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Tour partners with HB Sports as EA license expires

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Updated 4:15 p.m.

The PGA Tour announced on Monday a licensing agreement with developer HB Studios that will see Tour branding featured in HB's upcoming "The Golf Club 2019" video game.

Per a release, the game's career mode will take players “on an authentic journey through Q-School, the Web.com Tour and a 32-tournament PGA Tour season, including the FedExCup Playoffs, to become the FedExCup champion."

The initial launch will also feature "six precise replicas" of TPC courses played each year on Tour: TPC Summerlin (home of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open), TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course (Waste Management Phoenix Open), TPC Sawgrass’ The Players Stadium Course (The Players Championship), TPC Southwind (FedEx St. Jude Classic and future home of the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Championship), TPC Deere Run (John Deere Classic), and TPC Boston (Dell Technologies Championship).

“We are so excited for the launch of 'The Golf Club 2019' featuring the PGA Tour that highlights some of our best tournaments,” said Len Brown, PGA Tour chief legal officer and executive vice president of licensing. “This will allow our fans to take the same path to the PGA Tour by earning their card through the Web.com Tour. Additionally, this will give gamers the opportunity to play under the same tournament conditions that our players face week in and week out. We are thrilled with this partnership.”

The agreement is a large step forward for a franchise which has been focused on virtual architecture, allowing users to design, play and share courses with other members of the TGC community. To date, users have designed more than 170,000 layouts. 

“We are absolutely ecstatic and proud to be an official licensee of the PGA Tour, one of the most prestigious sports organizations in the world,” said Alan Bunker, CEO of HB Studios. “This further validates that HB Studios has the No. 1 golf video game on console and PC platforms. With the inclusion of PGA Tour content and the support of this fantastic organization, it will elevate our game even higher and provide our users with an even more authentic video game golfing experience.”

The PGA Tour previously licensed its branding and TPC courses to well-known developer Electronic Arts. The EA game enjoyed its greatest popularity from 1999-2013 under the name "Tiger Woods PGA Tour." Following the 2013 edition, EA's partnership with Woods and a licensing agreement with Augusta National Golf Club reached an end.

The studio developed one edition of the game for current-generation consoles in 2015 under the name "Rory McIlroy PGA Tour." The title received poor initial reviews when it launched with far fewer features than previous incarnations of the game, although EA continued to add downloadable content for up to a year. The game was recently pulled from digital storefronts when its EA's license to use Tour branding expired.

Speaking with GolfChannel.com on Monday, Matt Iofredo, the senior director of licensing for the Tour, referred to the circuit's previous arragement with EA as a "long-term successful partnership" and said that the two sides parted amicably.

As for why it was important for the Tour to re-emerge in this space, Iofredo cited the ongoing effort to the grow the game.

"Video games are a great platform for us to reach our fans and potentially new fans," Iofredo said. "The hope is that you start playing the video game and it piques your interest in golf in general and then maybe you want to attend an event, maybe you want to tune in on TV or one of the digital platforms, or maybe you want to go out to a driving range and hit balls and eventually go play."

The deal between HB and the Tour is a multi-year agreement aimed at building and expanding the franchise over potentially multiple editions.

While the PGA Tour controls the rights to TPC courses - and may well add more to the game - HB would have come to separate agreements with other clubs were it to try to digitally mirror the rest of the PGA Tour season. 

"The Golf Club 2019" edition is the third installment in “The Golf Club” franchise following "The Golf Club" in 2014 and "The Golf Club 2" in 2017. The game is set for an August release on PlayStation 4, XBOX One, and PC.