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Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Friday, September 8, 2000



Fatter Sony purse
might lure best pros

SONY. The one and only. It wasn't a surprise that the purse for next January's Sony Open at the Waialae Country Club was significantly increased.

The four-year contract with the PGA Tour called for a purse increase of several hundred thousand dollars each year.

What's surprising is that the next purse increase leap-frogged an eye-opening $1.1 million, instead of one that had been expected.

The total purse for the 2001 Sony Open will be $4 million. Quite a jump, considering it was to be $3.4 million in 2002, the final year of the contract.

So you have to wonder now what the total purse for the 2002 Sony Open will be.

If nothing else, it shows what high-level stakes are involved when dealing with the PGA Tour.

It's no wonder that United Airlines pulled out as title sponsor when it did after the final Hawaiian Open in 1998. The airline company, which has had troubles of its own, knew what direction the prize money in golf was headed.

Up, up and away. The skies became too unfriendly, so it bailed out.

The Sony Corporation came to the rescue of the PGA Tour event at Waialae, starting with the 1999 tournament that had a $2.6 million purse. It was $2.9 million when Paul Azinger won the Sony Open in January for a first-place prize of $522,000.

With the purse increased to $4 million, the 2001 Sony Open winner will get $722,000.

Now, we're almost talking about the kind of money that might interest Tiger Woods, the one and only that Sony would like to see playing in its event.

There's no question why the Sony purse was dramatically increased for next year, according to Tony Guerrero, who heads the Friends of Hawaii Charities that negotiates with the PGA Tour.

"We hope a more attractive purse will attract better players," Guerrero said. "We've had a decent field, but we want guys in the top 10."

Uh, Tony. Forget top 10. Just one guy will do. Give Woods all the PlayStations he wants. Maybe that will sway him to put the Sony Open on the Tiger Tour.

At any rate, the purse increase will put the Sony Open in the top 10 percent of the 48 official tour events in 2001.

"The Sony Open in Hawaii has always been one of the most popular destinations for the PGA Tour players," said Tim Finchem, PGA Tour commissioner.

"The tour is appreciative of the enhancements made last year to the golf course and the $4 million purse, which places the Sony Open in Hawaii among the top purse-level events on our 2001 schedule."

The 2001 event also will have the benefit of being on national network television (CBS).

What happens after 2002 remains to be seen.

The PGA Tour will negotiate its next TV contract for 2003 through 2006 next spring.

Everyone here is hoping that the Mercedes Championships and the Sony Open will continue to be positioned as the opening two events on the tour calendar.

Finchem has said that starting the season in Hawaii with back-to-back tournaments is one of the best moves that the tour has made.



Forget Tiger Woods. According to a Golf World Business consumer survey, Arnold Palmer ranks No. 1 in the golf personality index with Jack Nicklaus second and Woods third.

Palmer ranked first or tied for first in all three criteria - familiarity, likability and credibility. Woods shared No. 1 in familiarity with Palmer and Nicklaus, and was 10th and 19th in credibility and likability, respectively.

Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

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