[ PROFESSIONAL GOLF ]
Mercedes extends contract with Kapalua
The Mercedes Championships will return to the Plantation Course in Kapalua, Maui, for four more years, a person familiar with the deal confirmed last night.
An official announcement will be made today through Mercedes and the PGA Tour. It is the third major professional golf contract in Hawaii to be nailed down in the past few months. The other two were the Sony Open in Hawaii last year and the Grand Slam event on Kauai renewed for one year last week.
The final piece of the puzzle for Mercedes was negotiating the television part of the contract with the Golf Channel. Since moving to Kapalua in 1999, ESPN has been the broadcast partner for the Mercedes Championships, which is a winners-only event for golfers from the previous year.
The Golf Channel will also broadcast the Sony Open and the Bob Hope as part of the new 2007 contract with the PGA Tour. It's likely the Golf Channel will continue to expand its role since ESPN is no longer part of the equation, but that will require a major upgrade since the Golf Channel has a penetration rate of about 70 percent of homes, compared to approximately 90 percent for ESPN.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it's likely to be in the same ballpark as the last contract, which was $21 million over four years. The 2006 tournament had a purse of $5.4 million, but only two of the top five players in the world were there in Sergio Garcia and Vijay Singh. Missing were world No. 1 Tiger Woods, No. 3 Phil Mickelson and No. 4 Retief Goosen. Because Ernie Els didn't win last year, he was also out of the elite field.
That made it a bit difficult for the PGA Tour to negotiate a contract. Many of the world's best players sat this one out in favor of beginning their campaigns in Southern California. Mercedes wanted some assurances that this last event was an anomaly. Woods is expected to return next year. He has already qualified with his win in the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines. So have Stuart Appleby (Mercedes), David Toms (Sony Open), Chad Campbell (Bob Hope Chrysler Classic), J.B. Holmes (FBR Open), Arron Oberholser (Pebble Beach National Pro-Am) and Rory Sabbatini (Nissan Open).