PGA Tour sponsors: Farmers in; CA likely out

The popular PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines will be sponsored by Farmers Insurance for at least the next four years.

The popular PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines will be sponsored by Farmers Insurance for at least the next four years.

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The PGA Tour’s recruiting effort for title sponsors is never-ending. Just as one signs on the dotted line, another appears to be out.

The Tour announced March 15 that the Farmers Exchange will continue as title sponsor of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines Golf Club in San Diego through 2014.

But CA, which sponsored the just-completed World Golf Championships-CA Championship at Doral, appears likely to end its relationship with the tournament.

Farmers’ decision to pick up its long-term option from its 2010 contract eliminates what was one of the Tour’s major concerns for next year’s schedule. Tom Wornham, president and general chairman of the Century Club, the non-profit that runs the San Diego tournament, called the Southern California-based company its “knight in shining armor.”

Entering this year, the tournament was in search of a title sponsor after Buick – which had sponsored the event since 1992 – filed for bankruptcy. Farmers stepped in as this year’s title sponsor 10 days before the tournament’s opening round.

“Farmers Insurance did such an outstanding job of becoming fully engaged with the tournament on such short notice and in maximizing its role as title sponsor,” said PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem.

The 11th-hour deal reportedly was secured at a significant discount, but Finchem said that’s not the case with this agreement.

“This transaction is very much at market rate,” Finchem said. “We’ve announced in the last 8 months either new sponsors or extensions through 2014 and beyond. In every one of those situations we’ve had transactions that allow us to grow whether it’s prize money on the one hand or charitable dollars on the other.”

photo

Ernie Els celebrates after winning the CA Championship.

Just as one sponsor hole is filled, however, another may be opening.

Finchem confirmed that CA is repositioning some of its marketing and is in the process of making a decision about supporting the tournament. A statement is forthcoming, according to Finchem, who said the Tour would return to Doral next season even if CA departs.

“If they determine to step away as title sponsor of this particular tournament, the World Golf Championships, we will not have difficulty bringing in a new sponsor,” Finchem said. “There is an awful lot of interest and this is obviously a great field, huge global exposure, a great venue, and we’ll move forward.”

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