Have Date, Need Sponsor

Mick Elliott reports in the Tampa Tribune that the Tour's decision to make Doral a WGC event is looking worse by the day that the Tampa Chrysler event played this fall (and then appearing again next March), has no sponsor for '07. And apparently, isn't very close to getting one.

"We're working hard trying to find a title sponsor and feel we're making progress," tournament director Gerald Goodman said. "But I haven't been holding back any announcements, I'll tell you that."

 "It's a combination of factors, and frankly I think one of them is it's hard to convey to prospects how good the golf tournament can be in March," said Tim Crosby, PGA Tour director of business affairs. "It's a great sports and golf market in the right time of year. It's a golf course that players rank in their top five.

"We know how good it can be, but to somebody who has not been there before, it's hard to completely get that message across."

Though Crosby insists he believes differently, the feeling in some circles is that playing at Innisbrook, with no elevators, aging decor and design, and an absence of a central public party location, would be like giving the Bucs one of football's best playing fields but leaving it inside old Tampa Stadium.

Potential title sponsors are being courted for a financial commitment between $6 million and $7 million for each of a three- to six-year contract. Putting a company's name on a golf tournament typically turns the week into a time for entertaining major clients. It also can become the face of a company's advertising.

For such a financial commitment, companies may be looking for bells and whistles that more modern five-star facilities may provide for invited clients.

I'd say they are within their rights to want a hotel with elevators!

"I can't say I disagree," Crosby said, "But you can fix those things with a little makeup, because the foundation is strong. What's so compelling is the golf course.

"I see the point, but I think once we get people there, it's a non-factor. But getting people there to experience it instead of just looking at pictures is very important."

In the meantime, this year's final Chrysler Championship draws closer to its Oct. 26-29 date, and 19 weeks later it will be time for tournament organizers to do it all over again.

 Although Crosby and Goodman agree it is not mandatory to have next year's title sponsor in place before Chrysler bows out, both are hoping for a signed contract as quickly as possible.

"If you ever wanted a PGA Tour event that has averaged very good ratings in its time slot, attracts a great field and will be played in Florida sunshine while it's still snowing in the Northeast, we have got a deal for you," Goodman said.

Gee, they don't sound desperate. And Elliott quietly slips this in toward the end:

In theory, the lack of a title sponsor could cost Tampa Bay the date it worked so hard to obtain. With a number of established tour events relegated to the less-glamorous fall schedule, at least one current sponsor would be willing to write the check for a better place on the schedule. However, Crosby said,, at least for now, Tampa is not in a danger zone.

"We have not sat down and said if we do not get a sponsor by such-and-such date, we're going to have to cut them loose," he said. "I don't know if we are going to get to that point. At this point, no, it's not in jeopardy."