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August 19, 2014
PARAMUS, NEW JERSEY
LAURA NEAL:Â We'd like to welcome Commissioner Tim Finchem to the interview room as we kickoff the 2014 FedExCup Playoffs here at The Barclays.Â I know you have a few opening remarks and we'll open it to questions.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM:Â Sure.Â Thank you, Laura.Â Thank you all for being here today and this week covering the tournament.
Just a couple things.Â We of course want to thank Barclays for their continued support of not just sponsoring the tournament but helping make it to what it is today in the New York metropolitan area.Â
Â Â Â Â Â Â I think I'm correct when I say that from the time we came to Ridgewood a few years ago to this year, the size of the tournament was just about every respect in charitable dollars, ticket sales, corporate hospitality and reach and impact has pretty much doubled.
So I also want to take my hat off to Ridgewood, they have been a great host here.Â The golf course from all I've heard thus far this week is spectacular.Â We are ready to get into the Playoffs.Â We had a good play‑in last week at Wyndham to get going and set the stage, and I know the players are excited with what's going to happen over these next four weeks.
Just going back a couple years, we're very pleased with the progress of the Playoffs and the FedExCup as a whole.Â It's pulled the TOUR together in real meaningful, year long competition.Â The finishes have been really strong.Â So the performance of the tournaments with galleries in the markets we've played and on television has been very special.
Just one other thing I would say is that we're going to be playing the BMW in two weeks at Denver where we haven't played golf in a little while, and all indications are that's going to be a huge event for us, also.Â So all four events look set up very, very nicely.
I'm going to do a more thorough State of the TOUR address and Q&A as I normally do at THE TOUR Championship at East Lake.Â But I thought I'd make myself available for current questions now.Â With that said, I'll be happy to take them.
Q.Â Do you think since the inception of the Playoffs that they have kind of achieved their own identity now and have found a niche within the whole golf schedule, Majors, WGC events, etc.?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM:Â Yeah, I think so.Â I think it really starts with two things.Â One is history.Â Any new event, series, TOUR in golf, takes several years to establish itself because you need history.Â You need people thinking about what happened the last time, and that's true with every tournament.
So when we started the FedExCup, we knew it was going to take enough years to get history on the books so people could get into it.Â Candidly, it's moved a little faster than we thought it would because the finishes have been so good.
But very importantly, the players have really gotten into it and committed to it and excited about it and they obviously enjoy it.Â It's unique for them to be playing kind of two competitions at the same time, one for the tournament that week that has a certain impact of its own and then positioning for the eventual conclusion, and the fans have reacted very positively.
The other thing I would just point to is that in addition to the normal stuff with television, it just lends itself well to digital applications because we now have 60 percent of our fans roughly watching, following our telecasts online and with the FedExCup, there's a lot to tell them digitally.
Like this week, there will be a story line on who is making it the next week; there will be a story line on who is moving up the board, who is falling down the board for next week and the next three weeks; and then who is making a push to get in that Top‑5, which is really important to increase the odds that you have a chance to win the Cup in Atlanta.
So all those things work well from a digital standpoint, and the fans, as I said, have continued to react very positively.
Q.Â When the Playoffs were first implemented, you mentioned two major benefits would be ending the season before football got into the swing of things and giving the players an off‑season and a chance to rest a little bit.Â Neither of those things have quite happened‑‑
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM:Â What was the second one?
Q.Â Giving the players an off‑season, letting them have a break.Â With the last few events happening of the Playoffs during football season and with the wraparound schedule now, does that contradict the initial proposal?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM:Â Well, no, on the first one, what we talked about was the difference between ending our season in November two months into football and ending it sooner.
So we felt like we could‑‑ if the Playoffs got to be interesting enough, we could carry our audience pretty well for a few weeks into football and that's materialized.Â So we like the positioning of the dates.
In terms of players taking the time off, they had the option to take the time off.Â We start the season‑‑ the difference between now and when we talked about that originally is that we now start a new season.Â The season's over.Â So it's really still about the same variables for a player:Â How many tournaments are you going to play over the course of a season.
The only surprise we've had really is ‑‑ and it may not turn out to be a consistent thing, is the first year of the wrap‑around, surprising number of players played more events in the fall.
Now, we'll see what develops with that.Â That's okay.Â It does put a little bit more pressure on access for the Web.com Tour player coming out.Â But prize money is going up in the fall, so it's a stronger period of time.Â But the thing we like about that is that we get to the Christmas holidays, we have a FedExCup list to promote and talk about, which is helpful to get fans into what's going to happen the rest of the year.Â So those are the decisions that players have make.
