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Eyeing presence on Tour, Ford starts with Mickelso
by Doug Ferguson

THOMASTOWN, Ireland (AP) ? Ford Motor Co. signed Phil Mickelson to an endorsement contract Monday, the first step toward the company becoming a strong marketing presence on the PGA Tour.

Mickelson, No. 2 in the world ranking and one of the most popular players in America because of his devotion to family and his gambling style of play, will start wearing the Ford logo on his shirt this week at the American Express Championship.

Terms of the contract were not disclosed, although Ford Division president Steve Lyons said he hopes it turns into a long-term partnership.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for myself and my family to tie in with one of the very few American icons that Ford has become," Mickelson said. "This is part of a comprehensive strategy on Ford's part to get involved in golf. I'm very fortunate to be part of the initial stages."

Ford also is looking into a deal to become title sponsor of a PGA Tour event.

"Certainly, having Phil working with us, that would be a logical next step and it's something we're looking at," Lyons said. "We're not final on anything yet, but we're looking at a couple of opportunities."

Ford already is the title sponsor of the Senior Players Championship, one of the four majors on the Senior PGA Tour, and it also has an endorsement deal with Jim Ahearn.

Lyons said the Mickelson deal is not a sign that Ford will sign more players.

"We'd really like to stay focused on Phil and manage his business relationship," he said.

Mickelson, who has won 21 times on the PGA Tour but never a major, gives Ford one of the most visible players in golf behind Tiger Woods.

Woods, the No. 1 player in the world, has a five-year deal with Buick.

Mickelson is regarded as a devoted father, having threatened to walk out of the 1999 U.S. Open if his wife went into labor, and skipping the final three months of last season when his second daughter was born.

"The way Phil represents family values fits very well with our brand, and his aggressive style matches pretty well with the values we have at Ford," Lyons said. "We really look forward to this being a lynchpin that launches us to a new area."

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