The future for Washington’s PGA Tour stop, long associated with Tiger Woods and his charitable foundation, could be in jeopardy with Quicken Loans reportedly set to sponsor an event in Detroit beginning in 2019.
The National has been held in the Washington area almost every year since 2007, staged by and the benefiting the Tiger Woods Foundation. But without a title sponsor, this year could mark its last in Washington. Quicken Loans served as the event’s title sponsor from 2014 until last year and, according to a report Tuesday in the Detroit News, will sponsor a PGA Tour event next year in Detroit, where the mortgage firm, founded by Dan Gilbert, is headquartered.
An official associated with the event said talks with the PGA Tour are ongoing and it’s too early to rule out a tour stop in Washington in 2019. But with no title sponsor in place and Detroit set to take over a prime spot on the calendar, time is running out to keep the PGA Tour in the District, which has hosted a tour event almost ever year dating back to 1980.
Officials with the PGA Tour, Tiger Woods Foundation and Quicken Loans did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday. The Detroit News report didn’t cite any officials connected with Woods’s foundation or the Tour but did quote Jay Farner, the chief executive of Quicken Loans.
“We’re heavily invested in Detroit, and this fits our broader mission,” he told the News. “We try to do stuff that’s never been done before, and do it big. We’re planning to make this really a Detroit event, celebrating all that’s going on here, and having golf be the center or focal point.”
The National is scheduled for June 28-July 1 at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm. Woods, a two-time winner of the event, announced in March that he’d be among the golfers in the field this year, his first time playing in the tournament he hosts since 2015.
The addition of a Detroit tour stop is not yet official, but Casey Hurbis, chief marketing officer for Quicken Loans, told the News that the company is in the “final stages of finalizing the agreement.”
“We’re walking up the 18th fairway, we haven’t tipped our cap yet, but we’re just a wedge away,” he said. “We’re dang close to the green, with a two-shot lead, in the middle of the fairway.”
The National’s future in D.C. has been in doubt for much of the past year. The event had been known as the AT&T National from 2007 until 2013. Quicken Loans sponsored it the past three years but that deal expired following the 2017 event, which Kyle Stanley won last July. Congressional Country Club was contractually obligated to host the stop in 2018 and ’20, but without a sponsor, the PGA Tour exercised its right to exit the agreement.
Woods and his foundation have been actively searching for a sponsor to replace Quicken Loans and keep the event in Washington.
“We’ve been here for so long, and the tournament is an important fundraiser for the foundation,” Rick Singer, the president and chief executive of the Tiger Woods Foundation, told The Washington Post last September. “We have a lot of important people looking at this. Selling a title isn’t a simple task, but it’s really important that we’re here in D.C. We have a history here. Having a tournament cements our presence here.”
A move to Detroit had long been rumored. Gilbert, who also owns the Cleveland Cavaliers, had made no secret of his desire to host a PGA Tour event closer to where his company is based. The tour released its 2017-18 schedule in September, slotting the National for the end of June and initially listing the city and course as “to be announced.”
“We’re in a position where we’ve got to put forward the schedule and that’s why we’ve put the National on the brand,” PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said at the time. “We need to conclude those discussions with Quicken, but you also need to maintain your flexibility, because whether or not Quicken steps up, we need to have all of our options in the event that a sponsor is looking . . . in a different direction or we’re going to take the tournament in a different direction.”
“It’s a matter of trying to be in a market that’s been very good to us. And if we get to a place where we can’t accomplish that, then you’ve got to look at what those alternatives are and what fits best,” he said.
Washington has long been a featured stop on the PGA Tour. The Kemper Open moved from Charlotte to Congressional in 1980, relocating to TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm in 1987. It was known as the Booz Allen Classic from 2004 to ’06, and that’s when Woods’s team took over the event and landed AT&T as a flagship sponsor.
The National has been played in the Washington area every year since, except for a detour to suburban Philadelphia in 2010 and ’11, while Congressional prepped for the 2011 U.S. Open.
Even without Quicken Loans on board, Woods’s team had expressed optimism as recently as last fall that the event would find a sponsor that would allow the National to remain in Washington.
“We hope to be back,” Singer said. “We have a couple of great golf courses in the area, a lot of us live here, and D.C. has become an important part of what the foundation is about. We see ourselves as a national organization, and D.C. fits that perfectly.”
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that the National has been held in the District almost every year since 2007. It has been held at courses in suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia.
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