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PGA TOUR MEDIA CONFERENCE
April 16, 2020
Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Good morning, everyone. Really appreciate you guys taking the time today to speak with Tyler Dennis, our PGA TOUR Chief of Operations, and Andy Pazder, PGA TOUR Chief Tournament and Competitions Officer, regarding the announcement of our revamped schedule today at 9:00 a.m. this morning. I know there was a lot of work put into it, Tyler and Andy, and a lot of moving parts, and a lot of logistics and still a lot of unknowns given that we're nearly two months out before we resume competition on June 8th at the Charles Schwab Challenge. That said, I know we're excited to at least have laid out a plan for the 2019-20 season, and we're optimistic that with some luck and some further movement in terms of medicine and things like that and logistics that we'll be able to revamp our season.
I know Andy wanted to start out with some opening comments and then we'll take your questions.
ANDY PAZDER: Thank you, Joel. Good morning, everyone. I appreciate the opportunity to be on with you, and I know Tyler Dennis does, as well. I thought I'd just start with a couple opening remarks before we go ahead and take questions from those of you on the phone. It's not lost on me today that this announcement comes five weeks to the day that we were in Ponte Vedra for THE PLAYERS Championship, and we announced the cancellation of THE PLAYERS as well as all PGA TOUR tournaments through the Valero Texas Open.
Ten days ago, the industry announced a revised schedule related to major championships, the Wyndham Championship and the FedExCup Playoffs, and we're pleased today to share our revised schedule for the remainder of the calendar year.
First and foremost, as the statement says, our first and foremost concern throughout the resumption of the PGA TOUR schedule will be the safety and well-being of everyone connected to not just the PGA TOUR but those communities where we play. We will play only when we are certain that it is safe and responsible to do that. We are, needless to say, monitoring very closely developments at the local level, city, state and federal level, and given that we're a global organization with members all over the world, we'll also pay very close attention to what's happening outside the borders of the United States.
But today's announcement does provide some direction on where we believe we will be resuming play. We're excited about the prospect of that, and we're also, as I said at the onset, pleased to be available to answer what I'm sure will be plenty of questions.
With that, Joel, I'll turn it back to you.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Great. And before we take questions, if you're not speaking, if you can put your phone on mute, but I'd also like to take a real quick roll call to make sure we know who's on the call and if you can identify yourself that would be much appreciate.
(Media roll call.)
We'll just jump into questions and try to do it as orderly as possible. Just maybe identify yourself and then ask the question, but Andy and Tyler are happy to answers your questions.
Q. Can you quantify, please, in terms of the first four events which will have no spectators, could I please ask how many people should that entail being on the grounds and what if any procedures you have or will need to have in terms of testing there?
TYLER DENNIS: Good morning, everyone. Just to echo what Andy said, it's great to be on the call here and also miss seeing all of you, so look forward to that.
To your question, as we said, we plan to play the first four events closed to the general public, and we're very closely monitoring the situation at the federal, state and local levels, and ultimately are going to follow every single recommendation that they make. To answer that question in terms of the exact access, our barometer is simply the health and safety of everyone involved, whether that be players, caddies, the media, broadcasters, cast, et cetera. So that's our first priority, our number one priority, and we're really in the process right now of doing a comprehensive review of all of the facets of what would go into that, and part of that includes an analysis of the number of people that would need to be in the venue. The venue is a very large area at a golf course and distributed, and so we're doing it by the day, by the hour, by the location, and really getting our arms around all the facets that need to go into what we would say is an event not open to the general public.
Q. Do you accept within that you will need to have a testing element on-site?
TYLER DENNIS: Yeah, so we're spending a lot of time right now learning about testing. I want to be perfectly clear that first and foremost, the situation at the moment with testing is that it's most critical across the healthcare world and in our communities, and so at this juncture, we are merely evaluating it in the sports world and certainly at the PGA TOUR.
Our understanding is that as it becomes more widely available, it would be appropriate to be able to use that to help us return. We think that that's critical for a lot of different reasons but certainly for the communities we play in and the 3,000-plus charities that we support. So we're in an evaluation mode learning about the testing, building out what we think could work from a testing protocol, and we'll certainly have more information on that over the next couple weeks and months.
