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June 30, 2009

Tim Finchem

TY VOTAW: Good afternoon, everybody. This is Ty Votaw with the PGA TOUR. Joining me here today is Commissioner Tim Finchem who would like to share a few items from a recently concluded policy board meeting of the PGA TOUR. We don't have a lot of time here but the Commissioner wanted to share with you some of these matters. He will be coming into the press room at the AT&T National tomorrow at ten o'clock to answer more questions if you have them. He'll be able to talk, answer a couple of questions here at the conclusion of his remarks.
And without further ado, I would like to turn it over to Commissioner Finchem.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Thank you, Ty. All right, we are running quite late here, but let me just share with you a couple of things about our meeting. The vast majority of our meeting was focused on business realities of 2009 where we are in light of the recession and the downturn and are out-year projections and dealing with some tournament issues and things of that nature.
In addition to that, we spent part of the meeting, the early part of the meeting yesterday renewing our new facility at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farms which if you have not been out there, we invite you to go by, visit and play. It's a phenomenal facility now, and we are quite excited about it.
And I assume the reason we have so many people on the call is because you are interested in our discussion regarding the pending groove rule scheduled to come online on January 1, and with regard to that, I would just say that we had a full and thorough discussion on the question of delaying the rule. I think what came out of that discussion was a reaffirmation of the general support for the rule itself.
We have some issues and differences of opinion with regard to the date, the enacting date of whether it should be January 1, 2010 or whether we should wait a year. There's been a fair amount of discussion in recent weeks about waiting until 2011. The board finished that discussion by continuing the historic policy of allowing the use of a condition of competition to rest with the Commissioner and the staff, and it is our intention to move ahead and utilize the condition starting on January 1, 2010.
I think however, having said that, I think with that said, several things are important to note. One, we will be engaged in an aggressive out-reach to our players. I think one of the concerns here is the focus of players and the prioritization by players on the impending rule. As part of that, we will be -- we have identified a number of golf courses adjacent to where we have played tournaments that will be made available for players to start to work with the new equipment as it becomes available.
Third, we certainly have some work to do with respect to how the condition should or shouldn't be applied to qualifiers. We take note of the fact that the USGA and the R&A are evaluating the use and the condition as it relates to qualifiers. We have the same issue, particularly with respect to our prequalifiers on Wednesdays; and then generally, just bringing to bear the same kind of energy on engaging this transition to new groove requirements, that we brought to bear on testing driver heads some years ago or with bringing online anti-doping measures last year.
We will have a full-court press. We will try to make sure that every player is paying attention to what he needs to do, working with his manufacturer to become prepared. We will also share our thoughts with the International Federation of PGA TOURs at Turnberry when we meet in a few weeks to also encourage the other tours to take similar steps during the remaining months of the year.
We do think there are some challenges here. We are comfortable that we can meet the challenges, and we have great faith in our players. We just felt that generally speaking, or I concluded, that delaying at this point in time probably was not in our overall best interests. But the good news is that there continues to be wide support for the rule itself.
With that, I'll take maybe two or three questions, and then be happy to go into it in more detail with you when I'm over there at the press room tomorrow morning at ten o'clock.

Q. I was wondering if the biggest hurdle in implementing the rule for 2010 is this idea of onsite enforcement of the rule, or is the biggest hurdle giving players enough time to prepare for the change?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I think the latter. I think as you know, there are a wide range of opinions on this question, and there is some variable in terms of the way manufacturers are approaching the issue in terms of dealing with players; and there is a wide range of different attitude by many players who don't want to begin the process until after the official season. Others will begin working with equipment as it becomes available later this summer for manufacturers. Some equipment is already available.
So it's just the number of players; there is arguably some ripple effect in the reactions players have to the use of these grooves in terms of whether they alter equipment, go to a different wedge for different shots, and every player is different. So there's a wide range of opinions, but I think it's largely the latter.
With regard to the former, we will have an onsite testing device that will be user friendly. It will be similar, really, from an execution standpoint as the device we use and continue to have available with regard to the spring-like effect in drivers, so-called Coefficient of Restitution issue for measuring that. We will have the same capability, and we will put resources behind making sure that that capability is available to utilize as needed as we make this transition.

Q. What is it about not delaying that you thought was in the best overall interests of the TOUR?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, you know, I think that we're late in the process. I think there's been a lot of reliance on the schedule by individuals, by equipment manufacturer, by other tours, by other golf organizations in taking steps to prepare for this schedule. We challenged that internally as we were asked to. We got a couple of requests to consider a delay, and we challenged whether that was a problem, and we concluded that it was.
Also, we thought that the bulk of the preparedness issue with the delay would be shifted to next year. Candidly, I think having more time is always a good thing for just about anything you want to do, and it candidly probably would be an easier transition, somewhat easier transition if we waited, but a lot of people in the industry are down the road. We want to get out there, and this is something new. So players need to spend more time focused on it, and our fans need to get educated.
We just think waiting maybe cut against putting the energy behind that education, so we want to work with our television partners, our broadcast partners and get out there and work with the fans.

Q. And secondly, in terms of onsite testing, will this work similarly to driver testing from the standpoint that if a player has a question about another player's wedges, he can anonymously ask that they be tested?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Yeah, I think it will take on the two forms. One form is that an official will have full authority to test equipment as he may deem fit for whatever reason. That takes on different forms.
And then, of course, yes, it's in an official's discretion, still under discretion, but if he is brought information by a competitor regarding a piece of equipment, it is in his discretion to test.
Now, most of that, 99% of that, with clubheads, has to do with the player asking for his own equipment to be tested; even though he is relying on his manufacturer who will have the same testing equipment, all manufacturers will have the same testing equipment that we do. Nevertheless, a lot of players want to double-check. So most of it will be there, I assume. But there will be the occasion where somebody hits a shot and maybe appears to have a lot of spin rate and a player says, you know, why don't you check that, and it's up to the official to decide whether he would do that, and the answer is yes.

Q. Just real quick clarification. You said earlier, did the board actually not vote on the issue; they just left it up to you to decide?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: The way the PGA TOUR works is the Commissioner is authorized to manage competitions, and that includes the use of a condition of competition that's in the Rules of Golf.
The board had a thorough discussion of the issue and did not take action, which by default means that it is left up to the Commissioner and staff to make the decision. I had come to a conclusion as to that decision, and I made that clear to the board, and they nevertheless left it up to me to move forward, and that's what I am relating to players today.
Thank you, and I'll look forward to seeing you guys tomorrow morning at ten o'clock.

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