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RBC Hooks Up with PGA of America?

While there’s little info, Sportsbusinessjournal.com is reporting a rumor that has been circulating — that Royal Bank is going to forgo picking up a second PGA Tour event and will instead hook on as a sponsor of the PGA of America, a deal which would likely include the PGA Championship, and the Ryder Cup.

Here’s what SBJ has to say:

The PGA of America is expected to introduce Royal Bank of Canada this week as its new sponsor in the banking category, multiple sources said, making it the first financial institution to make a new, multimillion-dollar commitment to professional golf

What does this mean? If true — and I have sources who suggest it is — it would suggest that RBC is taking a much bigger position in golf — a G4G spy told me that a deal of this nature with the PGA of America is worth not millions, but tens of millions over the terms of the deal (I’m thinking between $20M and $30M over three to five years). It would also suggest that the RBC Canadian Open — which RBC gets for a lower price given its date following the British Open — will stay at its current date, at least until the existing television deal closes in 2012.

In a lot of ways this would accomplish for RBC what the PGA Tour couldn’t do — provide RBC with huge exposure, events that have the best players and the largest audiences, and won’t make the bank beg for players each year. Up until now PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem (who incidently wasn’t the guy in the photo in the Globe and Mail yesterday) has done little to support RBC’s efforts with the Canadian Open — just look at what happened to the Buick event, which went to West Virginia, even though there was no sponsor. Apparently the date wasn’t offered to the Canadian Open, and the way the news came out — leaking during the tournament at Glen Abbey last year — was a slap in the face to RBC’s efforts. With that in mind, a PGA of America deal demonstrates the bank is prepared to be a big player in golf, while not being beholden to the PGA Tour.

If you are Tim Finchem, this deal has to sting. As opposed to having RBC on another PGA Tour event and making them one of the tour’s go-to sponsors, you’ve driven them in another direction. Maybe this was just happenstance and this wasn’t the thinking on RBC’s part — but it looks like the bank showing that it will not have the PGA Tour call the shots when it comes to golf.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

14 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Very odd to me. I can’t believe the tour wasn’t willing to accommodate RBC. I have no inside info on this, but my fear is that they might be less than pleased with the CDN Open. I would be concerned if I were the RCGA.

  • I think RBC made it very clear that Fincham and company were not going to tell them how to spend their money.

    Fincham needs to watch out, his tour could go the way of the LPGA. The writing is on the wall.

  • The Tour has a long history of making poor decisions and thinking they made good ones. Not the least of which is addressing the incredibly weak product value on TV on the PGA Tour vs. the product value of the Champion’s Tour just last week.
    Removing Weir from the group in contention on Sunday (top 8 players) at the Hope, the accumulative PGA Tour victories added up to a meager 2… for a $5M purse. Compare the product value from that of the Champion’s Tour the same day where Tom Watson had a remarkable battle with Fred Couples that came down to the last hole. It was great drama and they played for $1.8M.
    The accumulative PGA Tour victories of those in the contention on Sunday on the old guys Tour from Tom Watson, Fred Couples, Tom Lehman, Hale Irwin, Bernhard Langer, Mark O’Meara and Nice Price et al is close to 100 with a bunch of majors. With all due respect for players on the PGA Tour outside the top 10, their product value cannot justify the dollars spent by sponsors for run of the mill Tour events. Sounds like over valuations of product similar to that prior to big stock market corrections.
    If the Tour doesn’t see a potential problem right now they are not doing a good job. TV ratings will be a great indicator of the decline until Tiger gets back when there will be a spike big-time because of the circus act that it will become. History has a way of repeating itself and the Tour needs to only look back at the dot com bubble, the real estate bubble, the golf course development bubble, the credit card bubble and how they impacted that over valued products have on the markets… I hope the PGA Tour recognize they are on the precipice.
    The Tiger impact can cut both ways for the PGA Tour and if Mickelson isn’t in contention at Torrey Pines this week and all over the TV, it will not be good. Last year Greg Norman said the PGA Tour needs to cut 25-30% across the board and it should start with cutting jobs and salaries at the top all the way down to PGA Tour purses and get ahead of the problem.
    The RBC move is simply brilliant for RBC’s development plans in world banking and it will really reflect poorly on Finchem if the sponsor of one of the longest standing tournaments on Tour (Canadian Open), a world recognized bank that one of the highest capitalizated corporations of all the sponsors of the PGA Tour, wasn’t treated well enough and steped over the PGA Tour to spend tens of millions on the PGA of America.
    Part of the problem… Finchem does need to answer to shareholders.

  • Zokol. It’s great to get your opinions and insights. RT should be paying you. Question for you – if the tour’s “on the precipice”, where does that put the CDN Open?

  • Henrye,
    The RBC Canadian Open has the exact same problem as most other PGA Tour events that don’t draw the heavy weight names. RBC is now simply stepping over the PGA Tour and going straight for the big time and good for them. Is it possible that a PGA Championship could be played in Canada??
    Tour players hear the same story in the media every week if Tiger or Phil aren’t in the field. These tournaments all struggle and don’t get the clout to moves the needle that comes with star power. The average PGA Tour have been deluted over the past number of years and are recognized as having poor fields relative to the dough the put out… they are all in the same boat and subject to a market correction.
    At the moment, the RCGA is in fact better off than most PGA Tour event in this category because their sponsor, RBC is emerging in world banking where many American banks are losing market share and some are folding. Given the current economy in the US and available sponsorships dollars the average PGA Tour event isn’t in a good position.

  • Enjoy Zokol’s comments. I think the RBC should look at how much RBS has lost in their sports forays – between sponsorships and financing dumb projects RBS is tops.

    Zokal pointed out last weekend’s competition between the Champions Tour and the PGA Tour (Champions won 9 and 8). He failed to mention the European Tour which was great TV.

    Why isn’t the Canadian Open on the European Tour? It is the future world tour.

  • I also enjoyed reading Mr. Zokols’ thoughtful and insightful comments, much better than what I was trying to say about the tour.

    Thanks Richard

  • Great to read your comments Mr. Z.

    For years I have felt that Finchem runs matters based on his weekly phone calls with Tiger hence the preference the former Buick event received.

    The reluctant and lame drug testing plus the refusal to support all of the events by way of a once every four or five year policy have long made me question his courage and leadership.

    Good on the RBC for having the balls Finchem doesn’t have.

  • RCGA should pull the Canadian Open from the PGA Tour. Run in between the US and British Opens. Reduce the prize money and whoever comes, comes. Would be nice to have half the field be Canadian. Have the winner of each provinicial amateur get a spot, etc.

    I’m a golfer and a golf fan and I watch 6 tournaments a year on TV – Masters, US Open, British, PGA, Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup and the Canadian Open. I could really care less whether any PGA tournaments are televised (except for the Canadian Open).

  • Wanna fix player attendance at the Canadian Open? Easy.

    Someone sets up a trophy with a big fat cheque for 1st, 2nd and 3rd. Trophy and cash goes to the player with the best finish in the US, British and Canadian Open. Rules are simple….have to play in all three events and make the cut in the Canadian Open.

    Doubt the tour would approve but who cares. Couldn’t stop an “independant” individual / organization from offering such a treat.

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