- The Washington Times - Monday, December 4, 2006

12:04 p.m.

Sponsorship finally has reached one of the oldest sports organizations in the country: The U.S. Golf Association today announced a multiyear deal that will make American Express its first corporate partner.

“This is new ground for us,” USGA executive director David Fay said. “We hope this is the beginning of a long relationship with Amex. For some of those elements of the USGA that don’t get much publicity, we hope this relationship helps us. And we’ll do our part to provide Amex with some benefits for its members.”

One of those benefits will be tickets to the U.S. Open. American Express plans to run advertisements this week showing Tiger Woods and the U.S. Open trophy, offering card members who belong to its rewards program a chance to purchase Trophy Club tickets to the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont, which already is sold out.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

American Express had been the title sponsor of a World Golf Championship the past eight years, but that relationship ended two months ago in London when Woods won the event for fifth time.

Though Woods has not signed an extension of his deal with American Express, the world’s No. 1 player made a series of phone calls last week to talk about the USGA’s first corporate partner in its 112-year history.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity,” Woods said. “This is two enormous brands coming together to help golf.”

That doesn’t mean it will be the “American Express U.S. Open” or that the company will take on a stronger presence across Oakmont, Torrey Pines, Bethpage or any of the other U.S. Open venues.

Officials said U.S. Open fans likely won’t notice the partnership while watching the tournament.

“We’re not going to be slapping logos all over the place,” said Jud Linville, president of the U.S. Consumer Card Services Group at Amex. “We’re trying to broaden the appeal of the game.”

The USGA was founded in 1894 and is the governing body of golf in the United States and Mexico. Along with running 13 championships each year, it writes and interprets the Rules of Golf and funds such things as turf-grass research and golf-course maintenance.

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