ATLANTA, Sept 23 (Reuters) - Commissioner Tim Finchem believes the PGA Tour is in a “comparatively quite good” situation amid the economic downturn but predicts the circuit will lose further title sponsors before the end of 2010.
“It’s possible we could lose a couple of events; it’s probable that we’re going to lose some sponsors,” Finchem told reporters on Wednesday in the build-up to the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club.
“You lose a title sponsor to an event and you can’t keep that particular tournament going. The Buick Open going to the Greenbrier is a good example.
“In losing the Buick sponsorship, we lost a tournament but we replaced it with a new tournament.”
Two events were removed from the schedule for next year when the troubled Detroit automaker Buick announced last month it had withdrawn its title sponsorships on the Tour.
In place of the Buick Open, the Greenbrier Classic will be staged at The Greenbrier in West Virginia from July 26-Aug. 1 as the first edition in a six-year agreement.
“There may be some more of that ahead, but most likely there will be some more sponsorship loss,” Finchem said.
“We will have a good solid schedule for 2010, we know that. But I think it’s also important to recognise that marketing budgets are still down ... it’s certainly going to take a while to improve.”
Both Buick events had been locked into contracts until the end of next year but turmoil in the auto industry left golf vulnerable to the loss of marketing and advertising dollars.
In November, GM’s Buick brand ended its endorsement deal with world number one Tiger Woods, worth an estimated $8 million annually, a year early in a move to cut costs.
The following month, GM and fellow automaker Chrysler were beneficiaries of a $17.4-billion bailout by the U.S. government.
Six events on the 2009 PGA Tour have automakers as title sponsors and, although the U.S. circuit was fully sponsored for this season, uncertainty abounded for the future.
Overall, though, Finchem was delighted the Tour had been able to nurture existing title sponsors while negotiating potential replacements as the U.S. economy showed signs of a recovery.
“The doom and gloom has largely been replaced by very strong concern about the existing economy but a much more forward-looking focus ... which allows you to get some business done,” he said.
“We are getting some business done. The good news is we’ve had a lot of good extensions well out into the future. I think we’re going to have some new sponsors, additional new sponsors, over the next two or three years.
“I’d characterise the situation as good, maybe even comparatively quite good, when you look at other enterprises. But certainly we have our challenges ahead of us.” (Editing by Justin Palmer; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)