2006: WGC expansion plan draws mixed reviews

Augusta, Ga.

With three World Golf Championships anchored in the United States for the next few years – in Miami, Tucson (Ariz.) and Akron (Ohio) – the PGA Tour has been discussing a way to move the events around the globe. One idea: Create more of them.

One or more WGC events may be added to the PGA Tour schedule in the near future, with one possibly slated for Asia (likely China) during November or December. It would be an opportunity for the PGA Tour to bolster its brand in another part of the world. But there are those from other corners of the globe who are uneasy about the timing.

Andrew Georgiou, an advisor to the Australasia Tour board (and its former chief), voiced concern that a PGA Tour event in Asia late in the year – staged in the same time zone as Australia and played opposite one of his own tour’s events – could have an adverse effect on his tour’s ability to secure players, sponsorship dollars and television time.

“Every decision in life, whether in business or as a human being, has an impact on somebody else,” Georgiou said at the Masters, where he met with the PGA Tour’s Ty Votaw for the second time in three weeks. “If you’re not aware of that impact, it’s not a great thing.”

The International Federation of PGA Tours comprises the Asian Tour, European Tour, Japan Golf Tour, Australasia Tour, Sunshine Tour (South Africa) and the PGA Tour.

There are three official WGC events slated to be played in the United States at least for the rest of this decade – the Accenture Match Play (Tucson), Bridgestone Invitational (Akron) and American Express Invitational, the latter an event that will change sponsors and be anchored at Doral Resort in Miami in 2007.

Votaw, the former LPGA commissioner, is about three months into his new job as vice president of international affairs for the PGA Tour. His mission is to improve the PGA Tour’s global stature. Of the 25 WGCs that have been played, he notes, nine have been played outside the United States. He said adding one or two WGCs in the near future is something the Tour has been examining.

“We’re in discussions now,” Votaw said. “The scheduling is complicated, and getting everybody to understand where everything needs to fit is difficult, but we’re looking to add to a WGC portfolio that has one or two outside the United States. Whether that happens in ’07 or ’08 or ’09 . . . it’s on the drawing board.”

Georgiou is trying to make sure Australasia has a “sustainable” tour, the goal being a window of five or six consecutive events in November and December, a time of year when Aussies who play the PGA Tour often come home to lend support.

He and other Federation members would rather see the PGA Tour look into bolstering existing events – such as the Australian Open – before it moves in the direction of creating new ones. Other members of

the World Golf Federation have been vocal in their displeasure that the World Golf Championships rarely venture beyond U.S. shores.

“The original concept for the World Golf Championships was these things were going to move around the world and showcase the best golfers playing against the best golfers in every part of the world,” Georgiou said. “I don’t know that we’ve achieved our objective over the first eight years of the Federation. I don’t know whether we’ve achieved that objective at all.”

He added, “I’m not having a ‘go’ at the PGA Tour for being successful. I think what they’ve done with their schedule is amazing; I think the TV deal that they’ve done is terrific. I’m just saying, let’s make sure in November and December, let’s be sure we have the opportunity to have a sustainable tour.

“That’s all I’m asking for.”







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