Courtesy cars at PGA Tour events might go away
Weve already started scrambling to try to approach local dealers or national suppliers to see if theyre interested, said Clair Peterson, tournament director of the John Deere Classic. The car industry as a whole is in a tough spot. Weve already had one company tell us everything has been frozen in 09.
Other tournaments that Buick will no longer supply include the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee, the AT&T National in Washington and the Transitions Championship outside Tampa, Fla. The Shell Houston Open remains hopeful of keeping its Buick courtesy car deal.
The Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles had a deal with Nissan, its previous title sponsor, that expired last year. Tournament director Tom Pulchinski said he tried to arrange a deal with Buick and was turned down.
The business model has changed, Pulchinski said. Its definitely going to be an expense. We probably would provide cars, even if its a rental deal where we pick up the cars and foot the bill. We talked to Buick, but they could not swing it.
Buick is the official car of the PGA Tour and for years has provided courtesy cars to a majority of tour events. But General Motors posted a $2.5 billion quarterly loss earlier this month and has said its cash burn has reached the point where it could have the minimum amount required to operate by early next year.
Were taking a hard look at everything right now, said Larry Peck, golf marketing manager for Buick.
He declined to discuss which tournaments have lost courtesy car arrangements because nothing has been finalized or announced.
Most of those deals are regional offices, which are in a similar position with everyone else, Peck said. There are budget cuts. Every line item where a dollar is spent is getting a lot of scrutiny. I can tell you it has not all been finalized. But some will be cut back. We have to look at things differently.
One tournament official, speaking on condition of anonymity because Buick has not made an announcement, said four tournaments will continue its deal with the company, including the two Buick-sponsored events.
PGA Tour spokesman Ty Votaw said that number was not consistent with the tours conversations with Buick.
Other tournaments have their own deals, such as the Memorial (Lexus), the Wachovia Championship (Mercedes-Benz) and Colonial (Cadillac), along with those tournaments that have automakers for a title sponsor (Mercedes, Honda, BMW, Chrysler).
That leaves other tournaments in a precarious spot. They compete with each other for the best field, but having to provide courtesy cars is another expense in their shrinking budgets, which likely means less money for their local charities.
Were looking at alternatives, said Dan Croak at the U.S. Bank Championship. Its certainly great if tournaments that dont have them come up with a suitable solution. But it becomes someones expense.
Twenty years ago, it was not unusual for most players to arrive in town and rent their own cars. Joey Sindelar, who now plays on the 50-and-older Champions Tour, recalls dragging his golf gear through the airport to get a rental car, paying for practice balls on the range and getting concession coupons for meals.
Players now have a car waiting at the airport, and a tournament volunteer drops them off at the airport at the end of the week.
Weve been so lucky out there, Sindelar said. I hope this is an attention-grabber.
Kym Hougham at the Wachovia Championship, which has some of the biggest perks of any event, has had a deal with Mercedes-Benz since its inception in 2003, first through a local dealership which has become a regional contract.
Even so, he can see other tournaments having to tighten their finances.
We all had it good for awhile and it was on cruise control, Hougham said. Now weve got to get creative. We all try to do as much as we can for the players, and theyve come to expect it. Like anything in life, its hard to take something back.
The deals with Buick varied with tournaments.
In some cases, the company provided 180 courtesy cars and a cash donation, receiving spots in the pro-am for Buick clients, car displays throughout the golf course and hospitality tents on the 18th green. At the John Deere Classic, Peterson said Buick donated a car for auction in its Birdies of Charity program.
Gerald Goodman, tournament director at the Transitions Championship, said Tampa Bay is the 10th-largest market for Pontiac-GM-Buick dealers and he usually had more than 200 cars. Now he is working with 14 local dealers, hopeful that GM might still offer incentives for the dealers to provide them to the tournament, then advertise them at reduced prices with minimal mileage.
Otherwise, he might try to strike a deal with a rental company, especially with the tournament coming less than two months after the Super Bowl in Tampa.
Were searching, Goodman said. Im completely positive I can get us a car deal. I havent thrown in the towel.
How the players respond to the changing economic climate is what concerns these tournaments. All the younger players know is being catered to from when they get off the plane to when they return to the airport.
The pendulum is swinging in the other direction, Peterson said. How far it goes is the unknown.
Kevin Sutherland finished a career-high 18th on the PGA Tour money list this year with just over $2.5 million. He has been on tour a dozen years and can remember times when he rented his own car at an airport.
I expected some of the perks weve gotten in the past are going to be cut back, and it only makes sense, Sutherland said. Its easy to take this for granted. You show up, you get your car. You bring in your dry cleaning, they do it for you. Some of this stuff is over the top, and you get spoiled over time. But so many companies are struggling.
Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son
ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.
Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.
''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''
They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.
''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''
Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.
''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''
Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.
Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.
Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.
Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?
Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.
Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”
Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.
Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.
The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.
Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.
Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.
Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational
Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.
The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.