August 23, 2006
BOB COMBS: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome. Thank you for spending this time with us not only at the press conference but this week at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. We appreciate those of you that have made the trip here for the coverage, and also we have with us on the phone from around the country a variety of national media who cover us as well as our local tournament markets. We appreciate your attendance, too.
Our format today will be some overview comments from the Commissioner followed by an announcement of our 2007 fall series schedule followed by Q & A from those of you on site followed by Q & A from those following from around the country.
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Good afternoon, everyone. We're delighted to have you with us this week back in Akron for the Bridgestone WGC. Let me indicate that I'm going to tie up three or four things here, make a few comments, and then I'll throw it open to questions and we can walk back through some of these subjects.
I'll just preliminarily say that we're very pleased in this last year of what is the phase of the Tour, our current television events and our current tournament structure. Things are going quite well on all of our tours this year, and from a competitive standpoint, I think we see the continuation of this wonderful thing on the PGA TOUR with veteran players performing well and new players coming up to challenge them.
Certainly when you look at players like Corey Pavin and Jeff Maggert and Tim Herron winning for the first time in a number of years and then consider that we've had nine wins by players in their 20s, it's that kind of year again.
Our congratulations, of course, to Tiger on an incredible performance last week, and we're very pleased with the competition of the Ryder Cup and looking forward to having our team go over there and practice next week and then move on to the Matches in a few weeks.
But a lot of this year is spent in getting ready for next year and the next cycle, if you will: our new television agreements, changes in our schedule, new seasonal competition, changes to the Players Championship. I'll just tick off a few of these, and then I'd like to provide you some new detail on the new fall series that we announced earlier in the year, and we have a schedule for discussion today.
Let me start with the Players Championship and just provide you an update. One of the questions I get as I go around the Tour from everybody is how is the construction coming at Sawgrass, and I'll report that it's coming along quite well. I think most of you are aware that we've had enormously good weather conditions all year long at Sawgrass. We've had very little work stopage. Our golf course is way ahead of schedule. We should open in a timely fashion. We open the golf course in November. All of our greens, our grass, that we've not just actually mowed them but we've verti cut some of them, and the golf course is coming in quite well.
The clubhouse is on schedule. It's a tighter schedule to next year's tournament clearly by a long shot, and it's a big project and it's on schedule. We anticipate without the possibility of some major hurricane throwing us off that we'll be ready with that, as well. We're currently installing roof trusses and then the foundation and supra structure has been done, and we're looking for an completion in April.
The combination of those things we think are going to give you a tremendously enhanced venue for the players as it moves to May next year. The FedEx Cup we announced the details of in June in New York. We are creeping into an all out education campaign for our fans around the country and around the world about the FedEx Cup. You'll see that accelerate during the course of the fall. We believe at this point from the reaction primarily of the players who have learned a great deal about it that it has the opportunity of achieving its primary two objectives: one, to give us a year long competition that enhances the importance of each and every week on the PGA TOUR; and, secondly, to give us a good, solid finish to that portion of our season with the playoff events leading into the TOUR Championship.
As we go forward with the FedEx Cup, as we've said all along through this process, we will reserve obviously the opportunity to alter and change it and tweak it, try to make it better. We're learning more about it every day. It'll be a work in progress. But we look forward and ask for your assistance, frankly, in communicating the details of the FedEx Cup to our fans starting later in the fall. When we get close to the TOUR Championship, we'll really start to roll out our efforts to educate fans on the details.
So those are the two big things next year.
In addition to that, we have a few smaller scheduling changes I think you're all aware of. If you have questions about any of those, we'd be happy to entertain them when we finish. As we indicated earlier in the year, we know we'll have a fall series following the TOUR Championship and following the completion of the FedEx Cup. I think the best way to think of the fall series is it really is a standalone series of events that represents certain things, tries to accomplish certain things, and has certain import in terms of the players and the overall schedule.
And by that I mean that we will have seven tournaments, and those seven tournaments will really determine a lot in terms of a player's capability or ability to compete in the FedEx Cup the following year and how that player will be able to compete because some of the things that will happen in the fall will affect the finish of the Money List and certain things within the Money List that impact a player's eligibility for certain events, certainly the World Golf Championships, all these events will have World Ranking points, certainly access to the invitationals to some degree and access to tournaments generally. So it has significant importance.
