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February 4, 2015

Tim Finchem


COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Let me just make a comment about Charlie Sifford. I think we put out a statement earlier. I went up to Washington when Charlie received the White House Medal Of Freedom and he was kind of failing, but I thought it was great that he was recognized, that he got in the Hall of Fame. I think a lot of you guys know this, he kind of got involved with the Hall of Fame, he actually got a place to live down there at the World Golf Village and he put his heart and soul into building the Hall of Fame. I first met him when I started this job. He was playing the Champions Tour in those days. It's a real loss, because he was a pioneer, he suffered all kinds of difficulty playing as an African American and it's just a sad day. But we all ought to take a minute and remember the impact that he had on the game. So, that's that. Be happy to take your questions.

Q. Will the TOUR do anything in regards to honoring him during this season?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: We will do some things. Definitely do something at the Hall of Fame ceremony this summer in St. Andrews and look for some other opportunities as well.

Q. Why did you guys take his name off the exemption at Riviera? It used to be the Charlie Sifford Exemption and then it became just the Northern Trust?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I don't know the answer to that, I don't know why.

Q. Can you talk about the most recent lawsuit the TOUR seems to be involved in with the caddies and I know that it's in litigation, but I mean just generally the caddies believe they're a part of the TOUR?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Yeah, well, first of all, I actually haven't studied the complaint. And even if I had, I might not talk about the actual litigation or the issues involved, specifically as it relates from a legal standpoint. But I will just say that, you know, probably most people don't, that read about this, don't understand the way the caddie/player relationship works. It goes back a long way and it's a, a player is an individual, an independent contractor, he doesn't have an HR department, he makes an arrangement with somebody that's going to carry the bag and work with him. They work out a financial arrangement that incents that individual to do it. And those arrangements are all over the map. But the historical process is the player handles that and they are employees of the player. We think that's been a good system. The extent to which this lawsuit challenges that system, for whatever reasons they have in the lawsuit from a legal standpoint, it is what it is, but we would like to continue that system and let it go on. We just have to see what happens with this litigation.

Q. The fact that the TOUR has been willing to participate at least financially for the caddies in regards to health insurance, I think it's a $2,000 annual stipend, $2,000 a year for certain caddies that meet certain requirements, is that something that you, understanding the way the world is and the cost of health insurance, is that something that at least you would be willing to take a look at to see if you could increase that?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, over the last 15 years we, and our tournaments, have taken a number of steps to make the experience for a caddie as good as possible. That includes support on-site, how they're handled, from a parking standpoint, food. We also do the insurance subsidy. So, you know, you have caddies who come out here and they work year round for the same player, year after year after year. You have some that will work with a player for a few weeks. You have some who are out here and they have never caddied before and they're caddieing because the player is a friend of theirs. So it's all over the map. But the players would like to see and we have supported making it as good an experience as it could be. The extent to which the TOUR does better financially for the players, that impacts the ability of the player to do better for the caddie financially. Depending upon their own individual arrangement. So we think it's a good system. We think it's worked and we would like to continue it. But we'll just have to see what comes from the lawsuit.

Q. When does Olympic testing start? What date? And is it possible that somebody could qualify for not only the Olympics, but the testing protocol at the last minute and therefore only be subject to it for about a month?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Technically, yes. The pool starts, I believe on May 6 of 2016.

Q. That's not correct. I mean, it's a year before the Olympics begin is the protocol for all athletes in the Olympics.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: This is what I'm told by my people so you can check, we can check.

Q. This is what the United States Anti-Doping Agency says.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, you have to talk to Danny about that. My understanding is, it's in May, when the pool -- that you stop the clock on that day, who is eligible to play.

Q. The top four?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: On May 6. That will change between that date and when the actual field is determined. Which is a later date. I believe it's in early July. But testing protocols will commence when the pool is determined. And we can be happy to double check the date. On that date, they are subject to the specific protocols that are used for all athletes across the spectrum in the Olympics. But to your point, yes, that list could change and it could change between the time the pool is set and when the actual field is set.

Q. Would it be a maximum of four in the pool? Because no more than four from any country can participate in the Olympics?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Because of the way it works a country can have up to four if they're in the top 15, two is the limit beyond 15.

Q. But during that two months before the team is set, if number four drops out and is replaced by another player, does that player become part of the pool and the player who is number four is no longer part of the pool?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Let's say right now there would be four players from the United States, because there's four in the top 15. Three weeks later, there's only three in the top 15. The United States would get three.

Q. Right.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: The replacement spot would, it's hard to tell where it comes it could come from the U.S. going past 15, but, no, it would be limited at that point. The U.S. would be done, so it would go to somebody else, but it's too hard to tell who.

Q. A player or a caddie said yesterday that they were told they couldn't park on-site and were sent off to a site where they had to shuttle in and there were no shuttle buses, so that would seem to suggest that the experience is not as good as it could be for them.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No, it's a work in progress. I mean, it's like, I remember some years ago in Sawgrass the media complained a lot about parking. So you guys have problems with parking. So parking's an issue and it varies from week-to-week, like so many things with our tournaments. So, we have made progress, but it's, there's, obviously, things we can do better.

Q. There are two players that have tested positive for performance enhancing drugs, it's unclear at least in one case if they weren't prescribed by a doctor, a legitimate doctor for a legitimate purpose, meaning the most recent case, but yet there's been numerous times when players have tested positive for recreational drugs, but they haven't been called out. Is it not time to take a different look on how we'll handle this situation?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No, we think our conduct unbecoming, and those people that go into that bucket, works quite nicely and we're very comfortable the way it works. We think it's effective, we think it accomplishes the mission when a player has difficulty or has issues in that regard and we're very comfortable with it.

