Booz Allen Stories

Obviously I'm still catching up, but there are a few things worth noting in the SI and Golf World game stories covering the Booz Allen's demise. Though neither story questions what would actually require $25 million to redo Avenel (copper irrigation piping?), the handling of Booz's Ralph Shrader was laid out in detail by Gary Van Sickle.

While being wooed by the Tour, Shrader was shown what he calls "exciting" plans for an imminent $25 million renovation of Avenel. The tournament would have to be moved for a year during construction, and favors were called in so that in 2005 the Booz Allen could be played at nearby Congressional Country Club, which has hosted two U.S. Opens. Last year's Classic, played the week before the Open and won by García, was a huge success, but in the meantime not a teaspoon of dirt was turned at Avenel. Finchem blamed delays in getting the needed permits due to Avenel's environmentally sensitive wetland areas, an inexcusable planning lapse if true.

Shrader was equally frustrated in his quest for a preferred date. Shrader wanted the week before the U.S. Open every year, if possible. "One thing we learned in 2004 was that the week after the Open doesn't work here," he says. "Washington is one of those towns where, once the kids are out of school, everybody goes somewhere else and this place shuts down. The Tour said, 'Hey, get in line. A lot of people want to play that [pre-Open] week.'"

But six months before the '05 Classic, Shrader says he got a letter from Finchem. According to Shrader, "[Finchem] said, 'We haven't finalized the schedule, but I'm confident in assuring you that you can have your tournament before the Open three out of four years. Two of those years would be the week before the Open, the third year would probably be another date sometime before the Open, but the fourth year would have to be the week after. We are well aware of your concerns, and we are going forward with our plans for the course.'"

Shrader says he had several conversations with the Tour in succeeding weeks and met with Tour execs during the Presidents Cup in September. Another session was scheduled for two weeks later but was canceled by the Tour. Shrader says he received a subsequent letter from the Tour saying, "Give us another 30 days." Says Shrader, "The next conversation I had was on a Friday morning in January when [Finchem] called two hours before the FedEx Cup and the 2007 schedule was announced. He said, 'We've decided to move your tournament to the fall.' I was surprised, obviously. It was totally different than anything I'd been presented."

And Jim Moriarty writes in Golf World:

In a telephone interview, commissioner Tim Finchem said the tour never contemplated making any changes to Avenel until 2006, yet Shrader secured Congressional as the venue for the highly successful 2005 event held the week before the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2. While both sides acknowledge that permit problems have delayed work on Avenel, Funk, for one, wondered, "When we're spending however much money we're spending down at TPC [at] Sawgrass, doing a huge renovation there, do we have the funds to do a huge renovation here as well?"

Enter the FedEx Cup. Lo and behold, when FedEx agreed to ante up $40 million to be the title sponsor of the tour's new year-ending points race, the tournament FedEx used to sponsor in Memphis just happened to get the date the week before the U.S. Open coveted by Booz Allen. With the Players Championship moving to May, "It's just one of those situations where we had too much water to put in the glass," said Finchem. Good for Memphis, not so good for D.C.