PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) — The PGA Tour picked up its first title sponsorship renewal of the year Friday when The Travelers agreed to a four-year contract extension that keeps golf in Connecticut through 2014.
The Travelers Championship, a tradition in the Hartford area since 1952, was among 20 tournaments on the PGA Tour that had title sponsor contracts expire in 2010.
This year is seen as pivotal in negotiating contract renewals.
“There's so much speculation, with people looking down our list of sponsors and seeing financial service companies, autos. They read about it every day, and they just assume we're having all these difficulties,'' PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. “To have a financial services company step up for the long term is a positive message with that kind of speculation going on.''
The tour has six tournaments under contract through at least 2014, and a dozen others through 2012.
“Terrific news,'' Kenny Perry said before heading out to Pebble Beach for his second round. “Maybe some other sponsors will hear about this and step up.''
The PGA Tour stop in Connecticut was in danger two years ago when it was relegated to the fall portion of the schedule upon the arrival of the FedEx Cup. But it got a reprieve when one tournament sponsor bailed out, allowing Travelers to take a spot in the summer schedule.
It will be played this year from June 25-28, one week after the U.S. Open. And with a title sponsor signed up through 2014, Finchem believes it can become one of the stronger events on the schedule.
“The Travelers Championship provides a tremendous opportunity to support the community and continue raising significant funds for local charities,'' said Jay Fishman, the chairman and CEO of Travelers. “It's been an important part of the sports history in Connecticut and we're committed as ever to help make it a first-rate event for players, sponsors and fans.''
The Travelers Championship also received the backing of Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who was chosen honorary chairman for this year's event.
“I hope residents will attend as fans, and I urge businesses to carefully consider how they can successfully utilize the event,'' Rell said. “With statewide support, this tournament will continue to grow and to have an even great impact on our community each year.''
Finchem said the framework of the tour's schedule probably will not change through 2012, when the six-year contract expires with network television. But he believes it will only help that Hartford has a long-term deal.
“Having a title sponsor that is involved, and focused on the details, really does create a situation where the tournament can continue to grow and position itself as a premier event, which I think is going to happen,'' he said. “This is pretty exciting stuff today.''
But there remains uncertainty beyond 2010.
Already this year, U.S. Bank said it would no longer sponsor the PGA Tour event in Milwaukee after July. The tour also has sued Ginn Resorts for pulling out one year early as title sponsor of a Fall Series event.
Among the title sponsors with contracts ending in 2010 are the World Golf Championships and two of the FedEx Cup playoff events. Others included two tournaments by Buick, one by Chrysler, and one by Mercedes-Benz, which appears to be shifting its involvement from a title sponsor to becoming the official car of three tournaments, including the Masters.
“In this economy, we have a couple of sponsors who fall out. We may have some movement in the schedule during the next couple of years,'' Finchem said. “I don't see specifically that happening yet, but as the downturn continues, that may be possible.''