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October 31, 2015
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
THE MODERATOR: We would like to welcome Tim Finchem, PGA TOUR commissioner. Tim has been the commissioner of the PGA TOUR since 1994. Commissioner Finchem, just talk about being here at the CIMB Classic and your time in Malaysia so far.
TIM FINCHEM: Thank you, thank you everyone, thanks for being here this week. We appreciate it. I'll just make a few comments, see if you have any questions.
First of all, we are excited to be back in Malaysia again this year. We have had a good run here these last few years with our current contract with our good friend and sponsor, CIMB, and they have become a great partner of ours. We have extended that through 2016. We are in discussions about the future beyond that. Hopefully, we'll have more to say about that in the future.
Right now, we're enjoying a good week of golf. The players have reacted very positively to this golf course. They're playing very well. The scoring conditions are very good, so there's a lot of action this week at the tournament.
I would say in the broader context that our interest here in Malaysia is certainly related to Malaysia itself and growing the game, but also, strategically, we see Asia, generally, as an area of future growth of the game.
We're particularly focused on the fact that golf is in the Olympics next year in Rio for the first time in a lot of years. And we want to take full advantage of that development in terms of this relationship in growing the game. And that led us to do more here in Asia. This week's event on the PGA TOUR, and then the next week playing in China, etcetera.
So, I would just comment, generally, that I think globally the game is quite healthy. It's very solid in the mature markets in North America and the U.K.
It's growing nicely in other parts of the region, here and in other parts of the world, as well. And that's one of the main reasons we are in Malaysia. In connection with that we want to do everything we can to grow the game.
This week we have a great field, as I mentioned. A lot of good scoring. We have a number of players who come in here playing extremely well.
I see Kevin Na is up on the board.
Adam Scott is playing well this week.
Justin Thomas, who has been very close to winning twice and is a good young player at a very young age.
I think the fundamental thing about the PGA TOUR today is the extreme popularity of the younger players. More than half of our tournaments the last two years have been won by players in their 20s. This is sort of the phenomenon of the youth movement and the television ratings, the sales of tickets are growing because of that. So we're very, very pleased. I would be happy to try to take any questions that you have.
THE MODERATOR: We'll now open it up for questions.
Q. This is your first time out Malaysia and your general impressions of the golf course, the setup, and the country as well.
TIM FINCHEM: Well, the golf course I was already familiar with because of the reaction of the players prior years and because of the intense scrutiny just from our staff. So I came here very knowledgeable about the golf course.
I must say that I've taken to the hospitality of the people here Malaysia. They are extremely friendly people, very cordial people, very bright people. And it's been exciting to have a lot of great conversations this week with people here and around Malaysia about things that don't relate to golf. Enjoyed that immensely as well.
I can see why our players enjoy coming here. It's a great atmosphere. It's an atmosphere of growth. And we're excited to be part of what's happening here.
I think Malaysia is well positioned, from a golf standpoint, as well as other sports. But the thing that struck me, the most concentrated portion of the fan base in Malaysia are in their 20s and 30s, and that's kind of different than you see in mature markets when it tends to be more older. But it's growing nicely among young people. 41 percent of the fan base here are young. That's a very positive statistic for the future of the game, generally, and for professional golf, the LPGA, the PGA TOUR, as we go forward. So, it's been a very positive experience. I'm very pleased about it.
Q. Your thoughts on golf in Asia, as well as, your thoughts on the Asian Tour partnership with the European Tour.
TIM FINCHEM: Well, generally in Asia, golf is poised to continue to grow. It was only 1995 when we played the first World Golf Championship event in China and there were only 28 courses in China.
So, during those intervening years, there's been a huge growth potential in that country and in other countries as well.
I think that as you move around Asia, you find that people are recognizing the value of golf. The value from an economic impact standpoint and a development standpoint.
This week we'll be in a lot of homes around the world, so it's a great opportunity to tell the story of a country like Malaysia.
We had a very positive meeting with the prime minister here yesterday, who is always a very strong supporter of the PGA TOUR and what it means for Malaysia moving forward. So we're pleased about that.
I also think, again, that the golf coming to the Olympics, the focus of the Olympics on young people, our focus on young people kind of represents that nicely. And I think that that can be a boost, specifically, to the countries that pay a lot of attention to it, like Malaysia does. So all that is a positive.
In terms of the European Tour or the Asian Tour, they have had a relationship for a long time. We co-sanction six events now together. Some 25 years ago, I think, Ken Schofield was running the Tour, the European Tour in those days. He did a good job of starting the process of co-sanctioning events with the European Tour players and the Asian Tour players and, certainly, more opportunities for elite players in Asia. And that's been a good partnership.
I think what we have tried to do in our brand is selectively look at things that are missing in the Asian landscape. That's why we wanted to get a specifically Chinese qualifying TOUR going in China to help grow their elite players.
Men are behind the women in some parts of Asia, like Japan, Korea, China, and elite players need elite competition. So we wanted to do that. We wanted to help do some things to raise the interest in the game among players in our brand.
This year, the Presidents Cup in Korea was a huge success. We had a great reaction there and as we continue to play here in Malaysia and showcase the TOUR in different aspects of the game here Malaysia.
So, I don't think there's anything contrary to Europe's position and our position. We have a good working relationship, have had for a long time. We have had good leadership from them.
Q. I think it's the third year now that the calendar starts in October for the PGA TOUR. Has the benefits that you anticipated, does that change come through, starting in October?
TIM FINCHEM: What was that?
Q. In terms of your brand itself, the PGA TOUR starting in October in 2015.
TIM FINCHEM: Yeah, I think from the first year it was a success. It allows us to end our season at the conclusion of the FedExCup playoffs. And it brings to a close everything. Before it was kind of scattered in the fall.
The other thing is that there's a question about whether it would be a good thing or a bad thing for our fall events. It's turned out that the players have reacted positively to it. We think it's a system that works better, and it also allows us to do a better job of qualifying in terms of identifying the best players. It's been very positive. Thus far, yes we're excited about it.
Q. With regards to the tie between the Asian and European Tour, could we see more tournaments in Asia as opposed to the ones that already exist?
TIM FINCHEM: From a PGA TOUR perspective? Possibly. I mean, we don't have any -- as I said a minute ago, we have a pretty full schedule, and we don't feel the need or think it would be in our interest just to have more tournaments to have more tournaments.
So, what we're trying to look at, is the way that golf is organized to insure that better players have the opportunity to gain confidence. And there are a lot of good players that can play, but until they get into significant competition, you can't develop as an elite player.
So next year, for example, let's just take Malaysia, right now, I think if we stop right now, there would only be one player in the tournament. So that needs to escalate and the only way to do that is to give players an opportunity to compete. So we're looking at those things.
We also have said this before, I think we see the need to bring professional golf closer together in terms of presenting the game globally. It's a global game, it's one of the few sports that is truly global. The globality of golf is probably a leading factor in the Olympics seeking us out to be in the Olympics, because we are in every continent.
But the best way to present it? That's a longer term question. But as we look at that question, I think we need to keep in mind the real need to provide good young players right now an opportunity to demonstrate their golf, and that's a challenge.
But at the end of the day, the success of that translates into further growth of the professional game, just like the success of our young players are feeding into and translating into this past year into the strongest year ever.
Q. Welcome back to Kuala Lumpur. At least in Asia there's an impression that golf is an elitist sport. How do you change that?
TIM FINCHEM: What's the word?
Q. An elitist sport. Only available to those who are rather more affluent than others. Should golf clubs open up their courses to all players, even to non-members, children, for example, in your opinion?
TIM FINCHEM: Well, I think that every -- if you look back in time, even to the 1500s when golf got created in Scotland, you go through this period where it's expensive to get this game started, it happened in Australia, it happened in the United States, and over time you overcome that. It is a process.
And to your point, I think that the only way -- you need to continue to grow the game, and excite people around the game, but you have to make the game available for people. And you have to make it available particularly to young people. We have a lot of programs in the United States that do that, but there is so much more that needs to be done, even in a country where golf is fairly solid.
So, in developing nations, developing meaning developing golf nations, it's even more important, because you just don't have the facilities.
But things like junior golf programs, programs that reach out to young boys and girls, gets them into the game. Programs that relate to very young, preschool activity in a golf atmosphere, those things are very, very important.
And eventually you have to have access to golf courses. Yes, I think more clubs are figuring out ways to see some development in the younger ages to get kids out on the golf course is, would be great way to go in some of these places.
But I think that what we're seeing, significant facility growth, which has been the case in China mainly, that gives us hope that those facilities will help. The other thing is, I think, that on a global basis I think we need to have less expensive, smaller facilities. We have had a great experience in experimenting in the U.S. with our First Tee program with facilities that have three golf holes and a driving facility, you have you a practice facility and a young person has the ability to learn the etiquette and how to move around a golf course and it can be done in three holes. Well, that's a lot less money and it takes less time.
So, those kind of initiatives, I think, will be important to move in the direction you're suggesting. The fundamental is that as long as golf in certain countries is viewed as elitist, it can't reach its potential. It has to be viewed as something that's good for the community, good for the people that play it, and for society, and it should be cherished and supported by the public sector and the private sector. And those are the kind of partnerships we want to see.
Q. I wanted to discuss -- the TOUR has quite a number of legacy sponsors or long-standing sponsors, and just on the assumption that this event Malaysia carries on to that extent --
TIM FINCHEM: I'm not sure I understand your question. Why is a sponsor?
Q. Well, CIMB becomes a legacy sponsor, a long-term sponsor, many years with the TOUR, are there any extra benefits or advantages that it enjoys? Or is it purely from an economical basis?
TIM FINCHEM: Your question is why would a sponsor stay with us for a long period of time?
Q. Yeah. The advantage of that and the disadvantages of that. Of course, the local example is CIMB.
TIM FINCHEM: Well, first of all, the nature of the sponsorship is that there's value at the outset. You start with a certain amount of value. But every year that goes by, the value increases, because the brand relationship between the company and the sport is enhanced. More people know about it, more people talk about it, more people get used to referring to it as the CIMB. So, the brand equity value grows. And after a certain threshold amount of time, the other thing that happens is the more the brand equity grows, the more involved the company gets in utilizing and targeting effectively to meet the objectives at that particular point in time is determined to be. So the value is increasing.
If a company works and uses our platform, they will be there for a long time. And that's what we're seeing on the PGA TOUR. Our average now is eight years, seven or eight years now. We have an increasing number of tournaments that have been with us for 10 years. That's a real strong statement about the confidence they have in the way we present the sport that they would make a commitment to us, not knowing what the economics are going to be in 10 years, they know that there's value there.
So, it's an ongoing process. The longer the relationship goes -- companies today -- they want to do these sponsorships. The price points are high, the Board of Directors view them, they are in it because there's value. It's the best business-to-business environment that you can create in sports, period.
So, these companies make a strategic decision. And once they make it, and they're invested in it, so they want to make it work. And they do make it work.
Q. Will the PGA continue here?
TIM FINCHEM: Well, as I said earlier, we feel like this is the biggest tournament in southeast Asia. And southeast Asia is an area where there is significant growth potential of the game. We think that by bringing these players here, that has a very positive affect and that in and of itself is a plus.
But beyond that, we have an opportunity to have our players learn more about the society and learn about Asia. We have our players have the ability to play more over here and experience something that's positive. Fundamentally, we just think it fits in terms of our long-range view. It's just one piece of the puzzle.
THE MODERATOR: All right, thank you everybody for attending. Thank you, Commissioner Finchem, for your time.
TIM FINCHEM: All right. Thank you for being here. Enjoy the rest of the tournament.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports