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SPORTS EXTRA / FOCUS ON GOLF

Tournament Could Move From Riviera

Nissan Open: Event will stay put through 2005, but after that 'anything's possible,' tournament director says.

February 22, 2001|THOMAS BONK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Would the Nissan Open ever drive away from Riviera Country Club? Not any time soon, but Tournament Director Tom Pulchinski won't rule it out.

"We'd hate to leave there," Pulchinski said. "But anything's possible."

The Junior Chamber of Commerce, which runs the tournament, has a contract with Riviera to stage the event at the course through 2005. Nissan's deal as title sponsor of the tournament ends in 2003.

There are a few items that must be addressed for the tournament to continue at Riviera, to remain successful and for Nissan's involvement to remain the same:

* Prize money. There are 16 PGA Tour events with purses of at least $4 million this year, but the Nissan Open isn't one of them. The Nissan Open purse is $3.4 million, up $300,000 from 2000. Pulchinski said the tournament will continue to increase its purse, but doesn't expect the event to top $4 million until 2003, when Nissan's contract as title sponsor is renewed or another title sponsor comes on board.

Pulchinski said when the PGA Tour's new television deal kicks in, more money might trickle down to help boost purses. But he also expects the PGA Tour to ask the title sponsor to expand its contributions to the prize money pool.

* Riviera. There is no question the course itself is one of the most compelling reasons the players show up each year, but there is also no question that it is becoming increasingly difficult to stage the event there because of a lack of available space.

Parking is a huge problem, but it's not the only one. If the club proceeds with its plan to make a double fairway at No. 8, the tournament will lose a concession stand. There are continuing issues trying to squeeze in more CBS equipment trucks, an additional PGA Tour health trailer, more hospitality tents and additional seating.

"Pretty soon, there's too much stuff to stuff in there," Pulchinski said.

* Neighbors. Off-site parking continues to be a difficult problem to solve. Most spectators park at the Veterans Administration lot and are bused to the course. The tournament walks a fine line trying to work out traffic problems with the residents of Pacific Palisades who are inconvenienced by car traffic.

The Nissan Open, the latest incarnation of the Los Angeles Open, has been held at Riviera since 1973 except on two occasions--1983 at Rancho Park when the PGA Championship was held at Riviera and 1998, when the U.S. Senior Open was held at Riviera and the Nissan Open moving to Valencia Country Club.

"I don't see us leaving Riviera unless we can't overcome our problems," Pulchinski said.

And is there a chance of that?

"Anything's possible and everything's possible," he said.

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