The Buick Challenge is on the chopping block. Buick has decided to end its relationship with the event after eight years, and is expected to announce a partnership with another tournament (there are already the Buick Invitational, Buick Classic and Buick Open). Thus far, no other entity has stepped up to cover the roughly $4 million annual fee for the next tour contract period, 2003-06.
It hurts me because its really one of the most fun ones for us, said defending champion Chris DiMarco.
Youre in cottages, everybody is staying there; theres barbeques and everybody is having a good time and its nice and peaceful up there ' and its a great golf course.
DiMarco won last years event in a playoff over 2000 champion David Duval. Hes also fresh off a runner-up finish at the Disney Golf Classic.
As for Duval, he said this would be his last tour event of the season. He has one event scheduled in Japan, and a one-day outing in Mexico, but other than that, you won't see me until January 27th, he said.
Duval, who was trying to play his way into the Tour Championship, missed the cut last week. Amazingly, his 5-under-par total through 36 holes wasnt enough to get him into the weekend.
That never crossed my mind, he said as if in shock.
Once again, players will have to go low to contend this week. DiMarco and Duval finished at 21-under 267 a year ago. It was the third time in five years that it took a player breaking the 20-under threshold to prevail.
This is the 33rd ' and perhaps final ' playing of this event. It will be contested for the 12th straight season at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga.
As DiMarco stated, many of the players love playing in the relaxed Southern atmosphere. But there can be trouble in paradise.
I got Rocky Mountain spotted fever there back in 99, said DiMarco, who was bitten by a tick while sleeping in his cottage. I was really never going to go back there, but I decided, 'Well, well try it.'
After this year, he may have no choice.
PGA Tour Statistical Preview