Vegas Set for Final Show

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There is special meaning to this weeks Las Vegas Invitational. Beyond its fiscal weight, beyond the $4-million purse and the professional security it can offer to those who do well.
 
This years Las Vegas Invitational winner may forever hold that title. Because this years Las Vegas Invitational winner may well be the last.
 
Years of sub-par fanfare and the lack of a sponsor are jeopardizing the future of this 90-hole pro-am event.
 
Invensys pulled out as sponsor after a three-year run, and without a title sponsor this go-around, the Las Vegas Founders, the charitable group that runs the tournament, is footing the bill.
 
Last years winner received $900,000; this years victor will pocket $720,000. Las Vegas is the only tour event this season to decrease its purse from last year (from $5 million to $4 million).
 
In fact, 40 of the 45 pre-existing tour events experienced purse increases from 2002 to 2003.
 
The tournament is currently on the 2004 PGA Tour schedule, but tenuously so.
 
Crowds have been sparse at best over the years, and the fields have had little drawing power.
 
'The problem is, we just don't have the support of the community,' tournament manager Charlie Baron told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
 
'The people have to realize that we need their support,' he said. 'The community has to show it wants this golf tournament here.'
 
This is the first of the final four full-field tournaments on the 2003 calendar. It is also the first of two pro-am events in a three-week span (Disney).
 
One-hundred-and-44 professionals and 432 amateurs will play three different courses over five days. The 7,243-yard, par-72 TPC at Summerlin is the host course and will be played by everyone once over the first three days and exclusively over the final two rounds.
 
Players will also compete at the 7,381-yard, par-72 Southern Highlands Golf Club and at the 7,063-yard, par-71 TPC at The Canyons over the first three days.
 
All amateurs will compete Wednesday through Friday, with a cut being made to see who qualifies for Saturdays final pro-am round. It is professionals only on Sunday.
 
This is the 21st playing of the event. Phil Tataurangi is the defending champion, having fired a career-best 10-under 62 in the final round to erase a five-stroke deficit.
 
He won by a single swing over Jeff Sluman and Stuart Appleby.
 
Sixteen of the 21 Invitationals have been decided by a stroke or in a playoff, including in each of the last nine years.
 
Last year's edition marked the New Zealanders first career tour victory; he became the first player since Tiger Woods, in 1996, to accomplish that feat in Sin City.
 
Woods has yet to return to this event since his failed title defense in 1997. He wont be back in 03, but there is a small oasis of stars in the desert.
 
Three-time Vegas winner Jim Furyk looks to further his player-of-the-year campaign. He is joined by 2000 runner-up Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Charles Howell III, Chris DiMarco, Rich Beem and David Duval, all of whom are trying to avoid a seasonal shutout in the win column.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Las Vegas Invitational
  • More PGA Tour Preview Information