PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (AP) – American Honda Motor Co. announced Wednesday that it has signed a four-year extension as the title sponsor of the Honda Classic, keeping it the longest active sponsorship on the PGA Tour.
Honda first became the title sponsor in 1981 when it was played at Inverrary. It has since moved to five other golf courses in south Florida, with PGA National starting in 2007.
The second-longest title sponsor still going is the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, dating to 1986. Shell has been title sponsor of the Houston Open since 1992.
The extension adds to a remarkable job the PGA Tour has done with title sponsorship in recent years, especially in the wake of a severe economic downturn. Dating to the advent of the FedEx Cup in 2007, there have been 23 new title sponsors (including new tournaments in Puerto Rico and Mexico).
The only tournament in immediate jeopardy is in two weeks at Innisbrook, where Transitions has said it would renew its sponsorship.
PRESIDENTS CUP: Fred Couples appears to be in line as Presidents Cup captain for the third straight time. Greg Norman said he has not been asked to return for the third time, though he would lean toward a return.
“Probably the most powerful moment for me as a player, who didn't play an event, was what the response was from the players on the Sunday night of The Presidents Cup in Australia, what Ernie Els said – what everybody else echoed – that they would like to have me back,'' Norman said Wednesday.
“That meant a lot to me,'' he said. “But you walk away from there saying, `Well, there's other people in line.' But time is on their side, because there's always going to be another Presidents Cup and stuff like that.''
Would he do it if asked?
“The inevitable answer to that question would probably be leaning more to the positive than the negative side,'' Norman said. “So if I get asked again, it would be an honor. But if I don't get asked again, I won't get jolted.''
HOW SOON THEY FORGET: Rory McIlroy had lunch with six-time Masters champion Jack Nicklaus at the Bear's Club, a chance to ask golf's greatest major champion how to play Augusta National.
The kid almost got it right. He had a four-shot lead going into the final round before closing with a train wreck of an 80. Even so, McIlroy won the U.S. Open two months later, and he will be among the favorites next month at Augusta.
As for that meeting?
It apparently was more memorable for McIlroy than Nicklaus.
“I actually bumped into him at lunch yesterday at the Bear's club. He didn't recognize me,'' McIlroy said. “He didn't have his glasses on, so he couldn't see who I was.''
For emphasis, McIlroy squinted.
“He was like, `Who is that? Who is that?' `It's me.' `Who?' `Me!' `Who?' `Rory,''' McIlroy said. “I was wearing a bright yellow shirt, as well. I bumped into him at lunch and it was pretty funny.''
TIGER'S PURSUIT: Tiger Woods says matching the 18 majors won my Jack Nicklaus remain his primary goal, and he's not bothered that he's been stuck on 14 since the 2008 U.S. Open.
The pursuit will take a career, and Woods said he realized that when he started with that 1997 Masters win.
“It's taken me 16 years to get to this point,'' he said. “So it's going to take a while. It didn't take Jack overnight to get to 18. The whole idea is getting consistent and putting myself up there enough times. Nobody in the history of the game has been better at putting themselves in contention to win a major than Jack. You finish with 37 top-2s, you're going pretty good.''
Along with winning 18 majors, Nicklaus was runner-up a record 19 times. Woods has been a runner-up six times.
“You're not going to win all of them,'' Woods said. “But you can always be there, and you never know when someone might give you one or two.''
SHARK IN THE WATER: Long before Tiger Woods emphasized fitness, Greg Norman set the pace for golfers going to the gym. But it started with a bottle of water.
Norman said it was around 1991 when he noticed he had bad headaches when he walked off the golf course. He finally concluded that he was drinking soda on the golf course, which was more prevalent than water.
“I quit drinking sodas August of 1991 at the PGA Championship. I have not had a soda since – I just drink water,'' the Shark said. “My body started to get rewarded for putting the right products in myself. Then, I started working out. I really liked the idea of being fit and strong and being very, very flexible.''
Norman said his workouts were designed for golf. He hired a trainer, and they first worked on the smaller muscles.
“By strengthening up those, that gave me the ability for endurance,'' he said. “Because I played a lot of golf, because I play golf in Australia, I traveled a lot and was always on a plane, so it gave me the ability to get my strength and flexibility married up. Nowadays, I think it's great to see the young kids doing what they are doing, because I think they will find that their longevity in life on the golf course will be much longer.''