There were a number of players that basically took time off of the last two or three years after The Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup.Â But that's a matter of personal preference.Â The math tells you that players don't have to play that much.Â If they don't play as much, they have to play better.Â That's what's driven them this first year.Â We'll just have to see if that continues.
Q.Â There's a lot of talk about the growing number of major medical extensions.Â Are you doing anything in that regard going forward?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM:Â We have been looking at that category.Â Originally that category goes back 30 years.Â It's been amended a number of times.Â And the reason is that it designed to create a situation where a player who gets hurt can have a reasonable opportunity to come back.Â He's given access that he otherwise wouldn't have so that in lieu of his time out being hurt, to demonstrate his competitive level.
Now that's easily said and there's number of different ways to do that, and that category has been amended a number of times over the years.Â In recent years, we've had an uptick, and it could be‑‑ you'll hear a lot of speculation about what the modern golf swing does to the back.Â We have players that are more athletic, that work out harder.
So you don't know why, but we have had an uptick, and it has put some pressure on the access to the Web.com Tour players coming up; as has the last year or two, the use of the one‑time exemption for all‑time money.Â So we are just evaluating it.
We are looking, though, and have talked to our board about putting some limitations or additional restraints on the size of the category from a number of years standpoint.
Q.Â What do you mean by that?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM:Â Well, currently, there is more flexibility than perhaps we should have in terms of being able to carry over the time.
We think that at some point it probably becomes the rub of the green; if you get hurt, we don't think regulation was intended that five years later, you can get better and then you wait a couple years and you're not required to come back.
So expediting that would reduce that category a little bit and we'll continue to look at it as we go forward.Â We are taking a number of measures to improve the access for Web.com Tour graduates and some of those will kick into effect here in 2015 and then a couple of them will come in over the next couple years, including a couple more tournaments which we're adding.
Q.Â What are some of the other ones that will kick in next year?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM:Â We're adding a new tournament in Alabama, I think we announced.Â We're looking at one more.Â We are looking at that career category not with the idea of changing it, but we are pretty sure it's going to cool back down a little bit, which won't have as negative an impact as it had in the last year.Â We're just looking at a variety of things.
You know, one of the things we're concerned about is if a player who comes out at the bottom of the list off the Web.com, in some cases it's a player who since he was eight years old wanted to be on the PGA TOUR, gets his card; you want that player to have a reasonable number of tournaments to be able to have a competitive‑‑ a fair test.Â Now, if you asked the player which would you prefer, we reduce the category where you only get this number of events, they will always say this number of events and I understand that.
But we have gone down in the last three years in that regard and that's one of the impacts of this other thing I was talking about in the fall.Â So that one thing might change.Â That was the first year of the wraparound and may turn itself around a little bit.Â So it's probably a two‑year review of all these things to see where we're going to go.
Q.Â When the TOUR and Westchester split, how did Ridgewood sort of come to the surface as a possible destination in 2008?Â Was this a place that you guys had on your radar prior?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM:Â Early on?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM:Â Well, when we were at‑‑ let me think about this.Â When we were at Westchester and then we shifted to the FedExCup, we knew that in doing so, this was going to be a much bigger tournament.Â So it occurred to us that given the size of the metropolitan area, it would make sense to move the tournament around a little bit in the area.
And so we just went out and did a review of a lot of golf courses.Â We looked at a lot.Â We looked at a dozen courses probably.Â That led us to eventually play Bethpage and play Ridgewood and not just play Liberty and work with Liberty to improve that golf course to where it is now which we are very pleased with; so a lot of different things.
Ridgewood was one of the places where you're starting‑‑ some players may have played Ridgewood but we had not played a competition here.Â The first year we played here, the players loved it.Â It's just a natural for the players.Â They like everything about it.Â Tough to find a player; you'll always find a player that has this or that change they would make, but I would characterize the experience here as at an all‑time low playing on a new golf course.
So that experience, and the enthusiasm of the membership here to help support making the tournament work, we just decided it would be nice to come back on a regular basis.Â So that's what's happened.
Q.Â Dustin said in a statement a couple of weeks ago that he was taking a voluntary leave to seek professional help for some personal challenges.Â Is he required to get any professional help for personal challenges before he returns to the TOUR?Â Do you care if he does?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM:Â When he made his statement, we responded by saying that, words to the effect, that we understand his statement and what he's going to do.Â We support his decision to do it and we'll have no further comment and we have no further comment.
Q.Â Just curious if he was required to do anything?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM:Â We have no further comment.