Q. What makes you think you can start on June the 11th, and what gives you confidence to put this out now?
ANDY PAZDER: I would just say that we have a level of confidence that is based upon what we see -- and I'm going to merge the previous question into part of my answer here, is we see changes and developments being made in the world of testing, available tests. We're following very closely through the assistance of our expert medical advisors the development of more large-scale testing capabilities, more rapid-response type tests, whether it's through finger pricks, testing for antibodies. We obviously are aware that the FDA recently approved use of a saliva-based test. It gives us confidence that we will be able to develop a strong testing protocol that will mitigate risk as much as we possibly can. We know that there will also be further developments over the next eight weeks before we were to resume play.
As Tyler mentioned, we've announced already that we will proceed without the general public being present. That gives us greater confidence that we will be able to follow and be in compliance with, for example, social distancing guidelines and so forth.
So we're optimistic, but I'm not going to say on this call that I have 110 percent certainty, but we are very confident that we will be able to play that second week in June.
Q. I'm curious, there was an announcement also as part of this about the Korn Ferry schedule. I was curious whether the protocols for giving PGA TOUR cards and taking PGA TOUR cards away will be the same with both seasons being shortened or what the plan is for promotion from the Korn Ferry TOUR and then guys losing their cards.
TYLER DENNIS: Yeah, so we've spent a lot of time the last few weeks with our player directors and the chairman of our Player Advisory Council, and we've had a number of PAC meetings, and so as the schedule has been reworked and ultimately announced today, we've been concurrently reviewing all kinds of questions including the one you just listed, and we're in a mode right now where we have several options as relates to eligibility, which therefore affects the Korn Ferry TOUR and the graduates and whatnot. We've sort of looked at one option where there would be a hybrid model I'd call it where we would reward all of the players on the PGA TOUR this year based on their play but find a way to also retain, for those who didn't say make the Top 125, retain some type of access into the next season, and then that would flow down to the Korn Ferry TOUR and how the graduates would morph between their seasons in a hybrid way, as well.
So there will be more to come on that. We're still in the process of analyzing that and evaluating options with our PAC and player directors.
ANDY PAZDER: I would just add on top of that, and there's a reference to it in the announcement that we sent around, as it relates to the FedExCup, the schedule that we've announced would provide a 36-tournament season, inclusive of the three FedExCup Playoff events, so that's nearly three-fourths of our original scheduled 49 tournaments. We do feel, and our player directors on our policy board also feel that if we are able to conclude a schedule that has 36 events, that would constitute a credible FedExCup season.
Q. I realize there's a couple of hypotheticals here, but if you guys are able to do testing for say players, caddies, officials on-site, anyone else at events and there was to be a positive test, is there or would there be any sort of protocol in place for sort of what would happen after that?
TYLER DENNIS: Yeah, so that's one of many questions we're evaluating as we look through the testing element to this, which is part of a bigger review of kind of health and safety protocols at the venue. I won't talk now about all the other constituents, but as it relates to players, we're thinking of it as one would work through a normal week, and it probably starts with some kind of testing before you leave home in an effort to be as safe as possible, and then proper hygiene and travel protocols as you travel towards the venue, possibly then testing that would go on in a safe and as clean an environment as we can make, both in terms of what you're doing in your daily routine at the golf course but also at the host hotel and dinners and all that. So it's all wrapped up in there, and that question is not something I can answer yet, but it's something we're evaluating closely.
Q. Andy, you used terms like "certain" and "general public." Could you define those for us?
ANDY PAZDER: "General public" means spectators. So we anticipate at these first four tournaments having what I would refer to as essential -- people essential for the conducting of the competition, obviously players, caddies, tournament officials, meaning rules officials, the broadcast team, a certain number of people from the host organization. We do anticipate the likely need of walking scorers so that we can properly score the event and disseminate information across various platforms, whether it's the telecast or digitally and so forth.
