Commissioner Tim Finchem said last night the PGA Tour is committed to keeping a tournament in the Washington area and likely will announce plans this summer of a significant makeover of the TPC at Avenel, site of the area's tour stop since 1987.
"We need to figure out a vision that gives us something special," Finchem said. "We think it can come together and it's realistic and we're excited about the possibilities."
Finchem was at Congressional Country Club, site of this year's Booz Allen Classic, and met for 45 minutes last night with Booz Allen Chairman Ralph W. Shrader. Booz Allen is committed to being the title sponsor of the tournament through the 2006 event, and the company and the tour have been in discussions about an extension of their contract, perhaps for as many as eight years.
Shrader said last month that unless the tour upgrades Avenel and the tournament into what he described as a first-class facility and event, his company would not be interested in remaining as the title sponsor. Finchem said last night the tour was prepared to meet those expectations, including the possibility of ensuring the company a better date on the schedule.
This week, the tournament has drawn a world-class field to a major championship venue at Congressional, including eight of the top 10 players in the world rankings, because it is being played the week before the U.S. Open. Next year, the tournament is scheduled the week after the Open back at Avenel and likely will not draw the same kind of quality field.
"We are looking at a date philosophy that will support our vision" for the tournament, Finchem said, declining to be more specific. The tour likely will not announce its schedule beyond the 2006 season until it signs new network and cable television deals. Those negotiations are expected to begin this summer and conclude in the fall.
There has been speculation that the tour might cut back on the overall number of tournaments and restructure the schedule somewhat, including the possibility of moving the Players Championship, its marquee event, from March to May.