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PGA TOUR MEDIA CONFERENCE
February 8, 2007
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for coming today. Apologize for our hiccup here a couple of weeks ago but we've worked diligently to put this thing together and to have the press conference and move forward. We have the pleasure to welcome today Commissioner Tim Finchem as well as president of Castle Pines, Jack Vickers.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Thank you, Buddy, Jack, members of the media. Apologize for the delay this morning of the press conference. We had bad weather coming in from California and it required us to get in a little later than we anticipated. We appreciate your cooperation.
This is obviously not an exciting opportunity or a fun day for anybody involved in golf. Because it's disappointing news that we have to convey as we have indicated that The INTERNATIONAL will not be part of the PGA TOUR schedule going forward. Last year was its last event.
I think it's important to recognize the disappointment that certainly Jack as the founder of this tournament has, the disappointment of the staff of the tournament, the volunteers who have helped make this tournament work over the years, and of course the fans in Denver who have supported it as well as the business community. For over 20 years, The INTERNATIONAL has been part of the fabric of golf generally and the PGA TOUR in particular. It's earned a place of respect and stature in golf. It's very special.
And on behalf of all of us involved and on behalf of all of our players, the charities that benefitted from the tournament, I want to thank Jack for his relationship over the years and the team that has managed this event, as well as those that have contributed for all their efforts.
I also want to say that all through this period of time, Jack Vickers has been the epitome of a gentleman in everything that has been conducted in the game of golf in regards to The INTERNATIONAL. The tournament that he created has brought forward has done so much for golf generally and certainly in the Denver area. It's been a strong economic impact for Denver. It has done an outstanding job for charities in the community raising over $10 million to benefit the charities, in particular Boys' and Girls' Clubs of Denver, and has taken a leadership position in the development of charity in Denver, Colorado.
Jack and his team have been outstanding hosts, probably unparalleled hosts for our players over the years. This is a place where players looked forward to coming to, certainly to play golf tournaments and certainly to enjoy the golf course. It is a special atmosphere that is provided by the members and the staff at Castle Pines, and is especially recognized by our players.
I would also like to point out that among many other honors, Jack is recognized in the world of golf and by the world of golf most recently in 2003 being named Ambassador of Golf by the World Golf Championships in Ohio, joining a list of luminaries that includes Presidents Ford and Bush, and golf legends Arnold Palmer, Byron Nelson and Gene Sarazen. I think that recognition is a recognition of Jack as a person. Jack is the creator and founder of this very special tournament. I always remember with fondness being able to attend and join in Jack's 80th birthday in 2005.
How did we get to this point? It certainly is an unusual situation on the PGA TOUR. We are virtually always sponsored with over 120 events on three Tours. Yet we find ourselves in this position despite the dedicated efforts of The INTERNATIONAL and our staff and team as well. There are a variety of reasons for it perhaps. I just want the fans and volunteers to know that as we sit here in February, it is because we went the extra mile, working with Jack and his team working and making every effort we could.
Jack made it clear all through this process that the structure of sponsorship would not be acceptable unless there was one that would allow The INTERNATIONAL to move forward at the level that equated to the stature that it had developed. So it was a challenge and the challenge that we did not succeed at. If you want to ask questions about details regarding that later we can talk about that.
But the fundamental here today is that in a normal situation, we would not go much beyond the last tournament leading into a tournament year and just could not except the fact that -- this was a challenge that could not be met and yet here we are at a time where we must move forward.
And without elaborating on the detail, we will move forward now to create a new event. We have had conversations over the last couple of months, assuming that it might come, although it's something that we hoped would resolve itself. And we have options that are in progress. We have not prioritized those options. We will be doing so in the next week or ten days. Our focus has been on trying to avert this conclusion of The INTERNATIONAL and we'll have more to say on that in a few weeks.
Let me just conclude by saying that I want to thank Jack for his efforts for what he has done here and most importantly, every instance of this tournament handling himself the way he has, he is a special individual. Thank you.
JACK VICKERS: Thank you Tim, for the kind words. Obviously this decision today, and we've been working diligently to try not to make this decision. We'll get into this a little later but we talked about everything else, change of schedules and the change of timing and so on, and then we had one problem with one of the past sponsors last year that was having some problems, and with those two things, we were thrown into a pretty short time crunch here to recover to get to where we want to be. And to do that and to run the kind of tournament that we would like to run, it takes time and effort to do it.