In addition to that, from an eligibility standpoint, these tournaments will have a collective purse level of $32 million over the course of the seven weeks. They will be played, we believe, in each and every case at strong venues on good golf courses, and we love the lineup of sponsors that have come forward and committed themselves to these tournaments because as we look at these tournaments now, we see real stability in the fall series going forward. So we're very, very pleased about that.
Let me give you some detail on these seven events, and I'll do it chronologically as they will appear at least in the '07 schedule starting after the TOUR Championship.
We'll start with the Turning Stone Resort Championship. You're aware that we played our tournament, the BC Open, and got kind of jilted by weather conditions and flooding conditions a few weeks ago, and we tried to find another venue, and the people at Turning Stone and the Indian nation stepped up to help us out. We had a terrific response in turn from the players in particular, and also fans and volunteers with respect to the conduct of the tournament at Turning Stone.
It's an excellent venue. The facilities are first rate, and the golf course is quite good. We played that tournament literally with two or three weeks' notice. We have a real confidence level that with the preparation time for next year, we'll have a good, solid event.
That event will start the fall series with a $6 million purse.
The second week will be the Viking Classic. We will return to the Annandale Golf Club in Madison, Mississippi, with a new sponsor. Viking is Mississippi based manufacturer of premier kitchen appliances. You're familiar with the first rate sponsor. This event will be played against the Ryder Cup and in some years up against The Presidents Cup. It will have a purse level of $3.5 million. This tournament has been on the schedule since 1968 and has been an official money event since 1994.
The next week we'll play the Valero Texas Open. We've a great tradition at the Texas Open. We've been at La Cantera since 1995. This event is one of the great charity leaders in the San Antonio area with over $3 million raised in charitable contributions. What was the number this past fall?
BOB COMBS: I believe it's in excess of five.
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: We've started at three and it's gone up to over $5 million. Then of course in December we announced that we were building, in conjunction with Marriott, a major new facility in San Antonio that will become the future home of the Valero Texas Open in a few years. That tournament will have a purse of $4.5 million.
The next week we'll move to Las Vegas, go back to Summerlin and Canyons and play the Frys.com Open in Las Vegas. This is the first of two events that will be under the umbrella of Fry's Electronics that actually sponsors tournaments in the fall series. The purse will have a $4 million level, and you're all familiar with our courses at Summerlin and Canyons. We think they provide a good test and an excellent venue.
The following week we'll go to Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona, and play the Fry's Electronics Open with a purse of $5 million. This will be back to back, the second of back to back weeks with Fry's. We'll play at the Fazio designed Raptor course, and the Thunderbirds, our partners with the FBR, will be the host organization in Scottsdale for this fall series event.
Then we'll move on to California and play in Fresno at the Running Horse Golf and Country Club, a new golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus and Jack Nicklaus II. Jackie and Jack did, we think, a superb job on this facility. We'll have a $4.5 million purse, and this is a unique event in the sense that it is done in partnership with the Central California Veterans Home Support Foundation and the United States Department of Veteran Affairs. Those two entities will receive the majority of the charitable contributions generated from the tournament. We're seeing a great level of enthusiasm in Fresno for this event. We think it's going to be an excellent stop on this portion of the Tour.
And then we conclude at Disney as we extend our now 37th year in Orlando, and we'll have a $4.6 million purse, and this has been a popular event over the years with our players and the players' families.
Again, we want to reiterate what we think is an important part of our schedule. All these events will be broad cast or telecast by The Golf Channel in their entirety. It rounds out the relationship with the Golf Channel and the official money season portion of the year, and I think you would agree that all seven events are solid events, good sponsorship, good purses, and excellent playing opportunities for our players as they compete to position themselves for the following year.
With that said, I'll just add that we're also excited about 2007 as we move in to our new telecast phase starting in 7 to 12 with CBS, NBC, The Golf Channel, all of our weekend coverage broadcast in HD television, a good solid platform on The Golf Channel with every Thursday and Friday tape delayed, tape replays in the prime time hours of live coverage in the afternoon, which we think is a much more solid platform leading into our weekend coverage.
That and the scheduling changes of the FedEx Cup, we're very, very pleased and very excited about what's going to happen next year, and we look forward to it and look forward to working with you on it.
