Buick switches events ... and brings Tiger with it
LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England (AP) -- Buick is shifting its title sponsorship from Callaway Gardens in Georgia to the Tampa Bay area -- with Tiger Woods likely along for the ride.
That would make the Tampa Bay tournament the biggest winner in the new PGA Tour television contract that takes effect in 2003.
It goes from having no title sponsor to the biggest sponsor on tour. Instead of being played opposite a World Golf Championship or the Presidents Cup, it will be positioned alone the week before the Tour Championship.
And best of all, it almost certainly will get Woods.
Those close to Woods say he is likely to play the Buick Championship at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor, Fla. -- not just because of his five-year endorsement deal with Buick, but because it's only an hour from his home in Orlando.
Callaway Gardens is the only Buick tournament Woods has not played. He was supposed to go there in 1996 while trying to earn his PGA Tour card, and caused a furor by withdrawing the week before in Las Vegas.
It never bothered Buick that Woods did not play there, anyway. The tournament, a favorite among players because of its relaxed atmosphere and beautiful setting, had small crowds, little network coverage and a minuscule market.
"We don't connect here," Buick Golf brand manager Tony Derhake once said.
Tampa Bay is more attractive because of Buick's strong dealerships in the area, and because it has a better chance of Woods playing.
So what happens to Callaway Gardens?
It is looking for a new title sponsor after the Buick contract expires next year, and tournament director Dick Ellis said he hopes to find one in the next three months.
But it will suffer on the schedule. A high-placed PGA Tour source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the tournament probably will be played opposite the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup under the next television contract.
The next issue is the Texas Open and its sponsorship problems.
The tour source said it could be replaced as soon as 2003 by a tournament that would end on Labor Day and get prime-time coverage. That means it would have to be played on the West Coast, and Oregon has been mentioned as a possibility.
Playing through in Beijing?
A decision is not expected until 2003, but golf might have moved closer to becoming part of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
David Fay of the U.S. Golf Association and Peter Dawson of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club are heading up the effort. Fay was in Moscow for the IOC meetings and "came away with quite a warm feeling about it," Dawson said.
Tiger Woods has said he is not interested in the Olympics because golf already has four major championships. Others, like Greg Norman and Hal Sutton, have supported it.
"I think the Olympic movement will want to see the best players in the game competing," Dawson said. "That means top professionals. I think the bid has been put in on that basis."
What type of participation would Dawson expect?
"I think it would be very similar to tennis," he said. "Some of the top players like to go to the Olympics and others don't. That would probably be true in golf."
Stat of the Week
Now that David Duval has won the British Open, every player who has been No. 1 in the world rankings since its inception in 1986 has won a major.
"All you have to do is birdie the par 5s and shoot two birdies to get 66. It's not that hard when you think about it." - Ty Tryon, 17, who closed with rounds of 72-70 at the B.C. Open.