Farmers Insurance returns, Tiger still out

March 15, 2010

When PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem scheduled a news conference on Monday afternoon, speculation centered on Tiger Woods and whether an announcement on his return was forthcoming. Instead, Finchem announced that Farmers Insurance had agreed to sponsor San Diego's PGA Tour event for four additional years.

Regarding Woods, Finchem basically reiterated what he had said at the WGC-CA Championship over the weekend. "We have the general information that Tiger's preparing to play and there's been a lot of speculation as to when he might come out," Finchem said. "I don't have the specific date."

Farmers Insurance, meanwhile, did not base its decision to continue to sponsor the Farmers Insurance Open based on Woods' history in the tournament and the fact that he would likely be playing in it next year, Farmers Insurance CEO Bob Woudstra said.

"When we evaluated this we did not make an evaluation on any one player," Woudstra said. "Obviously we know Tiger's a big force on the tour. It's never going to be one person who makes or break something."

Woods has won the tournament six times, including four in a row from 2005-2008. He also won the U.S. Open on the South Course at Torrey Pines in 2008. He did not play in '09 because of injury and in '10 because he was on his indefinite leave.

The tournament was on the verge of going forward without a sponsor when Farmers Insurance stepped up 10 days prior to the event in January. Known the previous 14 years as the Buick Invitational, the tournament was left without a sponsor when General Motors filed for bankruptcy in 2009.

"It's a very solid deal financially," Finchem said of the contract it now has with Farmers Insurance. "We're very pleased with the commitment of Farmers. It will allow us to increase the purse, starting next year, and will get it squarely in range with purse levels at that time of the year on the PGA Tour."

The purse will go from $5.3 million in 2010 to $5.8 million in 2011.

-- John Strege