With that said, I'm sure there are some areas that I may not have touched that may be of interest to you, and as we entertain questions, I'll be happy to try to answer questions in those areas, as well.
Q. For years everyone wondered where the next Nicklaus was going to come from. Now that he's here, is it better to have a dominant player or better to have parity?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Actually there's kind of plusses and minuses to each, but the thing that's an overwhelming plus is to have the most recognized player on the globe in your sport. I think that is a huge positive.
What happens week in and week out because of dominance during the Nicklaus era or during the Woods era in terms of fan attention and movement, it takes on a different pattern than when there's total parity. But clearly having a player with the penetrating impact of Tiger Woods is of huge benefit to the overall sport, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.
Q. As it relates to the fall series, can players who don't qualify for the TOUR Championship, for East Lake, can they still finish inside the Top 30 by the end of Disney if they choose to play some of these fall series events, that question pertaining to qualifying for say U.S. Open or British.
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Sure. If a player yes. I mean, the Money List is different than points. If a player is not in the TOUR Championship, which I think is your question, could he end up in the Top 30 on the Money List? Absolutely. But in our eligibility structure now for '08, the number one eligibility category will be the Top 30 players in the FedEx Cup points. In other words, those players that go to the TOUR Championship.
The next 95 spots will be the top 95 off of the Money List, not otherwise exempt, which will round us out to 125. So even though I'm 30th on the Money List and I finish and I'm one of the 30 players that gets into the TOUR Championship, then I get passed in the fall my eligibility position is protected.
Q. Secondly, was the intention for the Fry's Electronics Open originally to begin at the institute where Fry's is located and is that the future plan?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: I wouldn't call it a plan. There's been some discussion about it. But it is not in our plan for '07, and when it gets in our plan, if it does, I wouldn't want to speculate at this point.
Q. What's keeping it from being in your plan now?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: A variety of factors. This is the direction we ended up going for the time being, and we're comfortable with that, and we'll see what develops.
Q. Is this event locked in to be the week before the PGA in the long term or just for next year? And do you worry about the effect of a player not wanting to play the week before a major?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: When you say locked in, I would say no, not locked in. We had the tournament slated here the week before the PGA going forward, but we always leave ourselves some flexibility to move the schedule around because you never know what's going to happen.
As far as the impact on playing this week, we think it's a great week to play. We think it's a great lead in to the PGA Championship, and with the way the CBS arrangement works that time of year, we think it's a good television mix. We think given the way the golf course is set up and this is a great year to make this comment because I've been listening to players all day talk about the quality of this golf course and the way it can be set up to challenge players, and I've heard a lot of players compare that to what they would like to see the setup be in major championships and THE PLAYERS Championship, I think I can say that the players feel like this is a great lead in to a PGA Championship.
We will always have issues with field. We have them every week of the year. Thing happen. But I think we're going to be very pleased with our field structure here.
Q. This is sort of for a survey story, but unlike other sports like baseball and track & field, there's never been much rumors of performance enhancing drugs in golf. Is that because of the inherent honor system in it? And also, can you conceive of any sport in which it would not be an advantage of a player wanting to cheat and use them?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: There has never been any study that well, to answer your question directly, and then I'll comment on the question, I believe the reason we don't generally in this sport have certainly the level of issues that we have in our sports is because of the sport. The culture of the sport, the history of the sport, it's just as important to a player that he is playing by the rules as it is how good he hits the shot. We all learn that when we learn how to play golf as kids, and that is carried through to be one of the dominating characteristics of play at this level of golf.
So I think that is the distinguishing factor. In other sports, part of the game is really to hope that you can do something and the referee doesn't see it. It is the reverse, in a way. In this sport there is no reliance on that. There is a reliance on the individual to call the rules on himself, and that's what happens.
As far as your other part of your question related to, could I envision a sport where performance enhancing drugs don't help in some fashion, I don't know how to answer that. We don't have any studies that have ever really determined that any particular substances of assistance from a performance enhancing standpoint in the game of golf. There is speculation that if you're bigger and stronger you can hit it farther and you ought to hit it far in golf so get big and strong, and if you need to, take something. But there's never been any definitive relationship with it.
