Sponsors pull out

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The Independent Online
Johnnie Walker is withdrawing its sponsorship of the World Championship, one of the most exclusive and extravagant events in professional golf, at the end of the year, writes Tim Glover.

The Championship was conceived by Johnnie Walker and IMG in 1991 when it was seen, at the Tryall course in Jamaica, by a television audience of 18 million people in 31 countries. In four years the figures had grown to 330m viewers in 92 countries. "The media value was three times the cost and it's very tough to walk away from something as strong as that," Paul Antrobus, a director of Johnnie Walker said yesterday. "It has grown so big it overrides what we are trying to do at a country level."

Johnnie Walker, part of United Distillers, spent £5m a year on the tournament out of an annual golf budget of £11m. "Within our package something had to give to enhance other things," Antrobus said. "Business is tougher and we want to get closer to our consumers."

Johnnie Walker will continue to sponsor the Ryder Cup, the biennial match between Europe and the United States, until at least 1997 and also the Johnnie Walker Classic, a European Tour event.