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September 6, 2006

Tim Finchem


TODD BUDNICK: Thank you for coming today. I'd like to introduce Stephen Ross, the executive director of the Royal Canadian Golf Association. Stephen?

STEPHEN ROSS: Thank you. First of all, welcome everyone to Hamilton Golf Course, 2006 Canadian Open. We're delighted to have Commissioner Tim Finchem with us today. I think I'm going to play your right wing today and if I was on the other side I'd play left wing for you. I'm not I don't have anything to say. I think you will be bored with me after two hours with me this morning.

I'm going to introduce Tim. Welcome, Tim, I know you've got a busy schedule and we're delighted you made the effort to be here with us.

COMMISSIONER TIMOTHY W. FINCHEM: I'm delighted to be here. This is obviously a great venue here at Hamilton. The players really like this golf course. And I'm delighted to have the opportunity to come up and visit with some of our players yesterday and see the golf course this morning and have an opportunity to answer questions from you today about whatever you'd like to talk about.

Let me just say, specifically to this week, to start things off and then I'll just speak very briefly and ask for your questions. We have a long history with the RCGA, and the Canadian Open. It's been a very positive history. A lot of great competitive history. On the PGA TOUR we are trying to build the strongest possible schedule we can throughout the year. We are taking some steps next year to help us do that, particularly making some schedule changes, but primarily adding the FedEx golf competition to the dynamic of the PGA TOUR. We look for the FedEx cup to largely do two things, one, to grow the strength of the season as a season. And as such, make each and every tournament during the course of the season more important. It means something else. It means a tie in to what we think will become a fundamental part of golf at the PGA TOUR level, but players thinking not just about this week, but positioning themselves for the season as a whole.

Secondly, it gives us what other sports have, virtually every other team sport, for sure, and that is a playoff system. A playoff system that we think in and of itself will drive more interest, excite the fans and elevate the impact of the season long competition.

These changes are really a fundamental fee change, if you will, for the PGA TOUR. We will put enormous resources into driving home the FedEx Cup to our fans. We've already spent significant resources, time, energy and effort working with our sponsors and our tournaments in the execution of the FedEx Cup, working with the players on building a system that we think will be well received by fans. We had a lot of work to do. And even after we get started it will continue to be a process of building and strengthening this competition. But at the end of the day it is designed to create more interest among the fans, create more value each and every week, to create a system where the players will play more tournaments and certainly more tournaments during the January to early September period. And as a consequence, it will create a higher profile for the sport on television and among sports. That's our vision. That's our strategy. And that's what we set out to employ. We look forward to the Canadian Open being part of that sequence.

I know there's been a lot written up here in Canada about our date structure going forward and about concerns about the potential of the quality of the field. And all I can say is that we have actually for years worked numerous times with the OSCGA on opportunities to move this championship into the summer months, to enjoy the benefit of network television coverage and to be positioned earlier in the year. We had an opportunity as we restructured our schedule this time and we took advantage of it. And we think in the long run that is a positive move as opposed to staying in the fall, especially given the changes in our schedule and moving up The TOUR Championship and the FedEx playoffs and the rest.

With regard to the field, we can talk about the field today, I'd be happy to answer your questions about it. We think that if you look back over the last five or six years it's been a solid field here at the Canadian Open. I think again this year we have 22 or 23 of the top 50 players. That's been about the range, 19 to 22, the last five or six years. And I think that has every chance of continuing. I think we have work to do, but I think the combination of the FedEx Cup and the partnership of the OSCGA and the golf courses that they are working with allow us that opportunity.

I know there's been some decision about Angus Glen for next year, and Angus Glen did not receive overwhelming support from players. The other golf course at Angus Glen, the north course, I believe, that we played a few years ago. But that's not unusual. It's very seldom that we play a new golf course for the first time on the PGA TOUR anywhere that we get overwhelming support. It takes players time to get used to the courses. We make changes, and changes to the golf course are not unique. I use the example of Pinehurst No. 2, went through 211 changes by Donald Ross from the time he designed it until the time he finished fiddling with it. Golf courses evolve. Augusta National has made changes each and every year since I've been in this job. So golf courses move forward.

