Vegas No Guarantee for 04 Schedule

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HOUSTON -- The PGA Tour could leave Las Vegas after a 21-year run if a title sponsor cannot be found, commissioner Tim Finchem said Wednesday.
 
The tour released its 2004 schedule with only 'TBD' - to be determined - next to the Oct. 6-10 normally set aside for the Las Vegas Invitational.
 
'We have no sponsor in Vegas. It's the only tournament we have an issue with,' Finchem said. 'We have options to play elsewhere, but we would like to play in Vegas.'
 
Invensys ended its three-year sponsorship of the tournament after 2002. The Las Vegas Founders, the charitable group that runs the tournament, put up the $4 million purse for this year's event.
 
Tournament manager Charlie Baron did not return calls seeking comment.
 
Finchem isn't giving up on Las Vegas. He said the tour will continue to talk to potential sponsors into the early part of next year, although he declined to set a deadline.
 
'We're in some discussions right now, and we're going to see how those play out,' Finchem said.
 
Las Vegas is one of three PGA Tour events that do not have a title sponsor, along with the Memorial, B.C. Open and Reno-Tahoe Open. The latter two are played opposite of the British Open and a World Golf Championship.
 
MasterCard signed on as a presenting sponsor for the Bay Hill Invitational.
 
The 2004 schedule is not much different than this year.
 
The Buick Championship in Hartford has been moved back a month to late August and will be played one week before the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston, putting the tour in the Northeast in consecutive weeks.
 
The Texas Open will be played the same week as the Ryder Cup in September.
 
The season begins Jan. 8 at the Mercedes Championships on Maui, and concludes Nov. 7 with the Tour Championship in Atlanta.
 
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PAYNE STEWART AWARD:@ Tom Watson, who won two majors on the Champions Tour and brought awareness to the disease that is killing his caddie, was honored Wednesday with the Payne Stewart Award.
 
The award is named after the three-time major champion who was killed in a plane crash the week of the 1999 Tour Championship at Champions Golf Club.
 
It goes to a player sharing Stewart's respect for traditions of golf, a commitment to charity and his presentation of the sport through his dress and conduct.
 
'Tom Watson is a fine example of the attribute that make PGA Tour players such excellent role models,' commissioner Tim Finchem said. 'He has always conducted himself on and off the golf course with style and grace.
 
'Payne would have been proud to have Tom receive this award.'
 
Watson won 39 times on the PGA Tour, including eight majors. He won the Senior British Open and the Tradition this year, two majors on the Champions Tour.
 
Watson's caddie, Bruce Edwards, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, and Watson has used his strong play as a platform to raise awareness and money for a cure.
 
Watson recalled that Stewart donated his first-place check from the '87 Bay Hill Invitational to the Komen National Cancer Society on behalf of his father, who died of cancer.
 
'That defined what the game is all about,' Watson said. 'That's why the award is given in his name. And I'm very honored to have this award.'
 
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DRUG TESTING:@ Commissioner Tim Finchem said the PGA Tour doesn't plan to test for the steroid THG or any performance-enhancing drug without conclusive data to show such drugs actually improve a golfer's ability.
 
'I have never seen any study or data that demonstrates that some substance helps you play the game better,' Finchem said.
 
He said the tour will review the impact of steroids on golf regularly, but he is not convinced golf has a problem.
 
Finchem said Nick Price once took beta blockers, which some suggested would reduce the heartbeat and help eliminate pressure when a player is standing over a crucial putt. Price was taking the drug as a prescription, and said it made him lethargic.
 
'At this time, we are not recommending any changes in our policies or procedures,' Finchem said. 'If that changes, we'll make that information available.'
 
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LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT:@ Jack Burke Jr., the colorful Texan who won two majors in 1956 and was named player of the year, is the fifth recipient of the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award.
 
The award honors those who have made outstanding contributions to the tour on and off the golf course.
 
Burke, inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame three years ago, is co-founder of Champions Golf Club, which has hosted a Ryder Cup, U.S. Open and five Tour Championships.
 
He also is a renowned teacher.
 
Burke won the Masters and PGA Championship in 1956, and he won the Vardon Trophy in 1952. He was Ryder Cup captain twice and played on five teams.