Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Texas Open Keeping Eye on Tampa Bay

Richard Oliver, in his Oliver's Twist blog on, has some interesting news on the future of the Texas Open:

They're nervous in Tampa Bay these days, and Valero Texas Open head Tony Piazzi empathizes.

It wasn't that long ago that his tournament was on the ropes, getting pounded by the PGA Tour for not having a sponsor and just waiting for the final blow to put it out of its misery.

Today, however, the Open is standing tall, thanks to Valero's last-minute largesse, and the future looks brighter than it ever has. In Tampa-St. Pete, however, the mood is starkly different.

There, the Tampa Bay Championship, scheduled for March 8-11 next year as part of the new FedEx Cup series, finds itself without a sponsor. It's nerve-wracking for the event, especially considering that when 84 Lumber announced a few weeks back that it was pulling its sponsorship from the annual 84 Lumber Classic in Pennsylvania, the PGA Tour immediately yanked the date away from the tournament and handed it over to Hartford.

The tour has stepped in to help Tampa find a sponsor, and there's expectation that something can be done in coming weeks. But, if not, it's fair to wonder what's next.

The Texas Open would wonder, as it's contractually obligated for the next available spring date.

What caught my eye is the "contractually obligated" part. The Texas Open gets killed every year by either the Ryder Cup or the Presidents Cup, which it's been directorly up against. In 2007, the tournament likely will move into October, but will still be burdened with the weakened fields that show up to PGA Tour events late in the year.

A new spring date - whether it turns out to be the Tampa Bay slot on the schedule or not - is just what the tournament needs. My guess is the new date will coincide with the first year of the tournament's play at the TPC San Antonio course currently under construction.

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