WGC Reportedly Could Move From Akron After '18; Memphis Event Moving To August?
The '18 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational "could be a last hurrah of sorts for the tournament in Akron," according to Kevin Kleps of CRAIN'S CLEVELAND BUSINESS. Author John Feinstein said that FedEx -- title sponsor of the Tour's season-long points race -- wants the annual St. Jude Classic in Memphis "to be a WGC event." If that happens, Feinstein said the "plan is to move it to Akron's spot in August." Feinstein added that the "corresponding domino" is that Tokyo-based Bridgestone "wants to have an event in Japan." He added that that tournament "would be added to the Asian swing on the fall calendar." Bridgestone Invitational Exec Dir Don Padgett III said that "conversations about the future of the event continue." Bridgestone's "sponsorship of the WGC event expires" after the '18 tournament at Firestone Country Club. The '17 Bridgestone Invitational "was played without the tournament and PGA celebrating another sponsorship extension." Bridgestone Americas VP/Communications Paul Oakley said the company is "in talks with the PGA Tour about our official marketing partnership and the Bridgestone Invitational" (CRAIN'S CLEVELAND BUSINESS, 11/27 issue). In Memphis, Tom Bailey writes moving a WGC event to Memphis would be "big news for golf fans in and around" the area, which for generations has been "challenged to attract more than a few of the top-ranked golfers" to the St. Jude Classic. FedEx has "leverage in the golf world." However, St. Jude Classic Tournament Dir Darrell Smith said that reports of the WGC coming to Memphis are "extremely premature." Smith: "Once the 2018 event comes and goes, then our focus will be on the 2019 event. We don’t typically get our dates until the next tournament year anyways. We didn’t know our 2018 dates until after the 2017 tournament. So anything on 2019 is extremely premature" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 11/28).
PAIRING UP: Houston Golf Association President & CEO Steve Timms said that organizers with the Houston Open, along with the PGA Tour, have been "pursuing smaller investments from multiple sponsors over the past few weeks as they continue to look for a solo title sponsor" for the '18 event. In Houston, Jack Witthaus noted the Houston Open has been "searching for a new title sponsor" after Shell Oil announced in June '16 it would "discontinue its partnership with the event." The move to have multiple sponsors is "rare in the PGA Tour -- only one other event, the Players Championship, uses a similar model." Timms said that the deal "could potentially involve up to three companies, called founding partners, with significant presences in Houston." If this deal is reached, the event "would likely be called the Houston Open sponsored by the founding partners." Timms said that he "couldn't predict when a deal with a title sponsor or founding partners could be reached." However he added that he would "like to have a deal signed 'as soon as possible'" since the '18 event is scheduled to occur March 26 to April 1 (BIZJOURNALS.com, 11/27).