So I'd like to just take this opportunity to first of all thank you for being present here today. I'd like to thank my executive committee and board, my employees, sponsors and volunteers, players, fans, the TOUR and CBS for their support and loyalty to the international over the years.
With the economic changes on the TOUR today, we no longer feel we can operate The INTERNATIONAL as a premiere event without certain ingredients and therefore, the right thing to do for The INTERNATIONAL at this time is to conclude this relationship for right now. And hopefully this is not the end of The INTERNATIONAL tournament. When time and conditions are right, I think that we'll be back here eventually. I know our desire is to still have something special here and I think I can speak for the Commissioner here and the PGA TOUR that I think that's true of them and the players and I think that's very important to us.
I'd like to say again, I think, without even saying it, it's my desire from day one in the operation of The INTERNATIONAL is to be the very best at what we do. And to do that, we have developed together a great organization. That organization has done a wonderful job of pulling this thing together and operating it. But you can't -- you've got to have the support. I'd like to get into this a little later but I think there was a slot of scuttlebutt being here prior to today, thoughts were that because we didn't get a sponsor, that was it. Well, yes, that was it in one sense. As I mentioned, this time period was breathing down our neck and breathing down the TOUR'S neck and we had to make some decisions. So we weren't where we wanted to be or we weren't able to recover quick enough to get this done. It isn't that we haven't contacted the right people. We have, I might just fill in as a matter of information, for 21 years, and through our own marketing department, we marketed this tournament from start to finish. And we never had any trouble getting sponsors. And, in fact, had them lined up at the front door for a number of years.
But all of the sudden here, we're into an era that the marketplace out there is not the same, and I think it's been influenced by some phenomena in that we have one outstanding, unbelievable player in the form of Tiger Woods today, and when he's playing, the ratings are great, and when he isn't playing, the ratings aren't so hot.
So when we go to talk to these contacts, and we have a ton of them, we've got plenty of contacts to get sponsors. But, they call their advertising people in and the next thing we know, we're talking about ratings and that makes it tough. Right now we're just in one of those dips. That will change and I think we'll get things worked out looking down the line.
We have attempted to, you know, to work with the TOUR and the Commissioner to accomplish what many would consider lofty goals and objectives. And I think that's okay. We don't reach them all, but if you're not after them, you're not going to reach them. So my philosophy is still to do the best or don't do it. And that's the way we've operated; and Tim knows that, the TOUR knows it, the players knows it. We treat the players like they are not treated any place else, including their families, in their services at the club while they are here. They want to go fishing, we've got that. If they want to go shoot, we've got that. We have a nursery for them. We haven't overlooked anything as far as taking care of the people when they get here.
I think, you know, it's a sad day because of the thing that I mentioned, the charities and the players and the staff and volunteers and fans and businesses and supporters. I'd like to take this opportunity to extend our heart felt thanks to all of those at The INTERNATIONAL that gave us 21 great years, and we sincerely apologize for this abrupt decision today and any hardship it may cause, and I know there are some out there.
I'd like to personally thank Larry Thiel, our tournament director; Keith Snyder, our manager; and my son, Greg; and even a brother or two, Jimmy, who and Tommy who have helped with a number of the players who they are close to, and all kind of feeds into running a great tournament.
In addition to that, I'd like to congratulate and thank our entire tournament and club staff who all worked tirelessly over the years to make this such a success. And I don't want to overlook and not thank members of our club who every summer have given up a couple weeks of the prime season to conduct The INTERNATIONAL, and for that I'm thankful to them.
And lastly, I'd like to thank Tim Finchem and all of our friends at the PGA TOUR. Tim, I hope we have the opportunity to work with you all again in the future. God willing, there will be an opportunity to get back into professional golf under the right set of circumstances. We will be working on those. Don't bug me on them, but we will be working on them. (Laughter).
And we've got a lot of good horsepower in that corner working, and so with the help of the PGA TOUR and their efforts and energy, hopefully we can pull something back together. That's all I have for the moment.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Jack.
Q. On a personal note, you put so much effort into building a tournament that, as you stated, was top-notch in every single way, shape and form, one of the most popular non-majors on TOUR. For you today, this has got to be a devastating day, I know you talk about the future and you haven't ruled anything out but to see your project which became one of the most popular and entertaining events go away has to be crushing.
