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WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will leave Firestone in 2019

By Branson Wright • Apr 12, 2018 at 3:52 PM

AKRON — As expected, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will move to Memphis in 2019 after one final stop at Firestone Country Club in Akron this summer.

The change will end a 19-year relationship.

The move was announced today at a news conference this morning at Firestone by PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, who also announced that the Bridgestone Senior Players tournament will be held at Firestone in 2019 from July 8-14. That contract is through 2022.

The reason for the change is simple.

"You've got to have a sponsor," Monahan said. "Bridgestone's strategy was changing and involving. Once we realized continuation with the WGC wasn't going to happen, we worked hard and they really worked hard as a great partner did and does to try and do everything they could to keep professional golf here again in Northeast Ohio."

The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will move to Memphis in 2019. A news conference is planned there later today.

"We had a great run here at Firestone Country Club with the PGA Tour and a World Golf Championship," Monahan said. "One of the primary reasons it's been a success is because of an exceptional golf course. But continuing to play here was not a reality ... If we didn't have Bridgestone do what they're doing here, step up and bring a major championship to Firestone, we might not be here in 2019."

The Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone, which replaced a World Series of Golf event, debuted in 1999 with NEC as the title sponsor. Bridgestone took over in 2006. Tiger Woods has won the WGC Invitational at Firestone eight times.

In 2002, the WGC Invitational was played in Washington state. Firestone hosted the Senior PGA Championship that year, won by Fuzzy Zoeller.

The Senior Players is one of five majors on the PGA Champions Tour. In its first four years of existence, 1983-86, the Senior Players unfolded at Canterbury G.C. in Beachwood. Arnold Palmer won in 1984-85.

Since a three-year run at Fox Chapel G.C. in Pennsylvania, 2012-14, the Senior Players has been contested at different sites for three straight years. Last season, Scott McCarron won at Caves Valley G.C. in Owings Mills, Md.

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Here is the press release announcing the changes:

The PGA Tour announced today that beginning in 2019, Bridgestone will become the title sponsor for the Senior Players Championship, one of five major championships contested annually on PGA TOUR Champions. The event will be played at Firestone Country Club’s South Course, ensuring professional golf’s 65-year tradition in Northeast Ohio will continue with golf’s legends competing each year. The 2019 tournament will be held the week of July 8-14, with a four-year agreement in place through 2022.

Bridgestone also extended its Official Marketing Partner relationship with the PGA Tour through 2022 and will remain as the “Official Tire of the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions,” with activation at other TOUR events and messaging across tour media properties.

“Bridgestone has been a tremendous partner and valued member of the PGA Tour family since 2005, and we are excited to begin this new journey with them as we bring major championship golf to Northeast Ohio with the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship,” said PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan. “With Firestone Country Club’s South Course as the host venue, golf’s 65-year tradition in Akron will continue.”

The newly-named Bridgestone Senior Players Championship will return to Northeast Ohio for a second time in its 35-year history after being played at Canterbury Golf Club in Beachwood from 1983-1986. In total, the tournament has been played in nine different cities at some of the country’s top venues including The Philadelphia Cricket Club, Caves Valley Golf Club (Baltimore), Fox Chapel Golf Club (Pittsburgh), Westchester Country Club (New York) and Exmoor Country Club (Chicago), which will host the event’s 2018 edition the week of July 9-15.

Along with its stature as a major championship and significance in determining the season-long Charles Schwab Cup champion, the Bridgestone Senior Players will also continue to offer its champion a return trip to the PGA Tour with an exemption into The Players Championship.

“We are incredibly proud to extend our partnership with the PGA Tour and ensure that world-class golf will continue at Firestone Country Club through the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship,” said Gordon Knapp, chief executive officer and president of Bridgestone Americas. “The Akron community and the sport of golf have played significant roles in Bridgestone’s history and will continue to play significant roles in our future, so it is important to us that we carry the sport’s legacy in this area forward. We are excited to work with absolute legends of the sport to start a new chapter in a 65-year tradition of premier golf events that have made so many positive economic and charitable impacts on this community.”

Past champions of the Bridgestone Senior Players include Arnold Palmer (1984-85), Jack Nicklaus (1990), Fred Couples (2011), Bernhard Langer (2014-16) and Scott McCarron, who notched his first senior major title at Caves Valley last year. In 2019, fans can expect the likes of Couples, Langer, Vijay Singh, Colin Montgomerie, John Daly, Steve Stricker and Miguel Ángel Jiménez to be among those vying for the title at a course they’ve all had experience playing in their careers.

In all, 57 of the 78 players who competed in the 2017 Senior Players Championship have competed in either the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational or the NEC World Series of Golf at Firestone Country Club. Most notably, José María Olazábal captured both the 1990 and 1994 NEC World Series of Golf, while Vijay Singh won the 2008 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at 45 years old. Darren Clarke, who will turn 50 this August, won the event’s 2003 edition.

The Bridgestone Senior Players will replace the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, which has been staged at Firestone’s South Course since 2006. The World Golf Championships event will relocate in 2019. This announcement does not impact the 2018 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, which will be contested as scheduled, Aug. 1 to 5.

Ticket and volunteer information for the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship during the week of July 8-14, 2019, will be made available following the 2018 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. For more information, please visit pgatour.com.

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©2018 The Plain Dealer, Cleveland

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