Sponsor to stay in the picture

Despite a nationwide recession that has claimed many victims, the five-year deal between Chicago-based Northern Trust and the PGA Tour at the Riviera Country Club will continue as planned, event officials said Friday.

“There has been no discussion relative to anything but to fulfill the contract as we go on,” tournament director Thomas Pulchinski said.

Like many financial institutions, Northern Trust received taxpayer aid from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). The company received nearly $1.6 billion in federal investments, according to the U.S. Treasury.

A Northern Trust official was unavailable for comment.


Thanks to the economy, some PGA Tour events have been forced to rethink the display of their title sponsor. At the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic last month in La Quinta, Chrysler’s public presence was toned down, and at times, almost absent. Chrysler, which has recently requested more government aid, has already received $4 billion.

At the Northern Trust Open, organizers said that’s not the case. Signs and objects carrying the Northern Trust logo dot the golf course. But no effort has been made to downplay the title sponsor, despite its government funding.

“You’ve not heard a lot of negative situations with Northern Trust like some of the other banking institutions,” said Pulchinski, who added he has no concern with the title sponsor’s public image.

As part of the sponsorship with Northern Trust, an investment company, the event’s purse jumped from $5.2 million in 2007 to $6.2 million in 2008. This year’s purse is $6.3 million, with nearly $1.1 million for first place.


Paying a penalty

Vincent Johnson, who earned the Charlie Sifford exemption to play in the tournament, missed the cut in part because of a two-stroke penalty on the fifth hole. His ball was ruled to have moved slightly before he hit a chip shot.

Rules officials later caught the mistake thanks to TV footage. Johnson, however, had checked with playing partner Bryce Molder, who thought the ball hadn’t moved, and Johnson played the shot.

“I’m glad they got it right,” said Johnson, 22, who missed the cut by three shots after rounds of 70-74.


Rest is the story

Andres Romero, a relative newcomer to the PGA Tour, credits the past month off in his native Argentina for his tear through the first two rounds.

“I didn’t want to play another tournament and I’d played so badly in Hawaii [in the Sony Open] that I needed a month of rest,” he said.

Romero has shot rounds of 66-70 at Riviera for a six-under total, four off the lead.