Not going anywhere
Shell Houston Open makes a Final Four week power play: Commits through '17,brings in NASCAR's Kurt Busch
It's destined to be forever overshadowed by the Final Four this week, but the Shell Houston Open put on its own power display Tuesday, showing it intends to be around impacting this town long after the last basketball bounces in college basketball's mega event.
First, Shell announced that it was extending its sponsorship of the tournament through 2017 Tuesday afternoon.
Then on Tuesday night at the Shell Legacy Dinner, the oil giant brought outs its big sports gun with NASCAR star Kurt Busch attending the event that saw James Baker III receive the legacy award. Busch is sticking around to play in the pro-am Wednesday before jetting back to Charlotte to return to his team and an already grueling Sprint Cup Series points race (Busch will race Martinsville Sunday).
Busch is signed to a multi-year contract with Shell/Pennzoil as the primary sponsor of his No. 22 Penske racing car.
But that relationship has nothing on the long-standing one between Shell and the Houston Open. While the contract extension was expected at some point, (Shell was already signed on for next year's tournament and never gave any indication it didn't plan to continue), the company showed the strength of its commitment by re-upping a year early.
The Houston Open is the 10th oldest tournament on the PGA Tour and having sponsored it since 1992, Shell is the third-longest running sponsor in pro golf.
"The Shell Houston Open has given our event great stability," Steve Timms, president and CEO of the Houston Golf Association, said in a statement.
The Houston Open has gained stature on the Tour in recent years, turning the fact that it's played the week before the Masters into an advantage rather than a minus by mimicking the course conditions the players can expect to see at Augusta. The switch has brought star-studded fields in recent years, with nine of the top 20 ranked players in the world competing this week, including defending Masters champion Phil MIckelson, who tees off at 12:40 p.m. Thursday in the first round.
It also brought in one star stock car diver.
Busch told CultureMap's Nic Phillips that he loves Houston and came to the city for the 2004 Super Bowl, the last time H-Town hosted an event of the Final Four's headline-grabbing magnitude.
Instead of trying to compete with the Final Four, the Shell Houston Open highlighted its longevity. It will still be here next year when the Final Four's moved on, in 2016 when the Final Four returns and after that.