PGA Tour considering permanent event in Philadelphia area

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PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem called Philadelphia "a terrific sports town with a terrific economy." (Barbara Johnston/AP)

For whatever reasons, the Philadelphia market has gone way too long between PGA Tour events. Twice, actually.

There was the 20-year drought between the end of the IVB Classic and the short-lived SEI Pennsylvania Classic. Then another decade passed before the AT & T National began its 2-year rental run at Newtown Square's Aronimink Golf Club, while suburban Washington's Congressional Country Club hosted a U.S. Open.

After the last putt falls Sunday, the PGA Tour will be leaving this area once again. So how much time will go by before it returns?

Commissioner Tim Finchem spoke yesterday. And that void became, not shockingly, one of the topics.

"First, thanks again Aronimink, the members here, for their hospitality and for the hard work they put in preparing for [the tournament] playing here last year and this year," he said. "Appreciate it . . .

"I think the support and involvement [with the entire community] has been fantastic. We certainly weren't surprised by that, for two reasons: One, this is a terrific sports town with a terrific economy of its own; secondly, the PGA Tour hasn't been here in a while, and we have a strong fan base here. And third, in our early discussions with the leadership here at Aronimink, there was terrific enthusiasm as well. So the fact that there's been support has not been surprising.

"The fact that it's happened . . . does certainly lead us to conclude that we would definitely like to continue an involvement here in Philadelphia, and we're actively looking for ways to do that. We have a full schedule right now, but sometimes we're moving tournaments around, doing things. We recognize that the U.S. Open is coming here [to Merion, in Ardmore, in 2013]. And that's good. But this is a place where you don't want to be gone very long. That's not good for the sport. So we'll be looking into that."

Several things go into finding a match. You need a sponsor willing to make a serious investment, a worthy course and a date that works. The sponsor doesn't necessarily have to be from this area. There are several courses that could probably be a viable host venue. It's no secret that after this, Aronimink is much more inclined to seek a major. And it's hard to have an event around here that's not in the summer. That leaves a pretty small window, given the fact that nobody wants a week before or after a major. May is tough because the weather might not cooperate in terms of getting a course ready. And September is football season, although a FedEx playoff event would obviously be attractive fieldwise.

The Tour just extended its agreement with one such tourney, the New York-based Barclays, though 2016. The earliest anything could happen appears to be 2014, since the Tour would rather not compete against the 2013 Open. And the reality is it could always take longer depending upon all the variables.

It's not just as simple as saying you want something in Philly and picking out a slot on the calendar.

"We just made an adjustment in the AT & T National to accommodate the USGA in Washington, so it probably doesn't make a lot of sense to get something going here before [Merion]," Finchem agreed. "Based on that, it's not something that's driven by, 'OK, where is our cycle going to be in '13.' But we'll be looking for opportunities."

Even in these still-tough monetary times.

"We're really pleased with the momentum we've had," Finchem said. "If you look back 3 years with the economic crisis that occurred, we all were concerned about the extent to which we could go into that and hopefully come out of it stronger than when we went in, and it would appear that has been the case. That doesn't mean we don't have challenges ahead. The economy still is in a very iffy posture. But certainly we feel like the base has now been laid so that we can look out 5 or 6 years with a lot of positive anticipation."

So is it asking too much for Philly to somehow be a part of that? *