Clock ticking for Booz Allen Classic

By Joseph White

Potomac, Maryland - If defending champion Sergio Garcia has his way, the Booz Allen Classic will be around for a while.

"It's such a great city with so much history," he said on Tuesday. "It is a bit of a shame."

The tournament might cease to exist if organisers can't find a new title sponsor soon. Booz Allen's three-year deal expires with this year's tournament, June 22-25. That leaves in limbo the tour's only stop in the Washington area.

Garcia never played the tournament until 2005, when it was held the week before the US Open at Congressional Country Club in a one-year arrangement with the venue.

Garcia is playing this year because he wants to defend his title. But it will be his first time playing the TPC at Avenel, a course that could use an overhaul after drawing searing reviews over the years from the likes of Greg Norman and Nick Price.

"I've always enjoyed defending my titles, and this wasn't going to be any different," Garcia said during a conference call. "I've heard good things about the course."

The field is expected to be less than stellar, with many top names taking the routine week off after a major.

"It's got its good things and its bad things," Garcia said. "The bad thing is you come off the US Open, it's always tough and you might be worn out. The good thing is after being on a US Open course, every course seems easy."

The PGA Tour decided to move the tournament from the spring to the third weekend in September starting in 2007, offering a regular but less prestigious spot on the calendar.

Drawing a marquee field in September will have its challenges. Skinner expects the tournament to be played the week after the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup in alternate years, which might appeal to top players who didn't qualify for those team events.

Booz Allen Hamilton chairperson Ralph Shrader, feeling his company couldn't have the "world-class event" it wanted in the fall, decided not to renew the sponsorship contract.

"Hopefully, over the next several weeks, we'll be able to pull something off," said Steve Skinner, president of Kemper Sports Management, which runs the tournament.

There is also the possibility of a piecemeal arrangement of several sponsors: Booz Allen Hamilton, for example, has said it will put down $1-million (about R6,5-million) as a secondary sponsor next year.

"The tour has agreed to work with us, is holding the date for us," Skinner said. "They'd like to get it wrapped up as quickly as possible, as would we. But sometimes these things take time." - Sapa-AP


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