With respect to Angus Glen for next year, the RCGA has spent enormous resources and energy, took the time to secure the talents of Davis Love and his team, to do some work on the Angus Glen course. Davis has an excellent track record at golf courses in the United States, in making some very positive changes, most noteably Greensboro. We think we can look forward to a solid venue next year. That's helpful and we think that along with the combination of the impact of the FedEx Cup, puts us in a position of being able to attract a field that's consistent with the fields we've had up here the last few years. We're optimistic, if you go back the last 12 years and really look at it and think about it, the stronger the PGA TOUR is as a whole the stronger each tournament, each and every week, and I think that's what we can look forward to next year.

Let me just reiterate before I take your questions that we're very pleased with our relationship with the RCGA. They have taken the steps in recent years, we think, to position the championships that they manage for the future and we look forward to that partnership continuing. I'd be happy to answer your questions.

Q. You mentioned the date has been moved. Obviously there's a problem here with title sponsorship. Is there any reason you can send a signal to potential title sponsors, that although the date is etched for the next six years, but that date could changeover the next six years?

COMMISSIONER TIMOTHY W. FINCHEM: We always maintain some flexibility in our schedule. But right now that date is slated to tournament is slated for that date. And it would probably be wise to have discussions with somebody that's going to invest a lot of money in the tournament that they understand that reality. And we're very optimistic about title sponsorship. We have very few openings for title sponsorship on the PGA TOUR today. There are increasingly over the last ten years companies that want to be associated with the PGA TOUR brand. I think that the RCGA has done an excellent job of providing value to the title sponsors that have been a part of this championship. And this championship is not the only tournament where we are currently seeking title sponsorship. We have a couple of others, but not very many. And with the market for golf the size it is, I can't help but believe we'll secure appropriate sponsorship. We are very optimistic that we can do so.

I'll also point out that the other new dynamic for next year is that the Canadian Open will be moving to CBS television, the CBS television package. CBS has demonstrated a consistency in driving a solid rating for its title sponsors. Next year every weekend on the PGA TOUR will be broadcast in HD quality television. The CBS production staff and announcer team is regarded as second to none. We believe that that, combined with the fact that we are in a two network environment next year with NBC and CBS is going to drive our overall rating structure. And those are things that are very appealing to title sponsors, and certainly the success we've had for the next six years in filling our title positions has a lot to do with those dynamics. And I think that will play in with discussions we have and will have with respect to potential sponsors for this week, as well.

Q. You are helping the RCGA in their search, they're not just doing this on their own?

COMMISSIONER TIMOTHY W. FINCHEM: We are. And we have and we will continue.

Q. Just a couple of your thoughts on The Presidents Cup next year in Montreal, and what you feel from your perspective about that event?

COMMISSIONER TIMOTHY W. FINCHEM: Well, we're excited about it. We made the decision to come to Canada with The Presidents Cup, recognizing the intensity of the fan base in Canada. It's a very intense fan base, recognizing the play of Mike Weir as it relates to The Presidents Cup and the quality of Royal Montreal as things combined. But I think the important thing about The Presidents Cup and that relationship here in Canada for next year is that The Presidents Cup now has attained and it really hit this level in Washington last year it has attained a very special place in golf. The fans recognize it. There's enough history to it now that gives it a real texture. The players look forward to it. The format has worked exceedingly well. We're going to do it one more time, but the captaincy of Nicklaus and Player has been magic for The Presidents Cup the last two Cups. So we're really, really excited about it and having it played in Canada is something we're really looking forward to.

We had a function up in Montreal last fall and the enthusiasm in Montreal among the membership of the club, but also the community at large is very, very positive. And the team that's working on it works that nothing but great enthusiasm. I think the players are excited about it and we're all looking forward to it.

