Fall Finished

Hartford says goodbye, and it won't be the only one
March 20, 2006

The PGA Tour's2007 schedule is downsized, rearranged and topped off by a fancy end-of-seasonextravaganza designed to provide a big bang. We know the Tour's suits got thebig bang part right because--bang!--the B.C. Open and the former GreaterHartford Open are dead, and several other events are on life support.

Under the guiseof progress the Tour may turn into a serial tournament killer. We still don'tknow many details about the FedEx Cup, the Tour's glitzy new playoff system, orwhether it will deliver any long-term excitement or significance, but one thingis certain: The downside of the Tour's grab to keep the big TV money coming isthe equivalent of a death sentence for the tournaments assigned fall dates.

The old GHO,lately known as the Buick Championship, announced last week that autumn won'twork. Buick dropped its sponsorship because of the undesirable dates, and theJaycees, the charitable organization that runs the event, gave the PGA Tour anunprecedented no thanks, saying that they'll look instead to put on an LPGA orChampions tour tournament during the summer. There may be other spikesdropping. The Booz Allen Classic (formerly the Kemper Open) is slated for thefall--or should I say slated for a fall? Others trying to keep on keepin' onare Las Vegas, the Disney, the Texas Open and the Southern Farm Bureau Classic.How many of these events will still be around in 2010? I don't know, but I canguarantee that not all of them will be.

It's sad to seethe GHO go. The tournament produced a ton of history, lore and goodwill ($25million raised for area charities). It started out as the Insurance City Openin 1952, and its early winners included Billy Casper, Arnold Palmer and SamSnead. Sammy Davis Jr. put his name on the tournament from '73 to '84 asHartford became a significant Tour stop. Paul Azinger has won twice, once witha dramatic chip-in. Phil Mickelson won back-to-back titles. Need more vauntedvictors? How about Greg Norman, Nick Price, Curtis Strange, Lee Trevino andLanny Wadkins?

Once the eventleft the sporty Wethersfield Country Club for the wide-open spaces of the TPCof Connecticut (later renamed TPC at River Highlands), the GHO routinely packedin crowds of 60,000-plus a day. So why did such a successful tournament get thebum's rush?

Hartford isn't amajor market; nearby Boston is. In 2003 the Tour launched the Deutsche BankChampionship, which takes place in Norton, Mass., over the Labor Day weekend.All the charitable proceeds of the Deutsche Bank go to the Tiger WoodsFoundation, and the event is run by IMG, which represents Woods. Guess who hasnever played in Hartford but hasn't missed a Deutsche Bank?

Bang! You gotit.

TRUST ME

by JAMES P. HERRE

David Toms and Luke Donald are proof that shotmakingis still alive on Tour.

PHOTOBETTMANN/CORBIS SEE YA,BABE
In the 1970s and '80s Davis (with '73 winner Casper) fronted Hartford's Tourevent.
ILLUSTRATIONChris Eliopoulos, Writer; Michael Penick, Artist; Chris Sotomayor, Color

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)