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Eleven years can seem like forever. Especially in the golf business.

"If you look on the PGA Tour and try to figure out how many sponsors have been around with the same tournament for that long, it would be very, very, very few," Jim Furyk said yesterday at The ACE Club in Lafayette Hill, where on June 8 he will host his 11th annual Exelon Invitational.

There aren't many events like this anymore. Last year, it raised some $300,000 for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia, bringing the overall contributions to roughly $1.5 million.

Once again, Furyk has put together a marquee field to join him: Anthony Kim, Kenny Perry and Paul Casey. Kim might be the best young American golfer. Perry has won four times in the last 10 months, and last week nearly captured the Masters at age 48. England's Casey won in Houston the week before Augusta, his first victory on these shores after winning nine times internationally.

The Philadelphia area, of course, has no PGA Tour stop. But for 2 years starting in 2010, Tiger Woods will bring his AT & T National from the nation's capital to Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square in early July.

This is the final year of the contract between Furyk and Exelon. What that means for the future is, well . . .

"I'm riding the fence [at the moment]," Furyk said. "How's that [for an answer]? Optimistic's a bad word. I'm not pessimistic, either. Economically, a lot of things need to happen. Our sponsors have been here; we've had a great relationship. I can't thank them enough for what we've done for all this time. We'll have to see how they feel about it.

"There's a lot of different entities [involved] . . . with Exelon being the most important. There's another whole slew of sponsors under that. I have a list at home, with close to 20 [names]. Who they are, how many years they've been with us. For some it's been 8, 9, even 10 years. A lot of longstanding [ties]. But a lot of companies just can't spend money on entertainment anymore."

And . . .

"Tiger's coming," he continued. "I would assume we're going after the same sponsors. I'm not really worried about that. I'm worried about the economy, and golf in general right now. We're losing a lot of sponsors on tour. That's what really scares me. We need to figure out [how to proceed].

"I'm not worried about the competition as much. That sometimes works hand in hand. It's like building a restaurant. Having another guy build one right next to you actually helps. It doesn't hurt, bringing more people to the area."

In the meantime, Furyk will try to put on the best show he can.

"Every year, we take the world rankings and work our way down, try to figure out who we haven't had yet," said Furyk, who finished 10th at the Masters after being in contention midway through the last round. "The two most glaring [omissions] are Tiger, and I'm not sure we could have done it if he said yes, and the other's Ernie Els. I've asked him a bunch, but it hasn't worked out."

Perry didn't officially commit until 2 days after he lost the green jacket to Angel Cabrera in a playoff, after holding a two-shot lead with two holes left in regulation.

"He had another obligation that he was able to change," Furyk explained.

And what if he'd won?

"If I could pick one guy out there whose answer would have been the same, Kenny might be that guy," Furyk said.
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