Hyundai nearing PGA Tour sponsorship

Geoff Ogilvy tees off on the 18th hole at Kapalua during the 2010 SBS Championship.

Geoff Ogilvy tees off on the 18th hole at Kapalua during the 2010 SBS Championship.

Hyundai is close to assuming title sponsorship of the SBS Championship at Kapalua in January.

The Tour has been in talks with Hyundai for some time, and now a deal apparently is tantalizingly close, according to three sources who have been closely following the situation. The car manufacturer initially had surfaced as a potential sponsor to replace Buick at the PGA Tour’s San Diego stop as well as CA at Doral.

However, Hyundai officials are being tight-lipped for the moment.

“At this time, Hyundai has no comment concerning any sports sponsorships,” said Chris Hosford executive director of corporate communications for Hyundai Motor America.

Nancy Cross, tournament director of the SBS Championship, declined to comment, saying: “Nothing is finalized.”

SBS, which stands for Seoul Broadcasting Systems and is the only private commercial broadcaster in Korea, signed a 10-year deal to keep the Tour’s season-opening, winners-only event at Kapalua through 2019. SBS, which also signed a multiyear deal for the Tour’s broadcast rights in Korea, agreed to the long-term sponsorship of the tournament, but from the outset had hoped to find a replacement, according to sources.

If Hyundai finalizes a deal, it would become the third automaker to make the Tour a cornerstone of their marketing efforts, joining foreign-makers Honda and BMW. In its heyday, autos – arguably more than any other industry – supported golf. Just seven years ago, 11 Tour events were sponsored by automotive companies, or more than one in three Tour events with a title sponsor. That figure dropped to six in 2007 before plummeting to just two this season.

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