JACK VICKERS: Well, I appreciate that. I will tell you honestly, to the point that I'm philosophical about it, and you know, some days you reach in your closet and you pull a suit out to go downtown and sometimes that suit doesn't feel right and you go back and change it.
I feel a little bit today that we didn't, as I said without being repetitious, the timing here on behalf of both of us was tough to deal with. But on the other side, and moving forward on a basis that we didn't feel made much business sense and we're really going to get us in trouble if we didn't take a deep breath and try and regroup. And so I feel that we have to do that.
I'd be honest to say that off the record here, we were just talking with Tim, he's got some problems to resolve, I've got some problems to resolve, and those are going to take some time to do. But they will be handled and they will be mended back together and we'll have this thing back flying again. But it's going to take some doing.
Yeah, I'm disappointed, and it hurts to see this happen all of a sudden because we really thought even down to the last minute we might get it fixed. But it's a different world out there right now. I've never seen it in my 21 years like it is right now.
Q. In light of what's happened today, do you at all regret not moving your tournament to the FedExCup Playoffs as was offered to you back last year?
JACK VICKERS: No, I don't. Because Tim and I have talked about that, I felt that with our fall weather, you never know what's going to happen. I didn't think that was -- I thought that was a little bit of a risk. And quite frankly, I being in the middle of football country here and so on, I didn't want to try and compete against football.
I think we can do a better job of it in another part of the year here, and the Fourth of July dates did not scare me. They are something a little different and a different approach had to be taken, but we filled our sponsors out and almost without exception, we got a little static from one of them that was concerned about vacation time and so on; on the others, they took a positive approach that this is a good time because we'll extend our entertainment and holiday greetings to business customers and so on that ordinarily would come out maybe for the tournament; we can enlarge that and tie in the golf tournament along with maybe a little fishing trip or a trip to the mountains or get their family out here and go to the mountains. So I felt like that could work out and with a little promotion and a little ingenuity I felt like we could turn it into a plus.
Back to your question, the new FedExCup Series is new on the block and we'll see how it goes. I know Tim is anxious to see that himself. We'll just have to see. It's premature I think to judge it and say one way or the other what's going to happen or how it's going to be taken. Certainly the TOUR has made a vain effort to put something new out there and move forward and just didn't quite fit our time of the year.
Q. Do you want to comment on that at all on the FedExCup at this point before we go forward?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No. Just on the July 4th date, I think Jack is correct in the response he got from his sponsors. This perception, is it a good date or a bad date; we think it's a great date. But the perception of a lot of companies doesn't agree with that, and in Chicago, that was Western Open date as you know for a number of years. Originally Motorola was the sponsor; they wanted July 4th. The tournament didn't want to go to July 4th. They insisted it went and it succeeded very well.
It's just a matter of getting past the perception that somehow a holiday weekend in the United States is a bad weekend. We had the same thing Labor Day and the Deutsche Bank Championship worked great on Labor Day. I do think in this instance on the title sponsor search, it worked against us a little bit because of that perception, but as Jack says, he and I, and I think everybody agreed, if we could get over that, it would have worked out quite well.
Q. Mr. Vickers, I hate to bug you already even though you told us not to bug you, but what do you see as a time line to maybe get another tournament or the same tournament going again? And for the both of you, has there ever been a tournament in the history of golf that has reemerged after a few years in the grave, has that ever happened before?
JACK VICKERS: I'd defer to Tim on that. I don't know the history that well, whether we've had that experience or not.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I don't know of an instance that jumps to mind. But you know, I think from the TOUR perspective, we didn't work as hard as we do to try avoid this, what we're talking about today, just because we wanted to. We thought this was a great tournament and we think Denver is a great place for a tournament and the fans here are terrific and it's a great sports town. We will look for every opportunity to get back here.
The business realities, however, in the short term, from Jack's perspective, the way to get past one year was expensive and involved mortgaging the future which is uncertain. And Jack has indicated multiple times, this tournament is not going to be run at a lesser level, which means there's a fair amount of cash flow involved. And that said, there's also, you know, the questions that revolve around this combination of things in terms of sponsorship.
