PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem popped by the interview room at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions for an annual chat with the media. He answered questions regarding all the (over-hyped) fuss over the no-show winners at Kapalua this year, the possibility of changing the locale and timing of the Tour’s season opener, the Monday finish decision, his fondness for Steve Stricker, Tiger’s win at Chevron, the Olympics and more.
Finchem made some very valid points, especially regarding– what I view as –the overreaction to the quality of the field and the missing players. Here are the highlights/excerpts from the presser (aka the parts where my eyes didn’t glaze over):
*On what the Tour can do to get more winners to the event:
Well, you know, we are missing 10 or 11 people this year, and there’s two things, really. I think one is we could ask players to stop having babies and stop falling off paddle boards and stepping on coral and falling down on snowboards and getting hurt. But half of those players either had a baby or got hurt. So nothing much we can do about that. That’s true every tournament of the year. Maybe snowboarding a little bit more this time of year.
And then the other group are the European players, and the European players is a question mark because of obviously their season, their road to Dubai is later, much later than our FedExCup finals and Playoffs. It’s impacted their scheduling. Now, whether that’s a long term dynamic or not, I don’t know.
We’ll evaluate it. We take note of the fact that a couple of players who had given up their membership, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood are coming back, indicating they want to compete for the FedExCup. So you have to play a lot to do that. But having said all that, and we’ll look at those things. I think this is a pretty special week at a pretty special place that’s really become part of the game and something that most of the players certainly take advantage of, not just from a competitive standpoint, but also a family standpoint. So it may be that we want to tinker with the structure of the tournament, and we’ll look at that.
*On the possibility of moving the tournament to a few weeks later:
Possibly. Although we had looked at we are fairly up to speed. There are different parts of the season where you are constantly looking at movement.
You look at the tournaments in April and May, you look at this time of year, you look between the U.S. Open and the British Open; we have looked at a lot of different changes, and we made some changes in the last couple of years. So I’m aware of the issues with movement here, and any time you do something we have a fully-sponsored schedule. We are chockablock from this week right through forever.
So any time you move something, there’s an action; there’s a reaction. When you start moving things around, it’s dominos. But, you know, and this one we looked at hard about three years ago, but we might look at that again. It involves a number of factors with other tournaments at this time of year, and we like to make decisions not based on any one week, but what’s in the best overall interest of the TOUR. So if you said, well, it’s a wash, if we move X tournament, but it hurts Y tournament, we probably wouldn’t want to do that.
It’s a complicated business from a scheduling standpoint, but we’ll certainly look at those options as we review the situation, because we always do.
Not a bad problem to have — too many tournaments and sponsors! I bet the LPGA wouldn’t mind taking a few off the PGA Tour’s hands.
*On Phil playing t
he Bob Hope Classic the Humana Challenge:
Well, yes. Any kind of rotation and getting into new markets or places they have not been in five or six years or a long time is a positive thing.
It gives the fans not just a chance to see them but to see at least right now, it’s a very important dynamic to the TOUR, which is the juxtaposition of great veterans with young and upcoming players.
So, yeah, we like that. We like to see that and we are delighted by that. Hopefully we’ll see more of it.
*On this year’s Monday finish at Kapalua and whether or not the Tour will re-evaluate:
We’ll assess it. I think two factors there. One is just moving the schedule around a little bit to make it more accessible to fans, given the football schedule.
And then the other is it’s always been a struggle this week in terms of the business-to-business side of the tournament for the sponsor to achieve success in getting customers, or in the case of autos, sometimes dealers, to come out and spend a number of days this close to the holidays. So the extra day there, it doesn’t seem like much, but it is important.
So there’s two factors there, and we’ll evaluate both of them after this tournament, and we’ll see if it was positive. It also gives I don’t think this is, candidly, particularly important, but I haven’t studied it. Any time I want to study something, I hate to say it, I’ll throw it out there, but it also with some players probably it makes some difference.
I think the players that are playing here typically bring family and come earlier and use it for practice. This year, the weather pattern on the Mainland has been warmer. So it may be it didn’t make that much difference, but a lot of years it does. So that extra day may have an impact.
But mainly, it’s about business to business and football, and we’ll evaluate that. I wouldn’t assume necessarily we’ll do any particular thing next year, but we’ll take a look at it, and our television partners, and see what they feel about it.
