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Volume 24 No. 135

Events and Attractions

Many ATP players remain "dissatisfied" with the U.S. Open’s plans that it would increase total prize money by $4M in '13, in part because "they were packaged with a 15th day of play in the form of a Monday men’s final," according to Christopher Clarey of the N.Y. TIMES. The tournament was "committed to scheduling a day of rest between the men’s semifinals and final." To do so, it needed "not only to alter its long-established schedule but to renegotiate its existing agreement with CBS, which runs through 2014." USTA Exec Dir & COO Gordon Smith said that the cost to the tournament in '13 for "switching the men’s semifinals to Friday and keeping the final in its Sunday slot would have been about $10 million, while the cost of keeping the men’s semifinals on Saturday and scheduling the final on Monday was considerably less, at $1.5 million." Switching the semifinals to Friday "would have required a loss of two ticketed sessions." Smith said a $10M shortfall would have "forced the USTA to cut numerous jobs and programs and financing for more than 90 minor league professional events." Smith said, "We’ve only committed to this Monday final for one year." The negotiations have been about "prize money but also about a philosophical approach, with Smith and other Grand Slam leaders arguing that they have an obligation to finance the game at the grass-roots level in their countries and to finance lower-level pro circuits." The players, while "recognizing that obligation, maintain that this should not keep the USTA and the other Grand Slam leaders from rewarding their players at a rate similar to the rate in regular ATP events." Smith said that he "told the players that the USTA would commit to increasing singles prize money by '75 percent minimum' from 2012 to 2017" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/16).

DOING RIGHT DOWN UNDER: In a special for USA TODAY, Douglas Robson notes ATP players have said that what "sets the Australian Open apart since it relocated to Melbourne Park in 1988 is the friendly vibe catering to players' needs -- everything from investment in top-notch facilities, bend-over-backward transport services and a location in the heart of downtown with easy access to restaurants, hotels and mass transit." Australian Open organizers expect "more than 650,000 visitors over the event's two weeks, more than four times the number that attended the final Australian Open held at the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club in 1987." The winner's check will be "a record $2.65 million for men's and women's singles this year, plus a roughly 30% increase for players losing in the first few rounds." In a "surprise gesture, the tournament gave every player in singles, doubles and qualifying an envelope with a $1,000 check for travel expenses." The "guiding force behind the event's rising prestige" is Tournament Dir Craig Tiley, who has run it since '07. Tennis Australia Head of Player Development Todd Woodbridge said of Tiley, "His relationship with the players are the reason the tournament is strong this year" (USA TODAY, 1/16).

As the PGA Tour Humana Challenge enters its second year, it “would be easy to sit back and consolidate the changes" to the event, but that was “never the plan” for the tournament, according to Larry Bohannan of the Palm Springs DESERT SUN. Tournament Exec Dir & CEO Bob Marra said, “We’re with one of the country’s largest companies (Humana). They don’t stand around and wait to keep things the way they are. … We’re not going to stand still with it. We have surveyed pretty much everything that was done last year. We have talked to sponsors, we have talked to people this year about what we could do to improve it, and we’re going to do a number of those things.” Clinton Foundation Marketing & Communications Dir Valerie Alexander said, “Our goal is to give individuals the opportunity to transform their lives and to take control of their own futures. And we do this by bringing people together. Just like we have done with this tournament.” PGA Tour Senior VP/Brand Marketing Ric Clarson said that while Humana and the Clinton Foundation are “pushing the message of the wellness, the PGA Tour is trying to be an equal partner in the message.” The tour has “initiated health and wellness programs both among its own staff and players and at some of its other tournaments” (Palm Springs DESERT SUN, 1/13).

BILL OF GOODS: GOLF WORLD MONDAY’S Ron Surak writes one thing made “crystal clear at last year’s inaugural Humana Challenge” was that former President Bill Clinton was “no figurehead." Clinton was “everywhere, from walking the range shaking hands with players, caddies and coaches, to working the rope line with the public, to attending evening celebrity parties where he charmed CEOs and the children of tour players alike.” Clinton and Humana have “made an eight-year commitment to what was the Bob Hope Classic, and that unusually long sponsorship might be the strongest statement that organizers are serious about using golf as a vehicle to promote healthy living” (GOLF WORLD MONDAY, 1/14 issue).

HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL: The DESERT SUN's Bohannan in a separate piece noted tournament organizers “continue to work hard to keep Hope’s legacy alive in the event he hosted through the event’s heydays of the 1960s, 1970s and well into the 1990s.” Humana Challenge President & Chair John Foster said, “We’re still embracing and celebrating the memory of Bob Hope. And I think all partners here, that was foremost in our mind when we started, got together.” Bohannan wrote it “may be inevitable that as the coming years pass, fewer and fewer people will embrace the Hope legacy.” But that “won’t be because the people at the tournament haven’t made Hope and his legacy important” (Palm Springs DESERT SUN, 1/13).

LOVE-HATE RELATIONSHIP: Bohannan in separate piece wrote the format of the Bob Hope Classic among all aspects of the tournament was “perhaps the most cherished and reviled at the same time.” The format of “five days, four courses, 90 holes” was “credited with helping the event stand out in a sea of lookalike 72-hole tournaments.” But it also was “singled out as one of the biggest reasons many pros stopped coming to the tournament in the last two decades or so” (Palm Springs DESERT SUN, 1/13).

WALK IT OFF: In California, Sherry Barkas reported ’13 marks the second year for Humana Day at the Certified Farmers Market in La Quinta, “one of a series of health-related events leading up to” the Humana Challenge. Humana Day saw “hundreds” turn out for an event where people could get “free pedometers, biometric checks and watch food demonstrations.” Humana gave out “12,000 pedometers last year and hopes to do the same this year.” Humana Senior VP/Corporate Communications Tom Noland said that those who did not get a pedometer during the weekend events “can find them at the tournament’s Bob Hope Square at all three courses in La Quinta.” Noland said that last year Coachella Valley residents “racked up 84 million steps during the week of the Humana Challenge tournament.” Noland added that Humana this year is “setting up a ‘friendly competition’ with other PGA tournaments to see if they can match or beat that number” (Palm Springs DESERT SUN, 1/14).