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Future of WGC events questioned

The World Golf Championships were positioned as the "Big Three" behind the majors when they began in 1999 as a series of tournaments with some of the largest purses for the best players around the world.

Where do they rank with the creation of the FedEx Cup?

That's one question Accenture has for PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem as it decides whether to extend its title sponsorship of the Match Play Championship.

The FedEx Cup starts next year, a points race that starts with the season opener, cuts off qualifying a week after the PGA Championship and concludes with the Tour Championship.

"At first glance, it's a concern," said Jim Murphy, global managing director of marketing for Accenture. "You're adding another element in the mix, and this is going to be a yearlong promotion. By definition, the FedEx Cup will be raised in visibility. In doing that, will it move the World Golf Championships down a notch, or interfere with the ambition to be the next layer behind the majors?"

Murphy said he has raised this issue with Finchem, and the tour's response is that the overall upgrade of the schedule will benefit everyone.

"That's still an unknown," Murphy said.

Accenture has the most unique WGC event because it is match play, and it is the first of the WGC events. It is expected to move from La Costa Resort in California to Tucson in 2007, although Murphy declined to discuss that except to say an announcement is expected next month.

Accenture also has an endorsement contract with Tiger Woods, and markets him effectively. And while Murphy said the company wants to stay involved in golf, he'd like more answers.

He was not thrilled that The Golf Channel will televise the first three rounds instead of ESPN, but has hopes that The Golf Channel will improve the quality of its coverage.

Above all, he felt Accenture was left in the dark as the tour revamped its schedule and negotiated a TV deal.

"One of the concerns I have overall is that the funders -- the sponsors -- have not been a participant in the discussion of the FedEx Cup," Murphy said. "I understand the complexity Tim and the tour has in putting something together. But I think the missing link in partnerships with golf is there's not an advisory council with the sponsors. Because without sponsors, there is no golf."

Accenture is not alone in wanting more information.

A common complaint among players at the Sony Open is that they were left in dark about the revamped schedule that starts in 2007 and the TV deal -- six years with NBC and CBS, 15 years with The Golf Channel, and no ESPN or ABC.

"It would be nice to know what's going on," Brent Geiberger said. "It seems like we find out just like everybody else. And it's our tour."

The tour has a 16-man Players Advisory Council and four players on the nine-member policy board.

"But when those players get in the room, they're already outnumbered 5-4," Paul Azinger said. "I wish the players had a little more say."

January 18, 2006

 




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