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Overhaul lined up for Booz Allen Classic
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Sponsors unhappy with course overhaul

The PGA Tour has yet to lift a shovel to renovate the regular home of the Booz Allen Classic, disappointing the title sponsor for a tournament that often has trouble drawing a marquee field.

"If we can't make this a top-notch, a first-class event, then I've got serious questions about my desire to have the company's name tied to the event," said Booz Allen Hamilton Chairman Ralph Shrader.

This year is no problem. The Booz Allen is being held -- for one year only -- at the prestigious Congressional Country Club on June 9-12, the week before the U.S. Open. Eight of the world's top 10 golfers -- including Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson -- are expected to compete.

But the only reason the tournament was moved to Congressional was to give the PGA Tour time to overhaul its much-maligned TPC at Avenel course in nearby Potomac.

Yet no work has been done, and now there's not enough time to complete a renovation before next year. So, in 2006, the tournament will be in the same shape as 2004: on the same layout, playing in the undesirable week following the U.S. Open, and probably once again with a less-than-stellar field.

"When we entered into an agreement to be the title sponsor, we anticipated that certain things would happen, according to a certain schedule," Shrader said. "As time has gone by, that schedule has slipped, and that's disappointed us. It is not what we anticipated."

Shrader said he wants "very solid agreements" about the future of the tournament before renewing his company's three-year sponsorship deal, which expires next year.

"The issues that are of concern to us are the venue and the dates," Shrader said. "That's what makes the golf tournament. We need both."

The tournament lost its longtime sponsor, Kemper Insurance, three years ago. The event was known as the FBR Capital Open for a year before Booz Allen stepped forward, with Shrader promising to "leave no stone unturned to make this event a really strong event on the PGA Tour."

The first step was to fix Avenel. Greg Norman and Nick Price have suggested setting dynamite to certain holes over the years, while other golfers have just stayed away because of the course's reputation.

"Avenel, long-term, does not meet my expectations for the kind of quality venue necessary to attract a field," Shrader said.

While the uncertainly lingers over the future, at least the tournament gets to bask in the spotlight this year. In 2005, the Booz Allen is a must-play event for many pros.

"This is a slam dunk this year. All the stars have lined up," Maryland native and Players Championship winner Fred Funk said. "It's an unbelievable venue at Congressional, the date -- the week before the U.S. Open -- for most players it's a really good date. ... There are very few courses we play on the tour that have the aura and history that Congressional brings."

Funk later joked: "For selfish reasons, I really wish we were having a weak field, so I would have a better chance."

Next year, he'll probably get his wish.

 

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