As sponsor of the Honda Classic, the Japanese automaker is the longest-running title sponsor on the PGA Tour. But after the 2023 edition, it’s no more.
Golfweek confirmed the long simmering rumors: Honda is out as the title sponsor when its deal expires after the final edition of Honda Classic in late February 2023.
Founded in 1972 as the Jackie Gleason’s Inverrary Classic, the tournament went through several sponsors until Honda came on board in 1982.
As part of the annual Florida Swing, the Honda was once considered an attractive stop on the tour, with recent champions including superstars such as Adam Scott (2016), Rickie Fowler (2017) and Justin Thomas (2018). But since 2019, with the decision to compress the schedule and move the Players Championship back to March, it’s been tough sledding for the Honda.
The 2021 (five) and 2022 (twelve) editions of the Honda averaged less than nine top-50 ranked players despite having several top-10 stars who live in northern Palm Beach County.
With the changes to the schedule beginning in January, the Honda will have two elevated events before it — the WM Phoenix Open and the Genesis Invitational — and two following it — Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Players Championship. It makes for a challenging recruiting process — the top players are committed to the elevated events where purses will be $20 million compared to the $8 million for the Honda Classic.
It’s ironic that the lower prize money of the event is part of its demise as the original winner’s share of $52,000 in 1972 made it one of the richest stops on Tour, greater than for any of the four majors, and more than double that of the Masters, which has a first prize of $25,000.
Money quote from anonymous tour pro: “It’s unfortunate that we will lose a loyal sponsor like that, especially one that is pulling out because of the decisions we made, not because their business is struggling or don’t see the value but because we’re sandwiching them in between these elevated events. They’re like, ‘You did us wrong and now we’re gone.’ They’re probably really mad. I’d be.”