Tour's Return to Area Still Up in the Air

By Leonard Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 23, 2007

MARANA, Ariz., Feb. 22 -- PGA Tour officials say they likely will pick a city to host their July 5-8 tournament by the end of next week, and the Washington area remains a viable candidate. But several executives involved in past years with Washington's longtime professional golf event said this week they have doubts the tour will return to the nation's capital this year.

Marty Russo, executive director of Washington Golf Charities, the beneficiary of proceeds from recent Washington tournaments, sent a letter to PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem two weeks ago, but said: "They haven't spoken to me. I've heard they may have a sponsor -- Sprint in Kansas City -- and they may have a foundation, but that's just through the grapevine, nothing official. If that's true, then that's where they'd probably go. We're still very interested, but we've not heard from" the tour.

A tour spokesman discounted any notion that Sprint was involved and said Washington remains a contender, along with Kansas City, Philadelphia, Minneapolis and Portland, Ore.

Ralph Shrader, chairman of Booz Allen, which sponsored Washington's tour event the last three years, said in a telephone interview that no one from the tour has approached him about sponsoring the 2007 event. The date opened up two weeks ago when the International in Castle Rock, Colo., opted out of this year's schedule because a title sponsor could not be found.

"Given the tour's decision to pull the Presidents Cup out of Washington, I don't even know if we're even on their radar screen," Shrader said. "They haven't talked to me at all, and no one has offered encouragement that they're even anxious to talk to us."

The tour has made it known that if Washington is selected, the tournament would not be held at the tour-owned TPC Avenel course in Potomac, site of the previous Washington event for all but two years since 1987. Avenel is scheduled to undergo a major renovation starting this summer. Congressional Country Club, site of the 2009 U.S. Amateur and 2011 U.S. Open, likely would be the tour's first choice, according to sources. But Ben Brundred Jr., a former Congressional club president and chairman of its U.S. Open committee, said the tour has not contacted the club.

"I think their first step is to talk to a potential sponsor, and if any of those stepped up to the plate, that's the city where the tournament would go," Brundred said. "But we haven't heard word one from anyone, and I guess that's a little surprising."

· PGA TOUR: For about an hour earlier this week, Fred Funk was entered in both the Champions Tour event in Florida and the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

He ended up coming south of the border, and sure is glad he did.

Funk birdied five of his first seven holes and finished with an 8-under 62, giving him a two-stroke lead after the first round of the first PGA Tour event in Mexico.

Funk, a winner last month at the Champions Tour's Turtle Bay Championship, is trying to join Craig Stadler as the only players to win a PGA Tour event after winning on the 50-and-over tour.

· LPGA TOUR: Rookie Angela Park, 18, shot a 6-under 66 in windy conditions for a share of the first-round lead with Stacy Prammanasudh at the Fields Open in Kapolei, Hawaii.

Se Ri Pak made a late move to open with a 67, and Meaghan Francella and Kyeong Bae shot 68s.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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