Tour Championship gets East Lake extension, limits TV ads

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Tour Championship gets East Lake extension, limits TV ads

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Spectators crowd the 9th green during the third-round of the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in 2012. PHIL SKINNER / PSKINNER@AJC.COM

The East Lake Golf Club, the permanent site of the Tour Championship since 2004, has received an extension to host the tournament through 2020.

The PGA Tour made the announcement Wednesday, along with news that the final day of the tournament will be aired with extremely limited commercial interruption thanks to a new “proud partner” arrangement between Coca-Cola and the Southern Company.

“To have it now for another five years, it’s good stuff,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. “The changes are all very exciting.”

All but four minutes of the final three hours of NBC’s broadcast on Sunday will be commercial free. When the final twosome makes the turn on the last day, all commercials will cease.

“That’s nirvana for our fans,” Finchem said. “Once the last three or four groups reach the 10th hole, you won’t have another advertisement, which means you can really tell the story.”

It gives the Tour Championship a chance to build the drama on the final holes, which is expected to intensify now that organizers have flipped the nines. Instead of finishing on a long, difficult par-3, players will complete play on a par-5 hole that offers a chance to make a birdie.

“The fan knows this is a hole that something can happen,” Finchem said. “It lifts the entire excitement there at the end. It creates more volatility and fans recognize this.”

Finchem said his dream scenario on Sunday afternoon would be a close finish that results in a playoff. The Tour Championship has been decided by a playoff three times at East Lake — 1998 with Hal Sutton, 2008 with Camilo Villegas and 2011 with Bill Haas.

“You always want to see a good bunching on the leaderboard on Sunday and have guys coming down with a chance to win,” Finchem said. “Fundamentally, you always want to have a playoff. Everybody loves to watch a playoff.”

The limited commercial arrangement was made possible by Coke and the Southern Company agreeing to share the branding on promotions and marketing, as well as the broadcast leaderboards and vignettes.

“The cool thing about this is the companies are terrific and want to make it special,” Finchem said.

Coca-Cola was the presenting sponsor of the Tour Championship from 2001-10 and has been the title sponsor since 2011. Southern Company joins with Coke as a “proud sponsor,” similar to the model used at the Players Championship.

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