The PGA Tour’s Championship Management division is on the verge of assuming control of one of its tournaments and it might not be the last as it shifts into an era of additional for-profit business ventures.
Golfweek has learned that the Tour told employees at the tournament formerly known as the Honda Classic, which has been tentatively re-named The Classic in The Palm Beaches, that it is taking ownership of the event and that employees would be kept on through at least this year’s tournament but will become Tour employees. Once the ink is dry on the contract, the Tour is expected to name Cognizant as a new title sponsor to replace the Japanese automaker.
The Tour has played at PGA National Golf Club since 2007 – and that will continue into the future – when IGP Sports & Entertainment Group assumed management of the event, bringing Barbara and Jack Nicklaus into the fold and with Children’s Healthcare Charity Inc., a 501-C3, as the host organization. In 2013, IMG Worldwide acquired IGP, and has run the event ever since. The Honda Classic was founded in 1972 as the Inverrary Classic with Jackie Gleason as its host.
Honda became the title sponsor in 1982 but, as first reported by Golfweek, said the 2023 edition would be its final year in that role. At the time, it was the longest-running sponsor on the Tour. According to a tournament director who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Honda was willing to pay $13 million per year to renew as title sponsor but balked when the Tour played hardball and demanded $15 million.
“The Tour thought it had a replacement waiting in the wings that was willing to pay the 15 (million) they were asking but they backed out,” the same source said.
Staffers were told that the Tour’s decision to assume management of the event had to do with the failure to find a new title sponsor willing to pay the bills. But sources tell Golfweek that T-Mobile was set to sign a deal late last year to become the title sponsor as early as 2023 but that deal was squashed by AT&T, which is the Tour’s Official Marketing Partner in the telecommunications space and the longtime title sponsor of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. (At the time, AT&T was also the title sponsor of the AT&T Byron Nelson.)
A PGA Tour spokesperson confirmed that the event is close to…