At last year's Heritage media day, tournament director Steve Wilmot confidently guaranteed that organizers would conduct Hilton Head Island's PGA Tour event in 2011 with or without a title sponsor.
During this year's pre-tournament gathering of reporters, Wilmot made no such promises about next year.
He said the tournament needs a new sponsor "sooner than later" if it's to stay on the tour's schedule.
"We're approaching the 12th hour," Wilmot said. "There is a sense of urgency here."
Ty Votaw, a tour vice president who also spoke during Monday's event, said a finding sponsor is critical.
"It's imperative for the long-term future of the event to secure a title sponsor," Votaw said.
When asked if that meant there wouldn't be a tournament in 2012 without a sponsor, Votaw repeated the same statement.
Both men said the Heritage isn't facing the threat of a definite deadline.
"There will be a deadline eventually -- that will have to happen -- but it's not productive to talk about it today," Votaw said.
Wilmot said tournament officials plan to visit the tour's Florida headquarters in mid-March to discuss next steps.
Both also said they remain cautiously optimistic this year's 43rd annual tournament won't be the last.
Votaw said organizers discussed the Heritage with prospective sponsors as recently as last week.
"Those conversations are continuing, and we hope to be able to make a lot of people happy over the next several weeks if those conversations continue in the manner in which they have to date," he said. "We want to come back here because it is a special place."
The tour prefers a company give a multi-year commitment to the Heritage, but is considering a shorter deal, Votaw said. He said the tour will do all it can to return to Hilton Head, which he said is a favorite destination of players and can provide ample hospitality for prospective sponsors.
"We firmly believe Hilton Head is an extremely attractive event," he said.
Even though the tour has yet to find the Heritage a new title sponsor, it has attracted 27 major sponsorships -- including renewals and extensions of title, presenting and supporting sponsorships -- for 23 tournaments since early 2009, Votaw said.
"As a whole, we feel very good about where we've been sponsorship-wise across the PGA Tour," Votaw said.
Votaw declined to discuss whether the Heritage is more difficult to sell to prospective sponsors than other tour events. He said companies might have chosen to clinch deals with other tournaments because of factors such as geography and scheduling.
He said two other tournaments lack title sponsors this year: The Bob Hope Classic, held in January in Palm Springs, Calif., and the Reno-Tahoe Open, scheduled for August in Reno, Nev.
Verizon or its corporate predecessors had sponsored the Heritage since 1986, but the company announced about 18 months ago that the 2010 tournament would be its last in the title role.
To secure a spot for the Heritage on this year's tour schedule, the foundation that runs the tournament pledged all $4 million of its reserves, and Hilton Head and Beaufort County each made $1 million commitments.
This year's tournament is April 21 to 24 at Harbour Town Golf Links in Sea Pines.
With time ticking by, organizers are no longer asking for the $7.6 million they once sought from companies interested in sponsoring this year's tournament, Wilmot said.
"Every day that goes by, that sponsorship is being devalued," he said. "That number is moving south."
Organizers are holding a few spots in pre-tournament pro-am events, which are otherwise sold out, in case a sponsor arrives, Wilmot said.
If a company buys the sponsorship at a discount, however, the tournament's contributions to charity could be hurt this year, Wilmot said. The Heritage Classic Foundation has contributed more than $20 million to charity since 1986.
Wilmot said he is encouraged by the support the tournament recently received from state officials.
Gov. Nikki Haley has offered to make phone calls on the tournament's behalf, Wilmot said. Haley also directed Duane Parrish, the new director of the state Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism, to make finding a new sponsor for the Heritage his top priority.
Bobby Hitt, the new state Department of Commerce director, also appreciates the tournament, Wilmot said. In 2009, when Hitt worked for BMW, he arranged for the German automaker to send a fleet of courtesy vehicles to the Heritage on short notice after General Motors pulled out.
If no sponsor emerges by tournament time, organizers probably would bring in prospective companies "to make sure they know what the week looks like" in an effort to woo them for 2012 and beyond, Votaw said.