With respect to our position on drugs, I don't think in today's world you can ignore what's happened in sports generally, what is happening in society generally, and so you have to pay close attention, even though we have this strong culture in our sport. We believe we are paying close attention, and we believe that we will be positioned if we ever believe it necessary to take additional actions beyond just telling players what the rules are.
Q. You just said that you believe you are paying close attention. What exactly are you doing in regards to paying close attention?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: We've done a lot of work in the last several years with respect to monitoring closely the testing that goes on in other sports, how testing occurs, what substances they're tested for, what happens with the information when it's collected. We've put a lot more energy behind telling players what the do's and don't's are with respect to illegal drugs.
We don't have a list of performance enhancing drugs in golf at this point, but we have certainly made it clear that in golf, utilizing an illegal drug from a performance enhancing standpoint is the same thing as kicking your ball in the rough. They both might enhance your ability to compete.
I would say that, as I said earlier, that's pretty much all you have to do in our sport at this point. I hope that continues. I don't know that it will. And as I've said earlier in the year and last year, publicly we have, under our regulations, the authority to do more if we deem it fit, and we are preparing ourselves to be able to do more if at whatever point we come to the conclusion that one of three things are happening: Either we have a problem, a growing problem, I'm not so sure we'd act significantly if we had an isolated incident, but if we have a problem; secondly, if we feel that the problems in this area are so sufficient and significant at the junior level, that is, the high school/college level, that we need to take action to protect ourselves against an influx or to set an example; or third, even though we might not have any problems, and we're convinced we don't have any problems, nevertheless public opinion is of the view that if you're going to be in sports you have to adopt programs in this area.
If one of those things developed to the point where we felt it was important that we move forward in a different direction, we would be able to do so. At this point we have not come to that conclusion.
Q. How many of the Top 30, for example, do you anticipate playing in any of the fall series events? And as a follow up, once the official FedEx Cup competition ends with the TOUR Championship, will players in the Top 20, be it Jim Furyk or whoever, need any releases if they choose to compete overseas?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: The answer to the second question is yes, there has been no changes in our event release requirements. Right now unless something changes, the answer would be yes.
Your earlier question was I don't know. All I know is that as we talked through this schedule with players generally, not just the Top 30 players but all players, it was clear to me that players who feel like from a competitive standpoint it's important to play in the fall and/or it's important not to take a lot of time off from their game, of which there are a good number, those players would continue to play.
By the same token, those players who currently do not play a lot in every portion of the year and/or don't think it's important that they continue to play all the time and might take significant amounts of time off. By way of example, we've already had a couple players say that they would probably take the entire fall off, and we've had a couple players like Vijay Singh say, Well, I'm going to play somewhere. I'm not going to stop playing. We have a lot of that.
The bottom line is we feel that if you look at the current schedule and look at the tournaments that benefit at the very end because players are gearing back up for the TOUR Championship, those fields might not be as strong as they are now. If you look at the totality of these seven weeks in terms of players playing, we think the fields will be certainly strong enough that they can perform for the sponsor, for television and for the charitable end game that they're trying to meet. That's why we wound up with such a strong group of tournaments in the fall.
Q. Why would they need a release once they've served out the FedEx competition?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: These are still official money events with sponsors investing thousands of dollars in the PGA TOUR. That's not saying we wouldn't grant releases, but there would be a release program. That would be a new direction for us if we ran into a problem with releases.
I would just point out to you that in the years I've been commissioner, the number of release requests we've gotten, I believe I'm correct, has either gone down every single year or certainly the trend line from year one to year whatever we're in, 12 or 13 for me, has gone down. And the reason for that is that this Tour is stronger than anyplace in the world. Players don't particularly need to go or want to go play anywhere else in the world, and that would hold true for the fall, as well.
The other factor is that appearance money that 10 or 15 years ago was spread in countries or Tour areas which allow appearance money. I'm sure everybody is aware here that we do not allow appearance money at a PGA TOUR event, but appearance money that heretofore had been spread over a broader number of players is today concentrated among a few players, and that has resulted in a decrease in the number of players who want to go overseas to play.
We haven't had a player we might have had two players in the last five or six years who have pushed the envelope in terms of the number of releases that are granted under our guidelines. If it develops to be a problem in the fall, it will be a new problem and we'll deal with it. Frankly, we don't see it developing.