The first part of your question, define "certain," I guess that in the way I use it would be a subjective term, and when I say I'm confident that we'll be able to resume play, that's different than being certain. I feel like I'm answering your question with a little bit of another question, which I normally don't like to do, but I would just go back to what I said previously, which is if we're able to determine that we can conduct the Charles Schwab Challenge and subsequent events in compliance with all health regulations, local, state and federal, health regulations, and if we're comfortable that our protocol, testing protocol and onsite procedures give us a confidence level, that we're going to proceed with our tournaments. We will not do anything -- we will not conduct our tournaments if the answers to those previous questions aren't yes, we are confident.
Q. The one element here you haven't mentioned is travel. As you will be aware, the United States has travel restrictions in terms of several other countries and people entering the U.S. you will have players who want to play in these tournaments who will currently be outside of the U.S. is it essential that those travel restrictions are lifted before you will play, and what expectancy that those restrictions will be lifted?
ANDY PAZDER: That's a very good question and one that we're playing close attention to. We are aware that we have at a minimum right now 25 players who are somewhere outside of the United States. We are also aware that there are at least 35 caddies who live outside the United States that are subject to these international travel restrictions, and we are paying very close attention to if and when those restrictions are changed.
To an earlier question regarding eligibility and what happens if we are able to play, does it provide enough of a season for eligibility purposes and so forth, I would say that if we ultimately end up making a decision that eligibility should span this season or next season, a factor in determining the answer to that question could be and will be what's the effect of all this on our international members.
I don't have a specific answer beyond those points to share at this time.
TYLER DENNIS: I would just add that on kind of a wider note, on that question, that we have our team that is overseeing all the tournaments, evaluating that question and a host of other questions as part of a risk analysis that we do for every tournament. Travel, border closures as an example, is one component of many that stand, regulatory things across federal, state, local levels and a host of other questions. So we're evaluating that on a tournament-by-tournament basis and obviously across the resumption of the TOUR season, as well.
Q. Andy, you mentioned earlier that three fourths of the season will have been played if we can get it started in June and finish up at the TOUR Championship and that that would constitute a credible season. Is there any kind of line that you're drawing that would not constitute a credible season? Is there a jumping-off point that you need to get started to make that happen?
ANDY PAZDER: We've not defined a set number at this stage. We're focused on the answer to that question being tied to hopefully resuming play at the Charles Schwab Challenge. We are aware, obviously, of other moments in other sports leagues' histories going back when many years when there have been shortened seasons for various reasons, lockouts and line or strikes and so forth, and not that those would guide us on our answer, but it's something that we're aware of. Again, we've had extensive conversations with our policy board, specifically our player directors, and at this stage I can tell you that if we are able to resume at the Charles Schwab Challenge, playing nearly three-fourths of our season does give us great comfort in considering it a credible season. But more specifically we have not defined that threshold if we fall below X number of tournaments, then Y will happen.
Q. Just wondering, how much is the announcement of this revamped schedule, beyond getting back to the actual competition, really also about giving golf fans, sports fans and I guess Americans at large something to look forward to, giving them, I guess, a reason for hope and optimism when they're staring at a sports calendar right now that otherwise looks pretty bleak and barren into the foreseeable future?
ANDY PAZDER: I would say you go back 10 days to the first announcement related to the schedule, that I think in a way provided something for many golf fans to look forward to. Obviously we were terribly disappointed to learn of The Open Championship being canceled, but to know that the PGA and the U.S. Open and the Masters were being rescheduled, that our FedExCup Playoffs were sliding a week, we received positive comments from golf fans. We are aware, obviously, that for a sports fan in general there is a thirst for live sports in our country, and I assume to some degree around the world. But we're not -- with today's announcement we're not rushing back to satiate that desire. We are simply announcing a resumption of our schedule, and again, I've said it ultimate times, I'm sorry to keep repeating myself, we're only going to do that when we are sure that it will be safe and responsible to do that, and if a byproduct of that is that golf fans and sports fans in general are excited about tuning in to the Charles Schwab Challenge on June 11th, that's great.