Q.Â Based on that, I'm going to try to continue that topic.Â The TOUR has a policy that it won't comment on punitive measures toward PGA TOUR players, but the TOUR did issue a statement saying that Johnson was not suspended.Â Does that set a precedent now that the TOUR will comment on those measures?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM:Â Well, we reserve the right to comment on anything we want to comment about if we think it's important to do so.Â In that case, we felt like the information that had floated in the media was incorrect and needed to be corrected.
Same thing if a player characterized something that we weren't comfortable with, we reserve the right to clarify it.Â We might not clarify it because we didn't think it was very important, but we reserve the right to do so and that's what we did in that case.
Q.Â Unrelated, with next month's Ryder Cup coming up, can you ever envision a time where the TOUR works with The PGA of America and The European Tour to combine The Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup into either one annual event or one biannual event?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM:Â Well, I could envision it.Â Just did when you asked me the question (laughter).
Q.Â Have you ever envisioned it before?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM:Â The downside‑‑ I could see some pluses.Â But the thing about The Ryder Cup is at least at this juncture‑‑ and things change.Â The Ryder Cup changed dramatically in the 70s and 80s when it went from the U.K. to U.K. and Europe.
Now at least at this point‑‑ now, during those years, Europe for all intents and purposes became very much unified which added to the nationalistic aspect of team sports and individual sports in Europe.
So the history of The Ryder Cup to this point and its current success would argue that you don't want to move away from the nationalistic aspect of The European Team, No. 1.
And No.2 I'm always of the view that if it ain't broke, don't fix it.Â And right now The Ryder Cup is doing phenomenally well from a balanced competitive standpoint, and The Presidents Cup in its short history is performing very well, too.Â Hasn't been as competitive in the last three or four Cups played to the first‑‑ the middle three or four since '96, but nevertheless, it's moving along well.
So I think it's something you can always debate about.Â I always think debating these things and talking about it is healthy.Â But at least right now, I would say no, I wouldn't go down that path.
Q.Â As much as you love hypotheticals, if you could go back to 1969 and you're splitting away from The PGA of America and you've got these two properties, the World Series of Golf and The Ryder Cup, which one would you keep?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM:Â The World Series of Golf, no question (laughter).Â Now, I probably wouldn't have gotten the job by making that decision and then becoming Commissioner.
Well, 1969, I don't know who had a crystal ball that would have seen The Ryder Cup going to where it did, which it really started taking off in '83.
The whole thing about the '68 split between the PGA TOUR and the PGA was that those properties were dealt with in a way that resulted from trying to maintain a capability on the part of the PGA to do some competitive golf because it was good for their culture.
And the forefathers of the PGA TOUR felt like, also maintaining that good, strong interface with the PGA was a positive thing for golf if it could be done.Â So that's what happened.
But we don't worry about that because we like The Ryder Cup just the way it is.Â We like the way the PGA manages it and runs it.Â They do a great job.Â We work pretty closely with them on a lot of stuff.
It is one of those things that I think is important to the culture of the PGA.Â The membership of the PGA takes great pride in their role with The Ryder Cup, and so all those things are good.Â We applaud the work that they have done with it up to and leading into this year's Cup.Â I think the selection of Watson was excellent, and it t the work that's been done to prepare Gleneagles is really good.
You know, to some extent, it's an advantage when an organization has one or two big tournaments to deal with.Â We have a lot.Â And they can focus all their energy on that and make it special, and that's certainly what they have done.Â My hat's off to them.
Q.Â One more question Ryder Cup related and quasi‑hypothetical.Â If we get to East Lake, there's been a lot of chatter amongst players about skipping a layoff event just because of the glut of tournaments going in.Â Would you be inclined to stack all four back‑to‑back in the future if it means players missing a Playoff event?Â Seems like it shortchanges the sponsor, or it could.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM:Â We don't like playing all four regardless of The Ryder Cup.Â We don't like playing all four together.Â We like the break week.
The calendar varies from time to time.Â Every five years, there's one less week to deal with, so it's hard sometimes.Â But we would prefer to have a break week either after two or after three, either one.Â And we like the flow of it.Â We like the time to build up to it a little bit.
So it's not going to, and that's what we would prefer to do.Â Whether it wouldn't be that we would prefer to do it for if some players skipped an event, because we already prefer to do it, and we'll do it next year and the year after for sure.
Q.Â So there won't be four in a row in 2016?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM:Â Not in the next two years if I'm correct, for sure, and then you get out a little bit further.Â But our plan would be to avoid it.Â We don't like it.
LAURA NEAL:Â Thanks so much for your time.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports