From the Rough

Golf without discretion

St. Jude Classic faces an uphill battle for survival

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There’s a battle brewing behind the scenes on the PGA Tour and it’s one that could force a long-time tour event to make a decision on the viability of continuing as a tour stop in 2011.

We’ve already touched on the issues plaguing one of the oldest stops on tour — the Verizon Heritage — just a couple of months ago. The tournament, like a number of other events, is without a title sponsor for the upcoming year.

That sort of news has become the norm on tour this year, as countless tournaments prepare for an uncertain future in a volatile market. Like the Heritage event, the St. Jude Classic is facing a similar situation. The event, which has been a staple on tour since 1958, is facing an uncertain future without a title sponsor for 2011.

The event has a September 15th deadline in place to find a title sponsor after going without one this year. Smith and Nephew Orthopedics signed on to be the presenting sponsor in 2010; however, it’s unclear where they stand at the moment when it comes to 2011.

Word on the street says the company could be interested in coming back as a presenting sponsor, which would be nice, but at this point it probably wouldn’t be enough. The PGA Tour doesn’t force the issue that often, but there’s a good chance they’ll tell the Memphis tour event to find a title sponsor or risk closing the doors on the event after 52 years.

Tournament director Phil Cannon distributed letters to players on the first tee, asking them to wear maroon ribbons in support of the tour event: “As you may be aware, the tournament is in danger of losing its place on the PGA Tour,” the letter said. “With that in mind, we are asking you to wear a maroon ribbon to signal your staunch support for our cause.”

So it’s come down to wearing ribbons and asking for support. As hard as it is to believe, the St. Jude Classic could become the poster child for a number of events on tour that are still struggling to find a title sponsor. The cold, hard reality of not having a tour event in Memphis is three months away from becoming a reality.

All the tournament can hope for at this point is a miracle. St. Jude has produced numerous miracles over the years, maybe they can produce another one and save a staple stop on the PGA Tour.

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Written by Jonathan Wall

06/22/2010 at 2:16 pm

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