Jason Day and John Senden – and soon will be down to one because those two play each other in the second round.
Americans play each other in three matches Thursday, while there also are three all-European matches.
BIRDIE BINGE: David Toms had eight birdies in his 1-up victory over Rickie Fowler.
“I came out today and started feeling good with the putter,'' said Toms, coming off a family ski vacation. “That was really the key to my round. I kept it in play all day, but at the same time I had a lot longer putts than Rickie, because he had a lot shorter shots in. The putter is definitely the key.''
Toms also had three bogeys.
He will face fourth-seeded Martin Kaymer in the second round.
“I saw him in front of us today hitting a lot of bombs out there,'' Toms said. “So, I have to play just like I did today.''
DESERT HOME?: The tournament is in its sixth year in the Tucson area and fourth straight at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Ritz-Carlton layout at Dove Mountain.
“Our plan is, at least at this moment, at least through `14, is to be here,'' PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said. “That's kind of our agreement setup. We keep our options open like we do with every tournament. We evaluate things every year. Probably 60 percent of the tour, we're always looking at different places. Not necessarily different markets, but certainly other golf facilities as they come on line. We always keep our flexibility.
“We've had great support here. The players have reacted well to the golf course and the weather is pretty good. So right now, we're going down that road.''
DIVOTS: While it's hard to classify anything as an upset in this event, 15 players who had the worse seeding advanced to the second round. That's the most since 17 such players in 1999, the inaugural year of this tournament when it was played at La Costa. … The 32 first-round losers each received $45,000.