So we will move forward with a new tournament. And then we absolutely, you know, we have done I think over the last ten years, looking at some cities that we had gotten into that were not; and now Denver will move to the top of list of cities we would like to be in, and we will look for opportunities as we move forward to get back here. Now if that were to develop, this fellow over here is the first guy we're calling to see if it's possible to bring The INTERNATIONAL back in the same form or some other form going forward sometime in the future.
Q. Mr. Vickers, it sounds like there were quite a few problems, but I just wonder, if Tiger had played here, would we be sitting here today? I know that might be simplistic, but would you have the sponsors that you needed if he were playing in this tournament?
JACK VICKERS: Well, I think there's no question that he has a profound effect. And if he was here, I don't think it would be any different than any place else he goes. The crowds gather and they want to see him and he's the guy.
We've had that in the past in past era of the Palmers and Nicklauses and so on. But I think one of the things that's not there today, and I don't know whether it's the golfing ability or the charisma, but certainly there are not the people pressing Tiger out there competitively that there were when Nicklaus and Palmer and those fellas, Tommy Watson and Hale Irwin, and I don't need to get into that. But I think if we had two or three more Tigers out there, and that's one in a gillion maybe, you would probably see a different condition out there.
But it's a phenomena. None of us can do anything about that. And God bless him and to his credit, it is what it is. But we can't turn the faucet on and off with the reaction of the American sports fan who is watching, who isn't and who is coming to the tournament and who isn't.
So that's the way I feel about it.
Q. Johnny Kaye was quoted in the dailies today as saying that it doesn't matter what week the tournament will be held, The INTERNATIONAL, Tiger would never play here, he doesn't like the golf course, he doesn't like the altitude factor, etc., etc. Clearly that wasn't your understanding when you changed to a more Tiger-friendly date, the Fourth of July week. And secondly, can you talk a little bit about this so-called perfect storm of unusual events prior to today's announcement with The European Tour adding an event, with these various other circumstances that made it more difficult to attract a sponsor?
JACK VICKERS: Well, in regards to your first question, I think Tiger not liking the golf course, etc., etc., is a bunch of bologne.
And, you know, people like to write about the altitude and what a change it makes, but a change of altitude for the great players, great players that isn't going to make or break them. You don't hear them bitching or saying the same thing when they go to a links course and the wind is blowing 40 miles an hour. That's part of the conditions they deal with. That's why they are the best in the world.
So no, I think the situation with Tiger versus us has been one that just hasn't fitted into his schedule, which includes his itineraries, plus his majors, plus his times off. I have nothing but the highest respect for him. He's a gentleman and I hope that he'll come back to see us. But I'm sure there are a lot of other tournaments out there that are wishing they had him every year, but that probably isn't going to happen. So that's my answer to that. And I have another theory about that. If we run the best show on the road, he'll be back. If we do our side of it and we perform, he'll perform.
As to the second part of it, I'd like to defer to Tim, I think he can maybe throw more light on that that I can.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: What was the second part?
Q. About The European Tour scheduling.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I think that The European Tour scheduling, which put one of their stronger events this week after we did our schedule; and unfortunately we do our schedule on a multi-year basis and they do it on an annual basis, had some effect I suppose.
The INTERNATIONAL has enjoyed the participation of the European players over the years, and the speculation that maybe there would be fewer of them certainly wasn't a positive. I'm not so sure it was a major factor, but it certainly wasn't a positive.
You know, as Jack said, there have been some ratings falloff here the last three or four years. Now, we attribute that to the rain delays in August which we thought would be alleviated somewhat in July. Jack, even though a couple of top players haven't been here in the last few years, The INTERNATIONAL enjoys a very strong field.
But candidly in terms of marquee players in that field, two or three of those years where the ratings were falling off, the players were in the field, they just were not on the leaderboard on Saturday and Sunday and were not impacting the, ratings, but the ratings were off a little bit.
There was questioning in some quarters about the date, some more than others: There was The European TOUR event; there is a significant price point to this event; these things all add up to create the situation that we have.
And as Jack says, you know, we'll move forward, but as we look at the potential in Denver downstream, should date become available, we have to look at those factors and consider them in bringing back something that can be the standards that Jack is setting, which we don't argue with Jack's standards. We think it's great that that's the kind of event he wants to run and we support that. If we come back, we need to have those kinds of issues answered in an effective way.