It’ll probably help with TV since everyone was much more interested in Tim Tebow today. Just was reminded that Denver-Pittsburgh playoff game was finished by the time the leaders hit the back nine, so probably would have been better to finish during prime time tonight (Sunday). There’s the BCS Championship game tomorrow at 8:30pm ET, but the golf telecast is scheduled to finish by 8pm ET. Only problem is perhaps getting fans to show up and watch since most people have work and their kids have school.
*On moving the event from Kapalua to the West Coast:
I don’t agree with that, because of the ten or 11 players, and again, five of them were not able to play because they had a baby or they got hurt, so they are not going to play. And to a European player who has played deep, deep into November and December, can make the trip, it’s not much difference to come from Europe. So I don’t see that as a significant factor.
*On being a Steve Stricker fan boy:
I think from a TOUR standpoint and a sponsor standpoint, we think this is a great week this week. So I don’t want to understate that. It’s going to be a terrific tournament. It is a great tournament.
There’s nobody I would rather watch play golf than Steve Stricker personally as a fan, and he’s out there leading, and some of these young guys. I don’t hear any discussion about moving the tournament. I don’t think that’s right now, at least, out of discussion.
Who doesn’t love Stricker? Funny, actually — in PGA Tour Confidential earlier today, the question was posed whether we would rather be Stricker or Tiger Woods. The majority said Stricker, present company included. Maybe I would have chosen Tiger if I were a 20-30-something male.
*On how much weight the Commish has when it comes to getting players to show up to events (which brought up the whole “Designated Tournament” proposal that was quashed at the last minute in 2011):
My philosophy has always been that I respect a player’s decision to make their own schedule under the regulations that they want to be a voting member and take advantage of our retirement plans and are a member of the TOUR and they have to play a certain number of events. How they play them is a decision they have to make.
When we talk to players about moving their schedule around, it’s a private conversation. We respect their decision regardless. I think that’s the philosophy that we’ll continue.
Having said that, last year we went out and asked players to move their schedule around and over 90 percent of players did in some fashion and it helped our fields, it helped our sponsors. It led to helped; it was one of the things that led to a very significant, high percentage of sponsors’ renewal, and players generally are supportive of helping us.
When things happen with scheduling or whatever the result in a particularly weak field, I would not characterize this week as one of those, by the way. So we are pleased with the working relationship we have with players, particularly members of our tour, but also to some extent, members of other tours.
We’ll just see where things go. We talked a lot about this, and I just want to say for the third time, I’m very pleased about this week.
It is what it is. I’m sure it’d help if Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald and Adam Scott were here. But with the number of tournaments around the world every year, it’s impossible to have a star-packed field at each one.
*On the solution after the “Designated Tournament” proposal didn’t pass:
Well, we looked at that. We looked at that last year. We said we don’t like to legislate and tell players what to do unless it has an overriding importance.
In this particular case, we asked for a volunteer; by now virtually, I’d say 90 percent, I couldn’t tell you any players that haven’t been helpful to be honest, including a couple of just referenced in your question about moving their schedules around the first quarter this year.
So this is an ongoing process. We are doing very well with sponsors. Our sponsors are very pleased with the value equation on the PGA TOUR; if they didn’t, they would be spending their money elsewhere. There are multiple value streams that go to sponsors. Our price point is such that given that value, you are 100 percent sponsored.
We don’t have a crisis in this area and we have a very, very positive situation. When somebody writes an article like at Memorial that five of the top-25 players are not here or something, and somebody is sensitive to that, we are not going to start changing policies because of that.
*On thou who shall not be named. (I’m posting the back-and-forth on this one because it made me chuckle…)
Q. Looking at the big picture, what are your thoughts on the results of the Chevron Challenge last month, and how does that affect your outlook going forward?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, the results were somebody won the tournament. Is that the result you were talking about?
Q. Actually, charity was the big winner; right.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, if you’re talking about Tiger, Tiger had three great starts. I happened to be in Australia the week before The Presidents Cup, and I was listening to the radio coverage. I was in Melbourne listening to the radio coverage on the last day, and I thought the announcers were going to come through the radio; they were so excited that he was in the hunt. And then he played great at The Presidents Cup and got the winning point, and he won.
So he’s got three nice starts. I know how hard his work ethic has been the last year and a half. I think he’s I sense that his confidence is coming back on greens; not that he’s ever said there’s any problem with his confidence, but he’s putting better and striking the ball well.
So I would look for him to have a very solid year this year, and that’s a good thing for us.
It’s all about the kids…or wait, charity…never mind, both of those things are wonderful, but when it comes to the general public caring, it’s all about Tiger. Duh. Alright, that’s it for now.