Q. Getting back to the drugs issue, is the Tour in the process of rewriting the policy?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: We've been evaluating our policies over the last three years. We've made a couple of changes over the last two years and we continue to review them all the time, so it's a constant process. We have a number of people who are focused on regulations generally and ones that relate to this area particularly.
Q. Because correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm under the impression that as the rules state now, a player could take substances such as beta blockers, HDH and EDO and it wouldn't be breaking any of the Tour's regulations; is that correct?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: The Tour does not have any published list of substances which we ban because they are "performance enhancing." We do ban the use of illegal drugs or prescription drugs that are being used or in possession without a prescription. Those two categories account for some of the substances on the list but not all the substances, that's correct.
Q. Given that every other sport in the world, even ones that might have been deemed a good social background such as golf, but sports like cricket and rugby, for example, they've all tested and everyone has found someone taking drugs within their sport. The R & A is going to test at this year's Eisenhower, so why is the PGA TOUR not prepared to test given all the evidence in every other sport?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Like I said, at the top, the fact that players in cricket and rugly and baseball, the fact that players take steroids is not evidence to me that players in this sport are taking steroids. I have no evidence of players taking steroids in this sport. If you have some, let me know, but I don't have any of that evidence.
What I do have is a firm belief that when our players understand the rules, they follow the rules. That's number one.
Number two, if I had indication that a player was using an illegal drug, we would most likely deal with the player. I don't know whether we would go out and start testing everybody because we had a problem with a player.
Having said that, if we had reason to believe that we had a pattern developing or any kind of substantial use at all, we would be fully prepared to take very aggressive action. And, as I've said before, it would not be action that would leave to doubt what the results were. We would not have some random selection on an occasional basis; we would test effectively and in a way that was designed to make sure that the public had a confidence and our players were following the rules.
Frankly, this subject is not any different to me than any other set of rules. I mean, I noticed the media seems to think it's different, but in my view, it's not. It's not any different. There are rules and they are to be followed, and we expect our players to follow them, and thankfully, over the years, we've had a pretty good track record in that regard.
I don't know of other sports where players have come in and made a mistake on their score card or called a penalty on themselves that's cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars. That happens every year on the PGA TOUR. So the culture and the history is somewhat different, and I'm not prepared to throw all that out just because somebody is waving their hand and saying, gee whiz, all the other sports are testing, why aren't you.
Q. We just don't understand how you would know ever if a player was taking drugs if you don't test for it.
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: But I wouldn't know ever for certain that a player wouldn't be moving the ball in the rough unless he comes and tells me because he could mismark his ball, move it around, tap down a spike mark and he can do it without anybody knowing. That is a performance enhancing violation of the rules, and my guess is if we had a problem on this Tour with players taking, would we know about it?
I know some people say Tim is naive on this, he's got his head in the sand. I don't think we're naive. I think we're very aggressive in having the capability to do whatever is necessary, but we need more than somebody just saying why don't you go test and make sure.
The other part I would just point out is that if we were to test, let's say we said, well, we don't think we have a problem but you all think we have a problem so let's go test, if we didn't find something, I doubt seriously whether the stories would be that we don't have a problem. My guess is the stories would be you're not testing right, why did you test to begin with, you must have thought there was a problem. We would then be in the same kettle with other sports that frankly we think we're different from.
There may come a point in time, and I'm not dismissing the notion that there won't, there may come a point in time where we have to change direction, and if we get to that point we'll change and we'll do it aggressive. I don't know what else to tell you.
Q. The question about the Fry's, you know, there's two events, one in Vegas and one in Scottsdale. Are those events possibly going into the future, or what's the plan with the Fry's?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: We have sponsorship commitments for a number of years, but at this point we're only announcing the locations for '07 and we'll have more to say about years '08 through '12 the first six months of next year.
Q. You mentioned an education process for the FedEx Cup. To this point, what have you seen within the media and then maybe in conversations with fans and tournament directors, any other entities involved with golf tournaments, what have you seen about those that there's maybe some misinformation or misconceptions, and what would you like to see change the most or emphasized the most in this process?
There has been some criticism about the FedEx Cup system. How would you answer are you aware of those criticisms and how would you respond to that, and where is the major amount of education needed?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: You might want to mention for me the ones that you're thinking of. I've heard some criticism, but I'm of the criticisms of the system I think are a good thing for a couple reasons: one, it demonstrates that people are learning about it and paying attention; and, two, I just think that controversy not that it would be on purpose, but that controversy and discussion about the system is a good thing.
I think if we get to a point where the interval we've done a zillion permutations based on actual tournaments in the past and looked at how these things progress, but in the playoffs, for example, when we reset after Greensboro, we reset and we give players points, there's a certain interval down the list. And you can argue until the cows come home as to whether that interval is correct, because it's a balance between providing an interval and consequently giving a player an advantage based on how well he plays during the year or disadvantage against some players based on how well he didn't play or how poorly he played.
And at the same time, if you give the if you make that advantage too big, it has a significant reduction in the volatility that occurs in the playoffs, reduces the number of players that have a chance to win.
The team sports you basically don't have any advantage other than whatever you want to quantify as home field. If you have the best record, you get to play one of the series of the games at home more than the other guy. That's the extent of it. If the Yankees win more than 115 games, they win the American league East by ten games, they start over in the playoffs. That's the nature of the playoffs. What we try to do is have a balance.
To address your point, I think it's a good thing if people argue about that. That's healthy. That's a good thing. What should the size of the fields be in the playoffs? Should the fields be cut every week? Would that be a better system for the playoffs? All those things are good. I think it's healthy.
But coming back to your point, we've heard a lot of discussion, but we are I feel pretty good about where players are and their basic understanding, but we have a ways to go there. I have a pretty good feeling about the way the people are involved in tournaments, but these are people that are involved in our business. We have yet to begin the process of really going out and educating fans, and we look forward to doing that starting this fall and doing it aggressively, and then we'll see what shakes out.
Q. More in the big picture, the criticism, for instance, moving THE PLAYERS Championship to May has been criticized because it affects the European Tour season. The one year that the Ryder Cup was going to run back to back with the PGA and some of the tournaments that have to go to the fall and some tournaments that aren't going to exist anymore, there has been a lot of criticism in how the big picture is affecting other entities.
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: What you just mentioned really isn't fundamental to the FedEx Cup. We could move to Players Championship to play FedEx Cup or no FedEx Cup. We could have decided to play Washington on a June day instead of Hartford, FedEx Cup or no FedEx Cup. We could have you know, those are different kinds of issues.
What we tried to do is put together the best possible schedule. If you look down I was just talking to Freddy Couples a little while ago, if you look down the list, week after week after week, we have better tournaments, better purses on better golf courses in better weather throughout the course of the schedule, and we're delighted with that. We're looking forward to it. We think THE PLAYERS Championship is better in May than March. I don't know who criticizes that.
The European Tour has had to make some adjustments to relate to their spring schedule and also the late summer schedule, that's true. But it's a schedule that benefits many of their members, as well.
We feel as I've said many times, we feel through the federation an obligation to work with the other tours to make sure that they grow and prosper, and we intend to do that. But let me just say this: We made a lot of changes, and you can't make change and make everybody happy.
I remember a great quotation by a guy who says, "if you're going to do something in life or business and you wait for everybody to agree with you, you can't get anything done." I think you have to stand back and look at the totality of what we are doing to meet the objectives of growing the financial benefits to the players, enhancing and growing the game of golf and generating money for charity. Those are the three objectives of the PGA TOUR, and I think we're going to accomplish those in a stronger way the next six years than the last six years, and in our view that's progress.
Q. Let me be devil's advocate on this one. With the posturing and positioning of the FedEx Cup as season ending playoffs, which are terms that we've heard from the publicity side, what makes you think that fans are going to care about the fall series? It seems to me that they've been put in a position that they're almost irrelevant given the fact that there's no guarantee the top players will be there.
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Well, there's no guarantee the top players will play in the Players Championship. There's no guarantee the top players will go play at AT & T. There's no guarantee the top players will play the EDS Byron Nelson. Sometimes they don't.
I think the PGA TOUR is past that. I think we have reached a level where we have real brand strength based on our players. When we went out and put this schedule together and the FedEx Cup schedule, we didn't do it in a vacuum, we did it in concert with our players. We talked to all of our top players and then we came back and structured something. Those last four weeks are worth $63 to $65 that's going to be split up among players. It is a huge grand finale with the best players playing against each other on good, solid golf courses in big markets.
