The man in charge of the US Tour says some American tournaments could disappear altogether.
Others may follow Buick Open
ATLANTA // Only days after the European Tour confirmed a 25 per cent reduction in the prize money for the Race to Dubai and the Dubai World Championship (DWC), the man in charge of the US Tour says some American tournaments could disappear altogether. Even as the economy shows signs of recovering, the US PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said on Wednesday that reduced marketing budgets of major companies could lead to the loss of title sponsors and some tournaments.
The 2010 schedule is unlikely to be finalised until a US Tour board meeting in November, but it is expected to be very similar to this year's, apart from some changes of dates for west coast events in the first two months. However, the 2011 tour could be very different, with 10 title sponsor contracts that expire at the end of next year. "I suspect it's possible that we could lose a couple more events," said Finchem.
"I think it's likely that we will lose some title sponsors, and they'll need to be replaced. But thus far, we've been able to handle that." Despite the global financial crisis, the tour managed to get contract extensions with title sponsors for the two World Golf Championship events - Accenture and Bridgestone - as well as tournaments in New Orleans (Zurich) and Hartford (Travelers). But Finchem said it was unlikely the tour could make it to 2011 without losing some title sponsors.
"I think there are too many companies that have issues, although they all want to stay with us now," he said. "But I think that it's highly unlikely we would go through 2011 without some turnover. "Now, we don't have a problem with changing sponsors. We don't want to; we like the continuity. It's just that especially in a downturn, it's hard to sell through to already reduced marketing budgets." The only title sponsor that has said it would not renew after 2010 is FBR, which had the popular Phoenix Open.
The tour lost the Buick Open in Michigan, yet was able to replace it with a new tournament in West Virginia, the Greenbrier Classic. Buick's other tournament, at Torrey Pines, is run by the Century Club in San Diego and is confident it will have a replacement sponsor before it is played in the final week of January. "We will have a good, solid schedule for 2010. We know that," Finchem said. "I think it's also important to recognise that marketing budgets are still down, and with the underlying economic factors stable but not getting worse, that's good.
"But it's certainly going to take a while to improve. We can anticipate pressure on marketing budgets at many, many companies as we go into 2010 and maybe even 2011." The biggest success for the tour might have been landing SBS as a title sponsor for the season-opening tournament in Hawaii until 2020. On Monday, the European Tour announced the 25 per cent cut in the prize funds for the Race to Dubai and the DWC with both now offering US$S7.5m (Dh27.5m).