TYLER DENNIS: I want to add, too, that a beacon for us, as well, as to the points you just made, are the positive impact we can have in our communities. I mentioned earlier the 3,000-plus charities associated with the PGA TOUR and its events, and we think about that, especially those that have been and will be affected by the canceled tournaments. That's another beacon for us, and we're making a lot of plans at the moment to help fund relief efforts for the COVID-19 situation, and we also, as we look forward to the PGA TOUR resuming, we want to make sure we properly recognize the men and women who have been on the front lines of this this whole time, doctors, nurses, et cetera.
So that's another beacon for us in addition to the points Andy made about the fans.
Q. Andy or Tyler, I apologize for the provincial nature of the question, but what went into putting the start of the Korn Ferry tournament at the Valley Course, and is this a one-off tournament at this point?
ANDY PAZDER: So we, as part of today's announcement, unfortunately had to announce the cancellation of a number of Korn Ferry TOUR events. We are excited about the announcement to resume the Korn Ferry season with an event at TPC Sawgrass's Dye's Valley Course. It is planned as a one-off event at this point. We are obviously proud that we have hosted Korn Ferry TOUR tournaments, specifically their TOUR Championship, on the Valley Course, Dye's Valley Course in years past.
TPC Sawgrass is open, as you're aware. We are taking every imaginable safety protocol and following every single health organization guideline on social distancing and so forth, and having that first event back be at TPC Sawgrass is something that we're excited about and will be proud to host.
Q. You guys say that you're in touch with state and local officials, so to be clear, you guys have the okay from all relevant parties in Fort Worth to hold the Charles Schwab Challenge that first event back in June; the mayor, everyone is on board with this, as well?
ANDY PAZDER: We have not, or I should say I have not personally spoken to the mayor of Fort Worth. Obviously our host organization, the event is run by Colonial Country Club. We've been in daily conversations with both Colonial as well as our title sponsor, Charles Schwab. We believe and know that a tournament played June 8 through 14 will be done so in full compliance with all local health requirements, guidelines and requirements.
Q. Tyler, do you foresee any changes to the way caddies and players interact, and also, how will you control player traffic on driving ranges and putting greens?
TYLER DENNIS: Yeah, so that's another part of our analysis that we've been working on, you know, from a health and safety point of view, but even with the rules officials, for example. So if you think about how a player and a caddie travel throughout their daily competition routine, we've looked at -- we've mapped out and are still in the process of finalizing what that day looks like, because we know that golf can be played in a safe way that abides by social distancing guidelines, and we're seeing that in many spaces across the country, by the way, at the amateur level. But we can apply some of those same principles to golf on the PGA TOUR.
So anyway, from the driving range to the first tee, all kinds of little details, scorecards and bunker rakes and flagsticks and how we can make sure all that is done in a socially distanced way and make sure that things stay safe and clean and sanitized. So there's a big project going on to think about those details, and as we get closer, we'll certainly share with you guys those details of how that day would look.
But in general I think that the daily life of a PGA TOUR golfer and his caddie won't be tremendously different. We're just going to have to have some nuances to relate to social distancing and safe sanitation practices.
Q. I was just curious if there were going to be any adjustments made, even for next season. It obviously looks like we'll have two Masters and two U.S. Opens for the 2021 season. I just was curious with the FedExCup points structures will everything be the same or are there going to be any adjustments?
ANDY PAZDER: First, I'll say related to our current season, we will not make any adjustments in the number of FedExCup points available at PGA TOUR tournaments between now and the start of the FedExCup Playoffs. We are evaluating -- this has not been finalized, but we are evaluating whether a change in the points structure with the first two FedExCup Playoff events are warranted, given that roughly 25 percent of our season has been canceled, taking roughly 30 percent of total FedEx points out of the equation. So we are evaluating whether it would make sense to reduce playoff points those first two tournaments. As I think everyone on this call knows, playoff points are four times the value of the regular season. We do, again, have an ongoing conversation with our Player Advisory Council and player directors on potentially reducing the number on a prorated basis perhaps to a multiplier of 3X.
As it relates to the 2020-21 season, we do not plan on any adjustments to the FedExCup point system.