Now, over the last eight years by the way, when we did the World Golf Championships we had the same sort of naysayers here and there about how can you guarantee anything? You can't guarantee anything in life or sports, especially on the PGA TOUR. But I think we've found over the years that the competitive instincts of our top players are moved by the opportunity to play against all the other top players on good golf courses. I've heard our top players talks about that time and time again. I have every confidence that that will play out at the end of the FedEx Cup. Will it be perfect? No.
I remember my first year as Commissioner in a golf cart with Jack Nicklaus driving across the golf course at Memorial, and he had 27 of the Top 30 players on the Money List in the field and he had a number in his hand reading a local article complaining about three guys that weren't there. He said to me, "how can these guys write about three when we've got 27?" I remember the old phrase "prosecution is the enemy of excellence." You get wrapped around the excellence trying to be perfect, you're never going to be excellent. We're seeking excellence.
Q. I guess maybe I didn't phrase the question enough. You just used the term grand finale with regard to the FedEx Cup and you've got seven tournaments left on the back end schedule and I'm wondering what the relevance of those tournaments are going to be?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: As I said at the top, I think you have to look at the fall schedule as unique unto itself for a certain set of reasons. It has a certain import. These are PGA TOUR events with PGA TOUR players competing on good golf courses with good sponsors raising a fair amount of money for charity. You start with that.
To our fans, that has always been an appealing thing. If you look at go to our tournaments throughout the year and you go to the ones where everybody is here like this week of the Top 30 and then go to ones where they're not, you see good, solid golf tournaments, tournaments that are well attended, have a good impact on the communities where we play, drive economic impact and raise a lot of money for charity. That's what these tournaments will do.
To the players it's different things to different players. If you're a player who is already exempt for the following year, you're in the TOUR Championship, it's a question of how much you want to compete against the best players during the fall period to keep your game organized as you prepare for the FedEx Cup. If you're everybody else, you're trying to position yourself for access the following year with an awful lot at stake.
The combination of those things we think leads to very relevant tournaments and a fall series that says a lot and does a lot.
Q. Q school, when does Q school get played, and the Top 30, and you position yourself in the Top 125, where do they fall into the FedEx competition? If you have the Top 125 decided through Disney, where does the Q school grads, even Nationwide grads, I suppose, fall into the FedEx competition for '08?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: The same place they do now, and without us making any more changes, the number of cards that are currently distributed in qualifying school and Nationwide Tour will stay the same as it is now.
Q. Q school then would be the same place?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Q school would occur after the season like it does now. The season ends at about the same time.
BOB COMBS: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for that. We have a couple of markets that were announced as part of the fall series that will remain on the line with specific comments with the Commissioner on that.
For the first of those, let's go to the folks at Fry's Electronics in Scottsdale for any questions you might have.
If we're prepared to we're also going to take questions from the folks in Fresno with the Running Horse Golf Championship.
FRESNO: This is the first time we've had anything like this here in Fresno, and if you could just take a minute to tell people what we might expect, who we might expect and as we build up to this tournament.
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: I think we'll have to wait and see in terms of who's going to come and play. That's true with every tournament and certainly every new tournament.
I think important in your case is that our people, and what we think is an excellent golf course getting finished at Running Horse, it's important that the players learn about the quality of the golf course. We'll be encouraging players during the West Coast Swing to get in and play the golf course. That will result in what we hope will be very strong word of mouth. Assuming the golf course performs as well as we think it will, that will translate by the second year, we hope, into a situation where the golf course helps attract a field, which is a very positive thing.
I think the other thing that you should recognize is that the relationship between this tournament and the Central California Veterans Home Support Foundation and the United States Department of Veteran Affairs I think has a positive effect on our players, too. Our players tend to be very patriotic, very supportive of our soldiers. There is a lot of activity on the PGA TOUR this year to raise funds for our guys abroad, and I think that charitable focus in that direction at Running Horse Golf Championship will be a meaningful factor in the minds of a number of players, as well.
We feel very positive about the run of two Fry's events out West, finishing up in Fresno, and we think we'll have a very solid event.
BOB COMBS: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your time and attention and interest. Transcripts will be available shortly.
End of FastScripts.