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For those uninitiated to the notion that golf is immune to economic cycles, Tim Finchem, PGA Tour Commissioner put that to rest when he spoke to play at the Accenture Match Play event outside Tucson, AZ. “We (the PGA Tour) are subject to the vagaries of the economic climate to some degree,” he acknowledged. “We take this very seriously. I've seen some reports recently that perhaps we have conveyed the impression that somehow we're immune. I think we've been pretty consistent, going way back, well back into the first part of 2008, when housing started down big-time late in '07 that we were taking this very seriously, and we do.
I think to date we've had, if I can get us sort of to stop right at this point and see, where are we today, we've obviously had and are having some bumps in the road.”
The body count is mounting for the Tour with respect to its sponsorship arrangements. “First of all, of course, the U.S. Bank determining not to extend after 2009. Not a particularly large sponsorship, but nevertheless a financial service company,” Finchem stated, perhaps as a backhanded way of expressing his appreciation for the company’s prior involvement. “The Ginn Championship going off our schedule as we came into the year because Ginn being unable to fulfill their commitments, which resulted in a lawsuit; and then today I will tell you that FBR is not going to continue beyond 2010. Lastly, not so much related to the economy, but questions raised about the viability of Stanford as a company, given SEC action and resultant questions arising out of that,” he continued. Finchem deflected any questions on the Stanford situation due to its ongoing investigation by the Feds.
“Now, to put these bumps in perspective, however, in no particular order, as we've already indicated publicly, we will be playing, because of the strong support we have in the community of Memphis for St. Jude's and the relationship with St. Jude's, the Stanford St. Jude's Open will be played this year without question and in my judgment going forward, regardless of -- I'm not going to comment on the difficulties of Stanford, but regardless of the outcome of that situation, we're going to play,” the Commish firmly stated.
“Obviously in Phoenix, arguably our strongest community-based tournament on Tour and a tournament that raises significant sums for charity every year and a tournament that actually progressed for over 60 years without title sponsorship, I don't have any hesitation in saying that that's not going to have an impact on our calendar. We, of course, have some time until '11 and we'll be working with the Thunderbirds to bring in new sponsorship because that helps generate additional support for the community.When I look at these bumps, I don't see any huge disruptions at this point.”
Tim Louis, Big Chief of The Thunderbirds, hosts of the FBR Open remarked, “While we are extremely disappointed we need to find a new sponsor, we are pleased that we were able to work out a plan that gives us a reasonable timeframe to replace FBR with as little impact or disruption as possible.