Q. What is your thinking about being more transparent, in effect, to get one example, Josh Gordon has again this week we know for sure that he failed a third test and is now out a year. Why not the same transparency in golf?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, we take a different view. We take the view that there isn't any necessity to broadcast when we have conduct issues. We feel like the level of the conduct issues that we deal with, almost a hundred percent, do not require us, from a fan interest and demand. Having said that, we do reserve the right -- and the players know this, to take steps to -- we just don't have the same kind of situations that the other sports have. But if we had a situation where we felt like, look, we just have to say what's going on because of this conduct, we reserve the right to do that. Generally speaking, we don't find the need to do that.

Q. What's your thought on what's going to happen with the Match Play after this year? I know that this is a one-time that you'll have it in San Francisco and the later date. Is there a hope to return it to February or can you say what you would prefer at this time?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, we would like to move it up earlier, for sure. Maybe February, maybe March. We would like to position it in the right market. San Francisco is a great market and a great golf course for match play. I think you'll find Harding Park, you've been there, you've seen it, it's going to be terrific. But we do need to get it up further in the schedule and Harding has other things coming up, so we're focused earlier. We have gotten a great reaction to the changes in the format. A lot of you all have commented that the Match Play, that Wednesday is one of the best days of golf and now Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, we have 96 matches in three days. I mean it's kind of nirvana. So we really like that and we're getting a great reaction in the marketplace. So we're making -- I'm very, very confident of what's going to come out of that. I feel very good about it. We should have more to say about that in a few weeks.

Q. How concerned are you that the West Coast Swing has taken a hit the way the schedule's set up now?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: In the context of players playing more in the fall?

Q. More in the fall, taking some time off, staying in Europe, not coming over at all to the West Coast.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, Europe is not a new phenomenon. I mean Europe isn't anything new. The African tournaments pretty much command -- the way the Ryder Cup requirements work with the European Tour, the members that the Europeans that are members here sort of look at that window to sort of fulfill their requirement for Ryder Cup. And none of that is really new. I think it's a good trade off. I think we get a good representation from the Justin Rose's of the world here, some of them, like Lee Westwood, gravitate and move here and then they play more. I think that works fine. In terms of how much players are playing in that time of the year, vis-a-vis the fall, I think that's going to take a couple more years to sort of sort out how it's going to level out given the changes we have made in the schedule. So, there is some impact but I think the West Coast tournaments are very strong.

Q. When you decide whether a field is getting slightly weaker or stronger, what do you use to measure it? Ranking, FedExCup?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Like five different things. World Rankings, FedExCup points, when you talk about impact players, balancing Top-50 year after year after year, we look at all those things.

Q. What are you finding? Are things dipping or are they steady?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: It moves around I think is what we find. I think our current conflicting event policies are good. I think very few players push our guidelines. I think that we could use perhaps a better way to encourage players to move their schedules around. We seem to have good results in that area a couple of years ago. That seems to have faded. So, I think we need -- and we talked about this last night -- we need to get back to working on that a little bit. How can we move schedules around. Because that would solve problems with -- and it's not just sponsor issues or tournament issues, it's also getting some of these players into markets that haven't seen the players, making it a more consistent flow. So that's the kind of thing we're looking at and that's something we want to make progress on this year.

Q. Back to the conduct unbecoming topic, a player on the PGA TOUR China has been suspended by the China Golf Association for behavior on the golf course that's not just behavior, but actual related to the competition. And yet that's something that the TOUR doesn't comment on. Do you see that as a problem in terms of deterring that behavior in the future by not exposing the player's behavior and also letting his fellow competitors know what he was found guilty of?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I think it's a very good question. I think that we have to clarify how that policy works in relationship to our other tours. I think that there is a -- it's a little gray right now, in terms of PGA TOUR Latino America, PGA TOUR China, where we have partners over there, and we intend to clarify that this year.

Q. In the Dustin Johnson case, the lack of transparency created sort of a lot of rumor and innuendo that has resulted from it. Are you comfortable with that happening? You said you're comfortable with the way you guys operate, but what do you make of an absence of facts, a lot of rumor and innuendo has filled the void?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, that's a very good question. And when I say I'm comfortable with it, that doesn't mean I think it's perfect. I never like to see distractions and rumors and innuendo drive distraction. But on balance I have to saying our policy has worked quite well.

Q. Are you worried about Tiger's golf game?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, it's interesting, I think if you asked me as a fan, I would say -- if I was doing something else -- I would say, yeah, because I want to see him challenge and continue to challenge the big records, particularly Snead's record and Nicklaus's record. If you ask me from the standpoint of my current job, I would say not so much, because his, it's fascinating to fans. I think that candidly, I think when he tees it up this week, everybody in the world's going to want to see how he's going to play, because here you had a guy who was so incredibly good for such a long time, and he's struggling out there. I've said this before, but I think that Tiger has about a 10 year shelf life, in my view, in terms of, if he was not, if he's not winning golf tournaments, people still want to watch Tiger Woods play golf. So, from the standpoint of our business, as long as he's playing, he's still going to have the same impact. But, again, as a fan, I would like to see him get back in the hunt and continue to challenge those records.

Q. Do you think you can beat him right now?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No, that's ridiculous.

Q. In regards to the Olympics, if for some reason the IOC decided not to include golf in the next time they went around and discussed it, would the PGA TOUR continue with drug testing?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Yes, because we didn't go to drug testing simply because of the Olympics, we went to drug testing primarily -- and we didn't go to drug testing because we felt we had a PED problem. We went to drug testing because the perception of across the board in sports is that athletes dope. We even had questions raised about our sport. We felt that the image of our sport and our athletes is the number one asset by a big margin. And in our defense we want to be able to demonstrate that our players don't PED use and so the Olympics is really secondary. So I would say yes.
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