The Recorder

Woods’ DC event to be held this season even without sponsor

By DOUG FERGUSON
AP Golf Writer

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Tiger Woods’ tournament outside Washington is still talking to potential title sponsors, including Quicken Loans, which did not renew. But it’s on the schedule for the new season as The National, and PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan says it’s not coming off.
“We made the commitment,” Monahan said. “Our players are going to be showing up there and we’re going to be playing for that amount of money ($7.1 million).
The tournament, run by the Tiger Woods Foundation, originally was scheduled to return to Congressional for 2018. But with uncertainly over title sponsorship, the PGA Tour decided to opt out its contract with the club for 2018 and 2020.
Why opt out with such certainty of playing in 2018? Monahan said there is no guarantee the National will be played in 2019 and beyond. Being tied to a golf course — even one as storied as Congressional — might limit any negotiations.
“Let’s say we didn’t renew with Quicken and there was another sponsor and they had a different objective. They wanted to be at a different golf course, a different part of town. They wanted to do something different,” Monahan said. “You can’t be wed to one golf course that might limit your ability to get a deal done.”
The tournament remains in contact with Quicken Loans, and there are conversations with other potential sponsors.
Still on the table is a scenario in which Detroit-based Quicken Loans might be interested in having the PGA Tour closer to its headquarters. But that would be after 2018. Monahan went from “highly, highly likely” to “it’s for sure in D.C. — I can say that” for the National to be held in Washington this season, with or without a title sponsor.
The course has not been determined. It was played last year at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm.
The Houston Open also is without a title sponsor. Finding replacements is a priority for the PGA Tour, along with concern that Bridgestone might not renew its title sponsorship after next year of the World Golf Championship event at Firestone.
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PRESIDENTS CUP DOWN UNDER: The PGA Tour announced that the dates for the 2019 Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne will be Dec. 12-15, two days later than the conclusion of the matches the first time it went to Australia in 1998.
Still to be determined is the cutoff for qualifying for the team, and when to announce the captains’ picks.
This will be the fourth time the Presidents Cup goes to the Southern Hemisphere, but the first since the PGA Tour went to a wraparound season.
This year, the 10 automatic spots were determined on Sept. 4 after the second FedEx Cup playoff event — three weeks ahead of the matches. If the cutoff is the Tour Championship in 2019 — that presumably will be Labor Day — then the U.S. team would be set three months before the opening tee shot.
When the PGA Tour first took the Presidents Cup to Australia, the cutoff for qualifying was the Tour Championship. But that was on Nov. 1, just five weeks ahead of the Presidents Cup.
The cutoff for qualifying again was the Tour Championship when the matches were at Royal Melbourne in 2011. That was Sept. 25, two months before the Presidents Cup (Nov. 22-25). That was when the tour had the Fall Series to allow players a chance to earn their card. Tiger Woods was a captain’s pick and wound up playing the Frys.com Open to get his game sharp. Several Americans also played the week before in either the Singapore Open or Australian Open.
What to expect in 2019? Tour officials have not begun discussions. It wouldn’t make any sense to decide a team three months before the Presidents Cup. Then again, it could lead players to add fall events to the schedule to avoid being left off.
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PERFECT STORM: Ben Crane rolled the dice by staying home from the Web.com Tour Championship and wound up losing.
Until he realized he didn’t lose much at all.
Crane already had a bizarre time in the Web.Com Tour Finals when he was penalized eight shots and eventually disqualified for having practice stickers on his clubs that he forgot to remove. He was No. 18 on the Finals money list and seemingly in good shape to finish among the top 25, which are awarded PGA Tour cards. So he pulled out of the final event, spending his weekend at the Presidents Cup for Citi.
Jonathan Byrd won. Sam Saunders and Shawn Stefani tied for second. Before he knew it, eight players did well enough to move past him. And it didn’t help that eight others withdrew because they already had cards locked up. When the Tour Championship was pushed to Monday, they wanted to get to California for the Thursday start of the new season at the Safeway Open.
Bad news? Not really.
With his conditional status — Crane finished 147th in the FedEx Cup — he figured he would miss only a couple of tournaments he normally plays. And then it got better. Four players ahead of him in the FedEx Cup earned cards at the Web.com Finals. Five others already were exempt through winning within the last two years.
Now, he’s not in much different position than if he had gone to Florida for the final event and earned his card.
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LPGA MANTRA: The slogan for the LPGA Tour is “See Why It’s Different.”
But there’s another one at LPGA Tour headquarters, mainly used internally, that might be even more meaningful. Heather Daly-Donofrio, the chief communications and operations officer, signs off her emails with “Act Like a Founder.”
“It’s part of our internal culture,” he said. “We’re here because of our 13 founders, and our job is to carry that forward with the same grit and determination. Everyone has really latched onto it.”
It’s more than just a motto.
For the last four years, the staff nominates an employee for the “Act Like a Founder” award, and the management team chooses the winner. The staff member is honored at the holiday party, gets a plaque signed by the living founders and wins a trip to the Founders Cup, where they go to the dinner honoring pioneers.
“For the people who have won it,” Daly-Donofrio said, “it’s emotional when they get it.”
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DIVOTS: Michelle Wie is sufficiently healed from her appendectomy and plans to play the final six LPGA Tour events. Five of them are in Asia, starting next week in South Korea, wrapped up by the CME Group Tour Championship in Florida. … Dustin Johnson finished at No. 3 on the PGA Tour money list last season. But he led the tour in average earnings per start at $436,610 in his 20 tournaments. … Thomas Bjorn and Arjun Atwal will be captains at the EurAsia Cup, to be played Jan. 12-14 in Malaysia. Europe won 18½-5½ in 2016. The first event in 2014 ended in a tie. … Americans won 33 of the 48 events on the PGA Tour this year, up from 24 out of 47 the previous year.
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STAT OF THE WEEK: Since the start of the wraparound season in October 2013, Brendan Steele last year is the only player to win the season-opening tournament and not reach the Tour Championship.
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FINAL WORD: “They got better at doing what Europe does than what Europe did. And we paid the price.” — Geoff Ogilvy on the U.S. team spirit at the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup in recent years.