The Skins Game, a Thanksgiving weekend tradition for nearly three decades, became golf’s latest victim of the economic downturn when organizers said it would be postponed this year with no guarantees it would return.
IMG, which manages the Skins Game, had been negotiating a contract extension with LG when the Korean-based electronics company elected not to renew.
“We did another pass through the market place and couldn’t find a title sponsor,” said Mark Steinberg, head of IMG’s golf division.
The Skins Game, now a staple in the “silly season,” was a novelty when it began in 1983 with Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Tom Watson. It has struggled to attract an All-Star lineup in recent years, and TV ratings have plunged.
K.J. Choi won the Skins Game last year, ending the two-year reign of Stephen Ames. Fred Funk won the year before that.
Organizers said they plan to bring the Skins Game back in 2010 to Indian Wells, Calif., but that starts with finding a title sponsor, which is tough to come by in this economic climate.
“We’re going to try hard,” Steinberg said. “The Tour has been great to work with on this. Look, we’re going to give it a go. There’s so much history and tradition with this event.”
Players compete to win each hole — a skin — with the prize money escalating as the round goes on. The total purse was higher than PGA Tour events when it began, but now the $1 million purse is about one-fifth the size of most Tour events.
The field last year was Choi, Ames, Phil Mickelson and Rocco Mediate. Annika Sorenstam became the first female to compete in the Skins Game, while Tiger Woods last played in 2005.
“It’s such a cool event to see golf on Thanksgiving weekend,” Mickelson said Friday. “It’s a shame it’s not going to be around for 2009, but hopefully it will return in 2010.”
Barry Frank, executive vice president of IMG media, said the Skins Game will continue to be part of golf’s fall season, but the economy forced a postponement this year.
“We look forward to working with key partners over the coming months to ensure the Skins Game comes back next year in a manner befitting one of golf’s great traditions,” Frank said.
So much about golf has changed since 1983.
The silly season is now loaded with events, from Greg Norman’s shootout to Woods’ $5.75 million Chevron World Challenge to the Wendy’s Three-Tour Challenge that brings together the PGA, Champions and LPGA Tours.
The World Cup in China is now played the same weekend, and a World Golf Championship will be played in China the first week in November this year as players begin to play more golf around the world late in the season.
Steinberg does not think that will have a bearing on the future of the Skins Game.
“We’ve always had a strong focus on international golf,” he said. “That will not be a detrimental effect.”