The state of the PGA address
PALM HARBOR — PGA commissioner Tim Finchem's appearance Wednesday at Innisbrook was part of a series of tournament stops this season, giving him a chance to meet with sponsors and shore up support during tough economic times.
"It's not really by design. … It's a combination of different things," Finchem said. "I think I've been at all but two so far, and I'm out at probably five of the next six."
In response to Greg Norman's suggestion that event purses be cut as a show of good faith, Finchem said he had spoken to Norman but believes it's too early to take such a step and that sponsors have not asked that prize money be reduced.
"I think that we're managing our way through the downturn. … We don't want to react to things that are speculative," he said. "I wouldn't say that we would never do that — and maybe it'll come to that — but right now … we're watching the long-term economic indicators like everyone else, and as things go on, we'll adjust our strategy accordingly."
As for this week's event, Finchem said he is "very pleased" with the commitment of sponsor Transitions Optical, the Pinellas Park eyeglass lens maker. "They may be the most involved title sponsor we have. They're very into pushing along how to make this a better tournament." He said the PGA also is pleased with the improvement that Innisbrook owner Sheila Johnson and her team have made at the resort.
Michael Campbell dropped out with an injured right shoulder. He was replaced by Jimmy Walker. … Michael Bradley, who pulled out Tuesday, has a hip injury.
The team of defending tournament champion Sean O'Hair won Wednesday's pro-am on the Copperhead Course with a score of 12-under 59. His amateur partners were former Bucs linebacker and current team scout Shelton Quarles, Jim Berges and Tom Usher. Usher also won the closest-to-the-pin competition. The teams of Woody Austin, Billy Mayfair and Johnson Wagner were one shot back.
Billy Andrade and John Huston are the only golfers in the Transitions Championship who won the JCPenney Classic mixed-team tournament at Innisbrook before the event switched to a PGA contest in 2000. Huston won in 1988 with fellow Dunedin grad Amy Benz. Andrade won in 1991 with Kris Tschetter. Huston also won the inaugural Tampa Bay Classic in 2000.
Around the tours
The PGA has the only televised event this weekend. Also on the competition schedule: the LPGA Tour's MasterCard Classic on Friday-Sunday in Huixquilucan, Mexico, and the European PGA's Madeira Islands Open today-Sunday in Porto Santo, Portugal. The next Champions Tour's event is the Cap Cana (Dominican Republic) Championship on March 27-29.
The Futures Tour opens its season Friday-Sunday in Winter Haven with the Florida's Natural Growers Charity Classic. Go to duramedfuturestour.com.
Dave Scheiber, Times staff writer