Given the PGA Tour’s recent decision to designate 13 tournaments on the 2023 schedule as “elevated events” — meaning the purse size of each will swell to $20 million — it seemed like it was only a matter of time before tournament sponsors of mere “regular” Tour stops opted to walk.
On Friday, Golfweek reported that Honda, the longest-running title sponsor on the PGA Tour, will no longer support the once-popular Honda Classic, which is currently played at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. The 2023 edition of the tournament in February will be Honda’s last, ending a 42-year run.
“When Honda became title sponsor of the Honda Classic, the company was preparing to make the Accord popular in the United States for the first time,” a Honda official said in a statement to Golfweek. “At that time Honda aspired to become a household name, and has since achieved that goal. Accordingly, the role of the Honda Classic in our marketing strategy has evolved, and we have decided to conclude our sponsorship of the event. Now, as our marketing mix has evolved, Honda is focused on other tools to introduce our brand to consumers and to create the kind of customer experience that will contribute to their lifetime owner loyalty.”
The PGA Tour announced its elevated events schedule in an effort to dissuade players from leaving the Tour for LIV Golf, which has enticed a number of top players away from the PGA Tour with the promise of guaranteed money and the opportunity to compete for millions more.
The 2023 Honda Classic begins on February 23 — right after back-to-back elevated events at the WM Phoenix Open and the Genesis Invitational, both of which offer $20 million purses. The Honda’s purse is $8.4 million, and the tournament is followed by two more elevated events: the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Players Championship, which boasts the Tour’s richest prize money, with a purse of $25 million. Given the cadence of the schedule, it’s unlikely that the Tour’s top players will play for five straight weeks, and you can probably guess where they’ll opt to take a week off.
The Honda Classic had long enjoyed a field of top Tour stars, many of whom call South Florida home. But the Players Championship’s move to March in 2019 dampened participation in recent years, even from local players, who opted to rest at home ahead of the Players instead.
The good news for “regular” events like the Honda is that the PGA Tour has made it clear that the 2023 schedule of elevated events is locked in for this year only. The strategy for 2024 and beyond, which will see the Tour return to a calendar-year season, is still being evaluated.