Q. I heard you say you wished Tiger could play 42 weeks a year. And I'm sure having the most recognizable athlete in the world in your sport is a great thing. There's almost a polarity when Tiger isn't playing, loss of viewers, et cetera. How do you combat this kind of gap between RICH and poor for

COMMISSIONER TIMOTHY W. FINCHEM: I don't look at it that way. I don't look at it that things are diminished when Tiger doesn't play. I look at it that things are enhanced when he display. If you look tournament to tournament over the last year on Tour the tournaments where Tiger didn't play, what do you see? You see tournaments that have record crowds, tournaments that have record charitable contributions, tournaments that have record gross revenues, tournaments that they receive significant and very satisfactory to their title sponsor television ratings. So that's very, very positive. The quality of golf on the PGA TOUR, week in and week out is superb. It's different today than it was when Jack Nicklaus dominated the Tour. There are umpteen more players of star quality, and this Tour attracts all the best players in the world today. That wasn't the case 15 years ago. So the fans have a lot to look forward to. Pro Am spots are selling at record levels. Ticket prices are at record levels and galleries are full. So I don't feel any diminution of at a tournament at a week Tiger is not playing. When he plays he is the most recognizable athlete in the world, he is currently dominating as much as he ever has in his career. He is an absolutely captivating individual to the fans. But the notion that you should get depressed when he's not playing, to me is not right. And I think we should all enjoy the fact that the focus he brings to the sport spills over to the weeks he doesn't play.

When like Michael Jordan was at his peak and the Bulls were winning five or six championships, that enthusiasm drove interest in the NBA as a whole. And certainly I think that phenomenon that is what Tiger Woods is doing for the PGA TOUR.

Q. I'm just wondering with the long and chair issued relationship between the RCGA and the PGA TOUR, why, grand it is a summer date, but why the Canadian Open ended up with an unattractive summer date?

COMMISSIONER TIMOTHY W. FINCHEM: Here again, you may think I'm posturing, I don't think it is an unattractive Dayton the PGA TOUR. There are relatively there is, relatively speaking, ways you can compare dates as it flows in the schedule, but things are changing. I remember not too many years ago if you were if you wanted to have the tournament before many The British Open, that was ridiculous. Well, the John Deere Classic is a solid tournament on the PGA TOUR. A lot of people watch it on TV, it generates significant amounts for charity. We have good fields. If you are the week after The British Open, that doesn't make any sense, either. Milwaukee has had some good tournaments here in the last few years. Things are changing, and it has to do with the number of recognizable players. It has to do with the number of international players. It has to do with the overall strength of the sport. And so that's today. Now as we look forward and we look at an environment where they think players are going to be energized and want to play more. And we see it in our view that trend continuing.

But to answer your question specifically, I would have to go through all the permutations of the schedule about how this tournament got to this particular date. I will just say that we are pleased we will be able to accommodate the tournament in the summer. We did move a number of things around last year in scheduling that didn't make everybody happy, candidly. We've grown to learn over the years you can't make everybody happy. But within the framework of the decisions that were made we think week in and week out we have a better Tour for next year. And when we have a better Tour that's going to provide value to each and every tournament on that Tour.

Q. I just have one follow up, too, I'm puzzled why, if as you say, the corporate America is lined up to get involved with the PGA TOUR brand, is it the idiosyncracies of a Canadian Open that make it necessary for the RCGA to contract the services of IMG to try to secure a title sponsor?

COMMISSIONER TIMOTHY W. FINCHEM: That's a good question. Stephen might want to chime in here, because he may have a better feel on this than I do on this particular point. But on the one hand it's the Canadian Open. It's your national championship here. I think it lends itself because of that to a Canadian based company to be sponsor, and certainly Bell Canada has been that in recent years, for example. In that sense when you focus mainly on Canadian companies and United States companies, perhaps don't add up to a priority of a Canadian venue, it does put you in a slightly different position, because companies, because of the nature of the television package, do have to support the television package to some number. And a lot of that television package is really geared to reach the vast majority of their reaches in the United States, which may not be in their market base. It may not be in their service area or where they market or sell products or operate their business. So it does constrain things a little bit in that regard. That's the only negative. And as I said earlier, I think in this on this subject we feel very bullish for a number of reasons that we'll get things put together and we'll see what happens.

