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.