Furyk says hopeful buzz about Heritage sponsor

Jim Furyk noticed there were several more politicians and

decision makers on hand than usual when he arrived at Harbour Town

Golf Links. And the Heritage defending champion hopes that means

good things for the tournament’s future.

The Heritage, played here since 1969, might not return in 2012

if it doesn’t find a title sponsor to underwrite the approximately

$8 million a year to hold the event. Verizon, its backer since

1987, pulled out after last year’s tournament.

”Everyone seems positive,” Furyk said on Wednesday. ”I know

they’re working together and working very hard to find a sponsor.

I’m not sure what the hang-up is or what you can really find wrong

with the area or the golf course.”

Furyk doesn’t see much wrong, especially after the FedEx Cup

champion’s Heritage victory last spring. He won in a playoff when

Brian Davis called a two-stroke penalty on himself for touching a

loose reed in the hazard area left of the course’s signature

lighthouse hole, No. 18.

Furyk has had five top-10 finishes at Harbour Town, including

the win, two seconds and a fourth, since 2003.

”It’s on a very short list of my favorite events, probably my

top three,” said the former U.S. Open champion. ”I had a couple

of close calls here, and an event I always wanted to win before my

career was over. It was nice to close the door last year and

finally get that done.”

Furyk will have several top competitors trying to keep him from

another victory. Luke Donald, No. 3 in the world, heads a field

that includes seven players in the top 20. Graeme McDowell (No. 5)

and Matt Kuchar (No. 10) are also entered. The others are Furyk

(No. 13), Ernie Els (No. 15), Ian Poulter (No. 16) and Francesco

Molinari (No. 19).

Also in the field is Jason Day of Australia, who tied for second

at the Masters and is playing for the first time since that

dramatic Sunday at Augusta National.

Andy Pazder, U.S. PGA Tour executive vice president and chief

operating officer, says the field won’t hurt the cause courting

potential sponsors this week. Player after player told Pazder how

much they enjoy coming to Pete Dye’s layout on Calibogue Sound and

Camilo Villegas changed his schedule to make sure he teed off at

Harbour Town.

”We are extremely confident we can find a long-term partner and

title sponsor here,” Pazder said. ”We’ve got a number of active

discussions under way.”

The Heritage Classic Foundation used $4 million from its

reserves for this year’s tournament. Local governments have also

pitched in $1 million.

Furyk would hate to see the Heritage disappear – and not just

because he’s earned more than $2.3 million in prize money in 12

trips to Harbour Town.

Losing this event ”probably sends a false message, in my

opinion, that the tour isn’t as strong as it has been,” he

said.

Day thinks he and his competitors will do their parts to get

people talking about Harbour Town. ”Hopefully, we can get some

good play this week and hopefully, we can pick up a sponsor,” he

said.