Q. Just wondering I understand at this point there is no arrangement with the Canadian broadcaster for the PGA TOUR broadcasting. Most Canadians can get CBS. But The Golf Channel decision for Thursday and Friday, I'm not sure if you are aware, in the last month two major cable suppliers in Canadian have moved The Golf Channel to the digital pier. On the Internet you have about a two percent penetration into the viewers on Thursday and Friday. Is there any plans to make an arrangement for a Canadian broadcaster to pick up the Canadian Open?

COMMISSIONER TIMOTHY W. FINCHEM: It's a matter under discussion. That's about all I should say now. We are in discussion with The Golf Channel, with our other television partners on this subject, and as we get things sorted out we'll have more to say about it at a later date.

Q. Commissioner, you mentioned the Tiger effect for lack of a better word. The beauty of Michael Jordan playing in the NBA is you knew he was manage to your city at least once every year. Could you not envision a day where you would have not only Tiger but other top players assured that in the life of a given sponsorship agreement, say a four or five year agreement, would play at your event? They do it on the LPGA Tour. They do it a one in four type of arrangement.

COMMISSIONER TIMOTHY W. FINCHEM: I actually don't see that developing on our Tour in the future. I think that the history of players playing a certain schedule is a history of a lot of variables. Nick Price, Jack Nicklaus played 17 or 18, Tiger played 19 or 20, most of the players in the top 50 play 25 or 26. In light of the success we're having it's hard to imagine that in the short term we would go to a system where we would require players to play in any particular league. I just don't see that happening, to be candid.

Q. Don't you feel you're missing an opportunity to provide value to tournaments to sponsors? There's no doubt it enhances the situation when he's here. A relatively simple siege rule would provide assurance that your sponsor, your market is going to experience that enhancement.

COMMISSIONER TIMOTHY W. FINCHEM: I definitely see some positives to it. But I don't think it's a panacea for a situation where if you tell a title sponsor who typically is going to enter into a three or four year commitment that a player is going to come once every four or five years, in my experience that's not going to move the needle very much in terms of marketing your title sponsor.

If the fans in every market knew that every player was going to be in the market within every five years, yeah, I think that's positive. But I don't think it's a fundamental to our success and I just don't see it happening anytime in the near future.

Q. Tiger Woods came out recently and endorsed the idea of drug testing on the Tour. Is there any room for you to reconsider your position on that subject?

COMMISSIONER TIMOTHY W. FINCHEM: Well, my position has been so misconstrued. I've said several factors that we evaluate on a regular basis that could lead us to take a number of steps. But I don't want to get into, in a press conference forum, answering specific questions on this subject. And the reason is that I've done that a couple of times earlier in the year and pieces of my answer get reported that seem to reflect a sense of what our policies are. And this is a complex issue that has to do with testing protocols and things that would be tested. We've done, as I said last week, a lot of research on what other sports are doing. We will, later this fall, make a comprehensive statement about what we are recommending to our board be done in the area of substance, substance abuse and performance enhancing substances. I'd ask you to be patient, because I would much rather put in your hands a comprehensive statement so that you can report within the context of that statement and understand exactly what our thinking is, rather than answer piecemeal questions about it that get either reported in part or out of context.

Q. I know it's a complex issue in some ways, but whether or not you have testing is fairly simple. Are you open to that?

COMMISSIONER TIMOTHY W. FINCHEM: It's not simple. So if you just bear with us and we will be providing a comprehensive statement in just a few weeks for you. And then you'll have an opportunity to answer any questions you want.

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you all for coming today.

End of FastScripts.

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