Q. As you were talking about the essential people who could be at tournaments, would that include media?
TYLER DENNIS: Yeah, so you guys are one of the many constituent groups we're looking at, and I think that the way that we are evaluating that is that we would like to have the media there, and certainly as you move around your sort of life as it relates to following competition, that can be done in a safe manner.
I think when you get into how the media center would operate and things of that nature, that might look and feel different based on all of the recommendations we would be following. And that kind of applies to all the different constituents, vendors, PGA TOUR staff, myself and Andy, kind of the same thinking.
My hope is that we can provide access in some way, shape or form to be determined.
Q. How did the Heritage go from being canceled to being put back on the schedule? Was it as simple as the sponsor wanting to sort of transfer one event to another place, or how did that come together?
ANDY PAZDER: No, it wasn't as simple as RBC called us and they raised their hand and volunteered. It was much more complicated with that.
As we had some date flexibility come to us with either the postponement or cancellation of whether it's the Olympics or U.S. Open or the Open Championship, we took advantage of that opportunity to move the restart of our season three weeks later. That also gave us an opportunity to go back and look at tournaments that were previously announced as canceled events.
There are many factors obviously that go into determining whether a tournament can be played or not played. Agronomics, for example, play an important role. So as you know, Harbour Town Golf Links is overseeded for the April playing of the RBC Heritage, and we needed to be certain that it would transition quickly enough to the summer grass and Bermudagrass in order to be confident we could play June 15 to 21. We had conversations with the governor of South Carolina, with the mayor of Hilton Head Island, obviously with our host organization, the Heritage Classic Foundation, to make certain that our parties were on board with rescheduling of the Heritage that week, and we're excited that all of that fell into place and we can bring them back on to the schedule.
Q. I'm wondering if you have gotten input from players, and if so, what has been their response about the resumption of the schedule?
ANDY PAZDER: One of the things that has been uplifting to me throughout this process, you go back in my opening remarks, I mentioned it was five weeks ago today that we announced the cancellation of THE PLAYERS Championship along with some additional PGA TOUR events. What's been uplifting to me is the level of support that our players have been offering to not just the PGA TOUR and our broader organization but specifically to our tournaments and their sponsors. I will tell you that most of our players if not every one of them are eager, they're anxious to get back to doing what they do best. They also understand that their organization is working hard on their behalf to make sure that they can resume playing in as safe an environment as possible, and they have confidence that that's what we will provide.
I think as you hear players comment on see social media postings from our players following this morning's announcement, I think the vast majority if not every single one of them will have some level of excitement in their voices or in their typed words.
Q. Andy, can you give us a sense of the financial toll this has taken, missing as many events as you have? For example, do you have to give rebates to title sponsors, to TV? Any sense that you can share as to how that plays out and what that has meant?
ANDY PAZDER: Yeah, I won't obviously go into any specific figures, Bob, but undeniably there is a significant financial toll, and it's not limited to just PGA TOUR or our network partners, our title sponsors or players that have missed earnings opportunities. But significantly it relates to our tournament organizations. Tyler has made reference a couple times to PGA TOUR across all of our TOURs supporting over 3,000 charities, and many of those charities are beneficiaries of tournaments that won't be played or they're beneficiaries of tournaments that will be played without fans, which is to say a very significant impact on revenue just from general ticket sales or onsite hospitality.
Those are significant impacts. We are working on a daily basis with all of our tournament organizations and all of our sponsors to try to mitigate that financial impact as best as we possibly can, and we understand that the entire world is going through economic hardship right now, and to see it impact these charities that depend year in, year out on distributions from our organizations is not lost on all of us, and we're doing everything we possibly can to, as I said, mitigate that impact. But there will be some.
Q. You guys mentioned the belief that you're going to have a credible PGA TOUR season. Do you share that same belief in terms of having a credible Korn Ferry TOUR season that would include promotions for 2021, and then additionally, has there been any talk about adjusting or eliminating Monday qualifiers for this year?
