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Ford to sponsor Doral tournament

Ford Division signed a 4-year deal Tuesday to be title sponsor of the annual PGA tournament at the Doral Resort & Spa, a move organizers say will bolster marketing for the event after a series of sponsorship changes.

The tournament, played in March, will be known as the Ford Championship. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Doral is the start of the PGA Tour's Florida Swing and the unofficial first stop on the road to the Masters. Its $4.7 million purse is the richest among regular tour events, and its field last year boasted Tiger Woods and eight of the top 10 players in the world rankings.

Twenty-one of the top 30 money-winners played in the tournament at Doral in 2001, while 20 of the top 30 did in 2002, said PGA Tour spokesman Bob Combs.

The deal gives Doral something it hasn't had in recent years - sponsorship continuity.

"The continuity will start to mount up, after the first couple of years it will be significant," tournament director Tom Neville said. "It will help us market the event locally and help take us to the next level."

Doral and Genuity Inc. decided not to renew its sponsorship contract earlier this year after fulfilling a 2-year deal. Ryder System Inc., title sponsor since 1987, decided to stop sponsoring the tournament in 2000.

"We consider this to still be a marquee event on the tour. We wanted an event that we could form a long-term relationship with," said Karen Hampton, a Ford Division spokeswoman in Dearborn, Mich.

Ford Division is the sales and marketing arm for Ford products.

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