Q. How much of an effect was the FedExCup situation on this event?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Zero I would say. At least from our perspective and the sponsors that we've talked to, it was never really brought up as an issue one way or the other. At this point in the season, it's before the seedings, of course we use the FedExCup as a positive because we believe the FedExCup will lift the TOUR generally. But I do not think it was a factor one way or the other. There may have been some conversation about it with companies that Larry and his team talked to, but to my knowledge it wasn't really a factor one way or the other.
Q. (About the tournament continuing in the future.)
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: You kind of think of The INTERNATIONAL I think from a player perspective, certainly in my mind is really intertwined with what this club is all about. But no, I think it's possible. We certainly wouldn't say no to that. But it would just depend on a lot of different factors. (Fin).
JACK VICKERS: We are protecting the rights to The INTERNATIONAL name and continue with that same name, and what we would do in the future.
Q. I'm curious and a lot of people in Washington are curious, whether there's an opportunity for a PGA TOUR event to return to the D.C. area in the summertime?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, as I said earlier, we have over the last few weeks had very preliminary conversations in three or four different markets where we currently don't play. We have had conversations with some sponsors. We always have sponsors that are out there that want to do a PGA TOUR event. It's just that usually they are not always transportable; I'd like to do an event where my company is based; I'd like to do an event on East Coast; I'd like to do an event in March.
So there are potential sponsors, there are potential markets. We will be marrying some of that up in the next week and prioritizing. Obviously Washington is one of the cities that is without PGA TOUR golf that is also a great market and it may be that something fits there.
It's just that it is mid-February and we will be working very rapidly because -- I can't recall a situation where we let a situation go as long and we usually don't lose a tournament anyway. But in 1994 we announced the Presidents Cup four months before we staged it; that was a significant chore.
So we have to move quickly. But I certainly wouldn't rule Washington out, but I wouldn't say that it's a first priority right now either.
Q. Did I hear you say that Washington is not a No. 1 priority?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: We have not prioritized options. We have several markets and we have a couple or three sponsors who have a couple of charity organizations interested. We haven't put a formal prioritization together to chart actual discussions. We are looking at a couple of golf courses, or at least evaluating them, and we have had preliminary conversation dating back to last fall. We usually have conversations along those lines anyway. Even if we don't have opportunity, people call us. We will be doing a prioritization within the next ten days. We will be actively working on whatever the first priority is within two weeks, and we'll have more to say about it within the next 30 days.
Q. Is TPC Avenel still a possibility?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, I actually don't want to get into that level of detail about the future. This is about The INTERNATIONAL.
But let me just say, Avenel is scheduled to go into a total rebuild this summer, and it's out of commission for a year and a half. So it's probably not an option in the short term.
Q. In a nutshell, can you just say why this happened, why The INTERNATIONAL is closing down? Is it simply because there's no sponsors?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, I think Jack put it probably the best. That is the triggering effect. And by the way, it's not simply --
Q. Just wondering if there were a lot more factors or if that was the main factor?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: That is an $8 million plus factor, so that is the driving factor. Now there are a variety of factors that impacted the situation that we don't have a title sponsor. Some is history, some is speculation on the future with the new date and some is as Jack alluded to, perhaps not enough time since a key sponsor of The INTERNATIONAL last year had problems business-wise and had to move elsewhere put everything on a short leash. There are a variety of factors here.
But the fundamental trigger is that there is no stop-gap solution to make up $8 million plus shortfall, and that's put us in the posture of where we are today.
Q. Now if I can just follow-up on that, it certainly seems that this might come as a surprise to a lot of people who don't follow golf shortly; with the popularity of golf -- it may be a general shock to lose a tournament. Who do you say to that and what does it say about the PGA TOUR --
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, I can understand that. Candidly, the reason we're sitting here in February is because we didn't want to believe this could happen. We've had such success with sponsorship across the board on all three Tours, and this is a tournament that boasts a very strong field, regardless of how much focus you may put on one or two players that haven't played here in three for our years, it is a very solid field. But, it gets back to accumulated result of the situation.
To the fans, I would just ask them to stand back and look at the entirety of the TOUR. As Jack alluded to earlier, sooner or later we will fix the situation for PGA TOUR golf to be back in Denver. In the meantime I think we're in a very strong position going forward to the rest of the season and into the next few years.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
End of FastScripts