ANDY PAZDER: Well, I think that question as it relates to Korn Ferry TOUR promotions, that will be answered when we make a decision with -- the policy board will make the decision on whether our eligibility at the PGA TOUR level is extended into next season. This is a hypothetical. As most know on the phone, the TOUR doesn't like to deal in hypotheticals, but I would say if there is a scenario where we carry eligibility from the PGA TOUR over to the following season, that will likely have a profound impact on the Korn Ferry TOUR eligibility system and could go as far as preventing promotions from the Korn Ferry TOUR and their eligibility would then have to merge into their following season in 2021.
Q. What about the players who don't feel comfortable? There are going to be players who don't feel comfortable coming back. What happens to those players if you start and they're not comfortable coming back playing again?
ANDY PAZDER: That's a question I think you need to direct to individual players. My only experience with anything like this I guess would be the first few tournaments following 9/11. We had players that were uneasy about air travel. That's one of the beauties of being a PGA TOUR member; you're an independent contractor. You're not required to be at any PGA TOUR event. So they have that discretion to play tournaments where they favor the golf course or tournaments in this instance, to your question, they may or may not feel comfortable. But that's an individual player decision.
So I would direct you to reach out to some of the players that you know to get their direct perspective. I can't speak on their behalf as it relates to that.
Q. I realize there's a lot of moving parts, but what happened to Greenbrier? They're done forever?
ANDY PAZDER: Yes, Greenbrier is off the schedule. They've been a great partner of ours for 10 years. I think a lot of you on the phone know that I am a West Virginia Mountaineer, I graduated from Morgantown, so I always have had and always will have a soft spot in my heart for the great tournament at Greenbrier. We obviously needed to make some schedule adjustments late in the season or in the fall part of our new season, and in doing that it just caused us to reach an agreement with Greenbrier to remove them from the schedule.
Q. For good? Why would they not want to come back?
ANDY PAZDER: I think they've issued a statement, and I would just refer you to their statement on that question.
Q. Is there a deadline or are there any cutoff dates to determine whether a PGA TOUR event can be played?
TYLER DENNIS: The short answer is no. As I said, the way we're reviewing that question is on a tournament by tournament basis across a whole range of questions that are kind of rolling up to our ultimate risk analysis. There's some things that apply to all tournaments like obviously travel restrictions across international borders, but then there's some things that are different at the state level as we all know and then there's some things that are different at the county level, and even beneath that at the venue, community issues. So there's no hard answer to that. We're just evaluating everything individually across that methodology that we've determined.
Q. Tyler, another logistical question: Do you foresee any changes to the way tournaments are broadcast? If personnel is limited can you still have multiple feature groups, those sort of things?
TYLER DENNIS: Yeah, so with the broadcasters, we're really collaborating with them daily on how things look, and again, there's a lot of specific things to think about there in terms of how they produce a broadcast and what we can do to mitigate any health concerns and safety concerns that we have there. So it could be any and all things. We could face a slightly or create a slightly different type of telecast. We could do it exactly like we normally do. We're looking at it as an opportunity with our broadcast partners to try to introduce some innovative ideas and really, if we are as we've said going to be with no general public at our first four events, try to use that as an opportunity to showcase play on the PGA TOUR in a slightly different way.
Q. Andy, I'm just trying to figure out, how did you come up with this date? It's two months out; how did you decide on that week to go ahead and start? Why not a week later or two weeks later or two weeks earlier?
ANDY PAZDER: Yeah, that's a good question. So I mentioned a couple times that with major championships and the Olympics either being postponed or canceled, it provided three weeks of flexibility, so that's U.S. Open week, the Open Championship and the week of the Olympics, and we decided a few weeks ago that we should move towards taking advantage of that opportunity to push the restart of our season from May 18 through 24 at the Charles Schwab Challenge and buy ourselves three additional weeks of time.
There's a lot that can happen in a positive way in those three additional weeks with this delay, and that was, I think, what drove us. It wouldn't that we were like, we've got to figure out how to start on June 8th. It wasn't necessarily a date that we'd locked in for any specific reason. It was more we have this opportunity to capitalize on the schedule flexibility and move things back just to give ourselves -- increase the odds in our favor collectively to be able to resume at Colonial.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports