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June 1, 2016
THE MODERATOR: PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has joined us to discuss the news from earlier today regarding the World Golf Championships.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Have we distributed our statement?
THE MODERATOR: Yes, we have. Commissioner, if you'd just like to make some comments, and then we'll take some questions.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Yes, given that we have a fair volume of questions coming into headquarters, I thought I'd make myself available to answer questions. We issued a statement today about our plan as it relates to the World Golf Championship played the last few years at Doral and now moving to Mexico City starting next year.
As we anticipated, some of the reaction revolves around the feeling that somehow this is a political exercise, and it is not that in any way, shape, or form. It is fundamentally a sponsorship issue. We are a conservative organization. We value dollars for our players. We have a strong sense of fiduciary responsibility. So we make decisions that are in the best interests of our players, short term and long term. And as a consequence, we pride ourselves on being a conservative organization.
The decision made here was based on the reality that we were not able to secure sponsorship for next year's WGC at Doral or for out years for that matter. At the same time, we had an opportunity to build what we think is going to be a spectacular event in an area that is strategically important to the growth of the sport and the activity of the PGA Tour that has been focused in South America and Central America for the last good number of years.
At the same time, however, we want to make it clear that we have enjoyed our relationship with the Trump organization. We think that the work that was done after the acquisition of Doral by the Trump organization to rebuild the golf course was done in a very positive way, and the product was a result of that.
When Donald Trump purchased the property, he called me and asked whether I felt that it was necessary to do much with the golf course, and that led to a discussion that led to an indication that, if he wanted to work on the golf course, our recommendation would be to use Gill Hanse as the external architect and our own staff internally to do the work, which is what ensued and led to the product we have now, which we're very comfortable with.
We've also worked closely with Donald Trump in some of his other projects. We are great fans of the work that is being done by the architects he brought in at Turnberry. We're looking forward to personally looking at that work here in a couple of months when we go over there. We think what actually is my favorite golf course -- and I think he's talked about that from time to time -- is now going to be a much better golf course. And I could name a few other projects.
So from a golf standpoint, we have no issues with Donald Trump. From a political standpoint, we are neutral. The PGA Tour has never been involved or cares to be involved in presidential politics. I had an involvement in presidential politics, but that was over 30 years ago, and this is not a political decision.
We are keen on coming back to Doral. We need to find the right property to resume our long-term involvement in the community. We're proud of being there for over 50 years, and we'd like to come back. We have looked at certain kinds of properties that might work on our schedule, and we'll continue to do so with an eye toward bringing sponsorship, appropriate sponsorship, to whichever property we decide upon.
We explained all this yesterday to Donald in New York. He is clearly disappointed that the World Golf Championship will be leaving, but I think -- and I don't want to put words in his mouth, but I think that with the proper property we can resume our involvement in Miami, which we would be more than pleased to do.
In the meantime, we're going to focus our efforts on building as good a property as we can over the next seven years in Mexico City.
I'll be happy to answer your questions.
Q. Whether it's Doral or some of the other longtime TOUR sites that had to be given up over the years, Oak Hill or the (indiscernible) Hills, how tough is it to let go of history like this one?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Even with short-term history, it can be tough. With the Kemper Open, which had moved up from Charlotte to Washington, we had to let go, where we were playing at a TPC, that was troublesome. The inability to sponsor Jack Vickers' tournament, one of the class guys ever in golf, that wasn't all that old relationship, but it was a very difficult situation. I'd put that right up there in terms of difficulty.
The thing is that we pride ourselves and take candidly -- and I know our players do too -- take great pleasure in doing things that really impact the community positively. And when you, for whatever set of reasons, you can't continue, it's not fun by any means. So we try to avoid those situations, and luckily we have had a pretty good track record overall in avoiding those situations, but not always. We've had them, and my guess is going forward we'll have more.
This is -- I think one of the difficulties with sponsorship here -- I know everybody's talking about politics, but it's actually not that, in my view. I think it's more Donald Trump is a brand, a big brand, and when you're asking a company to invest millions of dollars in branding a tournament and they're going to share that brand with the host, it's a difficult conversation.
We are big supporters or fans of the Bedminster club in the New York area that Donald has. We think it would be a terrific venue for a tournament and have for a number of years, but we haven't been successful in moving a tournament that we actually rotate, our FEDEX playoff event there, with Barclays then, and coming soon Northern Trust. You know, it's just a struggle to get a customer to spend those kind of dollars and share the billing.
So I think it's actually the difficulty there is more that and less the politics. The politics might have contributed some since he's been running, but it's more that, and he knows that. But it's unfortunate we couldn't make it work right now, but our focus is going to be to come back with a solid property to make it work going forward.
Q. Two quick things. Were you close with anybody seriously in going back to Doral with a sponsor? And secondly, as you mentioned just there about trying to go back there, we're talking about just a regular PGA Tour event with a lower sponsorship level hopefully in the future, is what you're looking at?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, we -- you know, going back to my original comment that we're fairly conservative, we rarely take anything for granted. So I'd say that our concentration on Doral was pretty strong as much as a year ago, maybe a little longer actually. For a variety of reasons, we were concerned about whether we were going to be able to reach an agreement with that current sponsor.
So in that period of time, we're always talking with lots of companies because every company has their own view geographically, time of the year wise. It's matching things up. It's not just pairing them together. So we had a lot of conversations.
I wouldn't say -- we had some interest with a couple of properties that ended up going in a different direction because we had a couple of opportunities at the same time. We did hope that -- and we're cautiously optimistic -- about GM for a period of time, a good period of time, but it just in the final analysis didn't materialize, and we ran out of time. We have a contract for a notice requirement with the Trump organization. We have nine months now to build a new property at a new location. So we had to act.
But now that that venue is there, it's a venue we've been at for a half a century, so it will be a focal point of our efforts going forward to see what we can do.
Q. Tim, could you give us a sense of perspective on Ricardo Salinas in terms of his wealth, his commitment or spirit to the game, and also what he says as his vision for this tournament?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, when we contacted us well over -- or almost a year ago, their whole focus from day one, it's a very significant group of companies. And we have a couple of companies that we do business with that do a lot of business with them. We have a couple of CEOs we know very well here in the United States that do a lot of business with them. So we were able, after these initial conversations, to vet them quite thoroughly.
The thing that struck us from day one was that their overriding reason to become involved was, in fact, not the brand exercise, advertising, the standard things. It was to build golf in Mexico. They had taken notice of The First Tee program, showed a lot of interest in that, and part of this agreement is they will underwrite the cost of a significant First Tee type program in Mexico City, which will be a very interesting thing to watch and see how it works.
This will not be a situation where corporate branding will be involved. It will be all about the community, about golf in Mexico, and that obviously appeals to us.
Q. To the point of branding, is it true that they are considering or you're discussing them not even being listed or being on the title itself?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: We are discussing that.
Q. But it's not a done deal yet?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No, that aspect -- Jay's telling me no, not yet, but that's under discussion.
Q. Tim, a couple players who have been to Mexico City just said they think it will present some security challenges. How big a concern is that?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, we'd like to think that, for a good number of years now, we take the cautious view, regardless of where we're playing around the planet, you have some areas are more prone to terrorism and other places that are more prone to theft, and some places where you have people being kidnapped in very dangerous parts of the world. But like every other country, Mexico has dangerous areas and nondangerous areas. Obviously, we have some in the United States.
But when we look at Mexico -- during my tenure, we have played -- between us and the LPGA, we have played 70 events in Mexico, world cup, Champions Tour events, dot com or new PGA Tour Latino America. And of those 70 events, we've had two instances of issue, but -- and if you compare that to -- pretty much anywhere else we have on Tour, we have instances. We haven't had a pattern of difficulty. But we have been careful.
We have developed a good working relationship with the authorities in the communities where we play. We have taken precautions, and as we have gone about examining where we ought to be in Mexico and in the Mexico City area, we've paid a great deal of attention to that. I think we have an excellent security team.
But just like if you were going to the games in Rio this year or you were going to play in some of the other countries we play in South America, you have to take -- you have to be careful, and you have to use due diligence. But we don't see it as a, quote, dangerous situation if we take those precautions.
The other thing is that we are partnered with companies that really do focus a lot on security as well, and our security team is very pleased that it will help us a great deal.
We think we'll have a very positive experience there, and our confidence level is very high that we will, and the last 20 years kind of argues in favor of that if you look at the various tours, that players have played a fair amount of golf in Mexico.
Q. What did you think of Donald's comment that you get kidnapping insurance? Do you have it?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: You know, one of our people told us this morning that we already have kidnapping insurance. I haven't inquired about the details, but I made a point it's something we might not want to advertise.
Q. Tim, can you say what kind of options you have for courses down there?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: We started off looking at a handful. We narrowed it down to two. We're focused on one, and we would hope to announce the details of that pretty soon, but we don't want to announce it until the Is are dotted and the Ts are crossed on the agreement.
Q. And lastly --
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: And I think if it works out, which it looks like it will, it's going to be highly -- very highly regarded by the players, and movement-wise, a very positive experience.
Q. If I could quickly shift gears for a quick second. There's that portion in your handbook about players not associating with people that could bring adversity to the game and reflect badly on the game. You had Mickelson being named as a relief defendant in the insider training indictment. Have you spoken with Mickelson? What do you plan to do in that regard?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I have not spoken to him, but I have no comment about anything else at this point in time.
But what was -- I don't understand the first part of your question when you're talking about diversity.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Oh, adversity. Okay.
Q. Diversity is the other subject.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Yeah. No, I don't have any comment right now.
Q. Tim, to follow what you may or may not have a comment on, Billy Walters has been involved in at least one PGA Tour event in the Pro-Am. What are the lessons that you will take from this situation moving forward?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: That's a very good question, but I'm not going to answer it today.
Q. Well, in light of that, Mr. Salinas of Grupo Salinas, had a run-in with the SEC about 10 or 11 years ago. It wasn't insider training, but self-dealing. He made a profit of $109 million. He wound up not admitting guilt, but he paid a $7.5 million charge. Obviously, you guys vetted that. Can you talk about, in light of the Phil thing, here's a guy that he was barred from holding office of a U.S. public listed corporation for five years. Could you discuss his history?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Yeah, we did, and we concluded that, given all the facts, it should not be something that would preclude us to do this particular transaction and all of its elements.
Q. This one's a little easier, but it's going to be, I guess, the new WGC event will be the same time frame as Doral. So you'll go Honda, Mexico City, Tampa, and Bay Hill still? And do you suggest -- do you think that that will have any bearing or have any difficulty on the players and any of that sort of thing?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I think we're comfortable with the schedule. We have a couple of permutations we're looking at and different ways to do it, but I think we're going to get to a place where the surrounding tournaments will be comfortable. But we're not ready to announce the details of the scheduling just yet.
Q. Could that happen as soon as '17?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Could. But I think we probably know what's going to happen in '17 at this point, and we're really looking at '18 and beyond. Is that a fair statement?
Q. I'm just curious why you wouldn't go from the West Coast down to Mexico and leave Florida uninterrupted?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: We might. That's something we're considering.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports