I know most of you don't care, but since it's my hometown event I have to say this press release is actually quite exciting for those of us who have viewed the L.A. Open as a mini-major just lying in wait, hoping to be given the extra care it deserves to become one of the elite golf tournaments of the year.
It sure sounds like the PGA Tour is nudging them in the right direction. Even better, I hear the Junior Chamber of Commerce isn't pleased, which definitely means Northern Trust is asking them to step it up a notch.
Before you go commenting, I'm not referring to the new trophy by Tiffany or the Michael Douglas and Friends B-lister strokefest on February 10th. Nor am I saying they are reinventing the wheel here, but it's nice to see attempts to round out the package:
"In planning for this year's inaugural Northern Trust Open, we looked at how we could improve the experience for everyone involved, from the players and their families to tournament viewers worldwide," said Frederick H. Waddell, president and chief executive officer of Northern Trust Corporation.Let's hope that's more successful than this disaster from last year.
This year's Northern Trust Open is projected to raise $2.5 million to support charities in Southern California, an increase of more than 30 percent from last year's event. To further align the event with the Los Angeles community, the tournament will include new celebrity and media components. The Michael Douglas and Friends Celebrity Golf outing will be held at Riviera Country Club on February 10, and GOLF CHANNEL will broadcast live the entire tournament week from a custom-built on-site studio.
Players will share a larger, $6.2 million purse and will enjoy smaller Pro-Am teams, and fans around the world will be able to use the new interactive Web site (http://www.northerntrustopen.com) to check the leaderboard and talk with others online about the tournament -- 24 hours a day.
"We look forward to working with the Los Angeles Junior Chamber of Commerce and the PGA TOUR to expand on what is already a world-class event," Waddell explains. "We are committed to improving the tournament each year, shining the spotlight on this historic event, establishing Southern California as the destination for the TOUR's global spectators and increasing the amount we give back to the community."
"We are very pleased about Northern Trust's plans to elevate the profile of this tournament, which has such a wonderful history on the PGA TOUR," said PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem. "Northern Trust understands the importance of a title sponsor becoming fully engaged with all aspects of the tournament in order to maximize the overall experience. We are very excited about the future of the Northern Trust Open."
Doug Ferguson sheds a little more light on the Northern Trust improvements. My favorite is the courtesy car for all players. Nissan, which had access to all the cars it could ever want, did not offer the entire fields cars!
The U.S. PGA Tour event in Los Angeles has a new title sponsor that is serious about upgrades.
Northern Trust signed on as the new title sponsor at Riviera late last year, and already it has raised the purse by $1 million (680,000) to $6.2 million (4.2 million), made courtesy cars available to all players (up from half the field) and eliminated one of the amateurs from the pro-am, a top perk among players because it speeds up the round.
The tournament also is offering free parking for fans at the VA Hospital (fans used to pay $5, 3.50 for a shuttle bus), and will offer handheld leaderboards to the first 400 fans each day.
It also will stage a celebrity event open to the public on Feb. 10, the Sunday before the tournament, called ``The Michael Douglas and Friends Celebrity Golf.'' And it expects to raise $2.5 million (1.7 million) for local charities, up 30 percent from last year.
That doesn't guarantee getting the No. 1 player in the world.
Tiger Woods, who first played on the U.S. PGA Tour at Riviera as a 16-year-old, has not said whether he plans to play, although it is unlikely. Even so, it represents a strong push by a title sponsor to upgrade a tournament that for years relied mainly on being held at Riviera.