PGA Tour in need of four title sponsors
Commissioner Tim Finchem believes the PGA Tour has made good progress in difficult economic circumstances but predicts the U.S. circuit could be without up to four title sponsors for the 2011 season.
Although he has said there was always a small risk tournaments could be cut from the schedule if they did not secure financial backing, he was optimistic solutions would be found.
“We continue to navigate the choppy waters of the downturn, we’ve made a lot of progress,” Finchem told reporters on Tuesday in the build-up to the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club.
“In this last 18 months, we’ve announced 20 either new sponsors or extensions of sponsorships that are major in nature, an increasing number of tournaments being taken out (extended) to 2015 and 2016, so we’re delighted about the progress that we’ve made.”
Asked how many tournaments would be without title sponsors for next year, Finchem replied: “Three or four would be my guess, although all tournaments are funded so we’re pleased with that.
“We have some more announcements to make and we have a number of discussions, so that number (of events without title sponsorship) could change.”
This year’s PGA Tour features 47 events, including a tournament in China in early November.
Among those yet to secure a major sponsor for next season are the World Golf Championships event in Miami and the tournament at Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, held the week after the U.S. Masters.
“We’re not moving to a different business model, but we have a couple of situations where there’s sufficient funding in the marketplace to carry us into title positions,” Finchem said.
“We have a long way to go, but the strategies we’ve employed seem to have been working. The players have done their part, and we continue to be able to maintain somewhat of a growth curve in this down economy.”
Finchem expressed delight in a 2010 PGA Tour season which has yielded a number of victories by emerging young talents as well as several by the established names.
“We’ve had a combination of solid performances from our veterans—Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Ernie Els and others—complemented by a bunch of new faces on the PGA Tour,” he said.
“I can’t remember a year when we’ve had more buzz, more interest and more questions from fans about the younger players.
“Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Hunter Mahan winning this year … are just examples of that kind of effusion of new, talented, exciting young players who are captivating our fan base.”
Americans Johnson and Mahan and Britain’s Justin Rose have each triumphed twice this season. Northern Irishman McIlroy, aged just 21, shot a course record 10-under-par 62 to win the Quail Hollow Championship by four strokes in early May.
“Overall, when you look back over it, the competition has been terrific this year,” Finchem said.