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Original Issue

Game Stopper

A giant tour sponsor walks

THE ECONOMY andpro golf collided at full speed last week, leaving visible holes in the gameand frayed nerves everywhere. The Ginn Company, the Florida-based real estateand resort developer, pulled its sponsorship of the Ginn sur Mer Classic (PGATour), Ginn Championship (Champions) and Ginn Open (LPGA), and all three toursexpressed dismay at the sudden withdrawal. "We had no forewarning that Ginnwas planning to cancel the 2009 Ginn Championship at Hammock Beach," theTour said in a statement, while LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens said, "Weare extremely disappointed and surprised by yesterday's announcement.... We hadbeen led to believe by the Ginn Company that the event would be held asscheduled in 2009." Ginn president and CEO Robert Gidel found thestatements disingenuous, saying, "We've been working with these people formore than a year, actively seeking subsponsors and new sponsors and hiringoutside firms to help reduce costs. You get to a point where you can't keeptalking. You have to do something. It wasn't a surprise." Asked about thecontention that Ginn had promised that the '09 events were safe, Gidel letloose. "Unless everyone else lives in a different world than we do—andwe're in the center of the financial meltdown—we would love to say, 'I'm goingto do that and stick with it.' But we wake up every day and deal with the worldwe're in. We all want to be successful, and this whole thing is sad andembarrassing to even have to talk about, but we've had to make some reallyhorrific decisions." It may not be that simple, though. Ginn's contractwith the PGA Tour runs through 2011, and its LPGA deal covered 2009. Ginn'smove undercuts the contention that binding arrangements would see pro golfthrough the downturn and raises the possibility of legal action. "They haveto do what they have to do," Gidel said, before adding, "It would beunfortunate." Later that afternoon the PGA Tour announced that it was suingGinn. The LPGA has had no further comment.

• WORD ON thefloor at last week's PGA Merchandise Show had it that Nike plans to distributethousands of red T-shirts that say SUNDAYS ARE BACK at the tournament site whenTiger Woods makes his return from knee surgery. Nike wouldn't confirm thepromotion, nor would it say when Woods will tee it up. Whenever that is, itcould be the first time in years that Woods steps on a course and blends intothe crowd.

• VINCENTJOHNSON, a first-year pro on the Gateway tour, will play in the Northern TrustOpen Feb. 19--22 at Riviera Country Club near Los Angeles after being awardedthe Charlie Sifford exemption, named for the PGA Tour's Jackie Robinson andgiven to a player who advances diversity in the game.... He may have skippedthe FBR Open, but Jim Furyk still won on Sunday. The lifelong Steelers fan, whohad gone to six games this season and both playoff appearances, was in Tampafor Super Bowl XLIII.

Alan Shipnuck'sHot List, exclusively at

"I left Orlando dazzled by an innovation."

Rory McIlroy's World Ranking, making him the second player to hit the top 20before age 20.


Did the TPC Scottsdale seem a little different lastweek?

"It might play a little tougher than it has in thepast. They've narrowed the fairways a little bit, and the rough is prettythick."

"I don't know relative to the past. I thought itplayed very fair. The course is in great shape. It's a good, fair test."




ROR-ING IN After Mark O'Meara said Rory McIlroy's ball striking was ahead of Tiger Woods's at the same age, the 19-year-old from Northern Ireland won for the first time as a pro, at the Dubai Desert Classic.



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