Astros owner takes control of Houston Open

Golf


The Houston Open will not be on the PGA Tour schedule next season as it prepares for a move to the fall under the guidance of Astros owner Jim Crane.

The PGA Tour announced Tuesday that it has a five-year agreement with the Astros Foundation to run the Houston Open starting in the fall of 2019. The date of the tournament was not announced. The prize money will be $7.5 million.

The Astros Foundation will use a consortium of local sponsors for financial support of the tournament.

The Houston Open has been without a title sponsor since Shell Oil declined to renew its contract after the 2017 tournament. The Houston Golf Association ran it without a title sponsor this year, and the tour struggled to find a replacement.

The move to the fall opens a spot on next year’s schedule for the 3M Championship in Minnesota to move to the PGA Tour. The Minnesota event has been a PGA Tour Champions event since 1993.

Minnesota would give the PGA Tour two new markets for the 2018-19 season, which is being tightened to end the FedEx Cup a week before Labor Day. Quicken Loans already has announced its new tournament at Detroit Golf Club next June.

Still to be determined is the schedule between the PGA Championship in May through the British Open in July. That part of the schedule includes where to put Detroit, Minnesota and the Canadian Open.

The announcement also means the Houston Golf Association is no longer the host organization of the Houston Open after 72 years. The HGA already has been cutting its staff, though executive director Steve Timms said it will remain active in its successful junior golf programs — which includes The First Tee — amateur tournaments and a municipal golf project to restore city golf courses in Houston.

“We’ll make adjustments going forward,” Timms said. “PGA Tour golf needs to be in Houston.”

Crane said money raised from the Houston Open will allow the Astros Foundation to extend its commitment to the city and country and to help improve Houston’s parks. The Astros Foundation is the team charity of the Houston Astros.

The Houston Open dates to 1946 when Byron Nelson won at River Oaks Country Club. It took a risk in 2007 by moving from May to the week before the Masters, and it paid off when Augusta National began awarding invitations to winners of PGA Tour events. It became the last chance to get into the Masters, and it attracted players such as Phil Mickelson who prefer to play the week before a major.

Ian Poulter won this year, one week after being mistakenly told he was in the Masters. His title defense would not be until 2019, possibly in October.

Next season will be the first time the Houston Open is not part of the PGA Tour season since 1969, when it was held at Champions Golf Club. Champions hosted the U.S. Open that year.



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