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September 5, 2007
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: The conversation was about his withdrawing from the tournament. He explained his reasoning, the same thing he said probably, and I explained my disappointment, and that was enough about the conversation that I'm prepared to talk about.
You know, Phil and I talk about stuff all the time. I was with him for three or four holes during the Pro-Am just the other day. So it's not like we need to get on the phone and talk about anything in particular.
Q. Sounded like he's got a couple of particulars actually that he's been talking to you about. Can you provide any information about that?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No, I don't --
Q. It almost makes it worse not to allude to it.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No, I don't want to get into any distractions. He indicated in his statement that he has a couple of issues that he's made suggestions on that haven't been implemented, and he's not happy about that. But that's between me and him.
If he wants to elucidate that or go and explain that, that's up to Phil. But when I have a conversation with a player about a concern the player has, I don't go out and talk about it publicly. And regardless of what he said, I'm not going to do that now.
Q. But he just did it to you.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I just told you what my policy is.
Q. Are you surprised that he would voice that on the public stage and catch you off guard?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No, I didn't feel surprised. I mean, he made it clear the reasons that he decided not to play. He's got a 2,500-point lead. He's going to be in this thing next week under any set of circumstances. I think that'll contribute to an exciting finish, and I'm delighted about that.
Phil is a major asset to the TOUR. I view him as a personal friend of mine, as well. We don't always agree on things, but it doesn't diminish the positive impact he has for the sport and for the TOUR, and I'm delighted that he's going to be trying to win the Cup next week.
Q. Did you have a chance to read Ernie's comments today because he was pretty vocal and critical in his complaints that the Commissioner's office and the players are growing apart, and the players had next to no input on all of this.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No, somebody mentioned the no input question. I've heard that from two or three players. You know, I think if you go back and look over the last three years, the number of player meetings that have been called to discuss the details of the Cup, the number of PAC meetings that have been called, the amount of information that's been distributed to players, you know, in hindsight I feel comfortable that we did a good job in reaching out to players on the details.
Now, over the last six months, we've discovered that a lot of players, regardless of the amount of information that might have been discussed, didn't necessarily for whatever reason want to pay much attention to it. When we got to the Playoffs, the players were calling the office saying, how come I'm not an alternate. There's no alternates in the Playoffs, they didn't pay attention to that.
When a player comes to me, which I had one do in the last ten days, and say, well, wouldn't it be better if this cash wasn't in the form of an annuity, and I said, well, it's not an annuity. Well, it means that the TOUR puts up less money. No, that's not the case. If you win the Cup you have $10 million in your account. It's not an annuity that you buy something for a certain amount of money and it grows and you get $10 million a number of years from now. That's not what happens. It's $10 million that's earning interest tax-free.
When I hear a player say, well, the problem I have with the deferral is I don't see the money for 20 years. That's not the case. You earn the money and get the money right away in your account. You can spend it starting at 45 or when you retire, whichever is later.
So a lot of players just for whatever reason are focused on some of the details. I say a lot. Some players. I talk to a lot of other players that say, yeah, I knew that.
But the point is right now I think the important thing about the FedExCup and the Playoffs is, is it accomplishing what it was designed to accomplish, not whether we have little details in the structure of it that players didn't focus on or we need to look at going forward.
And in my view, my strong view, it's accomplishing what it's set out to do, create a better end of the season, create some really powerful events in business markets around the country, get the best players playing, and most importantly, give the fans something that they can enjoy. I believe strongly that's happening over the first two weeks.
So I don't want to get off on worrying about these detail issues. I'm sure that when we get through with the Playoffs we'll have a complete opportunity for any player to have the opportunity which he may not have chosen to utilize over the last two and a half years to say wait a second, I didn't know this and I'm not so sure I agree with it.
Q. One thing we've heard undeniably from several players is as they've gotten into this system they're finding four in a row to be too much.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, here again, that's fair, depending on your point of view about too much. We have a very high percentage of players playing all four weeks. Some of them are finding that their bodies are having difficulty handling it and having to play around it. That's not unexpected. We always said that stamina was going to be a factor in this time of the year.
I think, though, that here again, the focus on the schedule really started -- sort of started up this year when players are making their schedule and seeing PGA Championship, final week of the playoff format, and then the Presidents Cup, and they've been kept more focused on it.
Now, others who didn't seem bothered by it in March and are going through it are saying, well, this is tough. And we expected it to be tough. It's Playoffs. That's what Playoffs are.
You know, here again, I mean, if -- all of these things are open to discussion as we go forward. I know that next year is a particularly challenging situation with the Ryder Cup scheduled the week after the TOUR Championship. We will, like we do with everything else, Presidents Cup, PLAYERS Championship, we'll be working on how to make it better.
But the fundamental elements of the schedule are good, and some of them are locked in place contractually. Again, I'm not going to get -- react too much to what I don't know is a consensus or a strong sense of a lot of players.
Q. Are you locked into four in a row for this next year?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Currently our agreements are for this schedule next year, sponsorship, television and the rest. Largely I would think yes. I think that unraveling contracts is not something we normally do on the PGA TOUR.
Q. Unless they'd realize they'd get everybody if they move it a week?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Like I said, I don't feel compelled as we sit here today to change anything about this system. I want to hear players explain to me what their concerns are, what they would like to see happen, why it's better, and then we have a process.
And by the way, I don't make the final decision in the process. We have player meetings which we'll be doing this fall and this winter, Player Advisory Council meetings, eventually issues regarding the board, but I would say this: Regardless of whether you're talking about the schedule or the payout, these are details. These are things that fans don't really care about. What they care about is watching these guys go out there like they did last week and go head-to-head, and that's what they're excited about. As long as that element is maintained, we're comfortable.
Q. Does it bother you that guys can skip a tournament and still win? The thought going in was you need to play all four.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Yes and no. First of all, it's part of our sport. These players are not under contract to do anything. It's their call. And I think fans generally recognize that.
I also think that when the fans look back on this first year of the FedExCup, they're going to think of it as what it was, a multiple number of events, what's my reaction to who won and did they play the best over the four weeks and how exciting were the pieces. I think that's the bulk of it.
I had some emails, even some commentary in the media the last couple days, that not many people remember that Tiger Woods didn't play the first one because of how good last week was. So whether people are going to be upset with Phil for not playing by the time Atlanta is over, it depends on a lot of factors.
I think it's about the whole thing and not about any one piece. Having said that, obviously I would like to see all the players play because it just makes it that much stronger.
Q. Is that something you may tweak, that you can't win the $10 million if you don't play in all four?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Like I said earlier, I'm not going to comment on any specific thing that we might or might not do because then you'll write it and then people will start to think it's something we're going to do. I don't want to get into commenting on the odds of us getting excited about any particular detail.
Q. Can you give us a sense of how much tweaking there will be after year one, and is there one thing you would like to see tweaked?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No. I mean, like I say, unless I'm way off, if the next two weeks play out as strong as the first two weeks, we've got a very successful Cup. And if not a thing changed, I think that's a different situation. That's not going to be the case. And why is that? Because things will change, there are things that can be improved, just like a golf tournament. You write down 82 things at the end of the tournament that could be done better, and the next thing you get 30 of them done and then the list goes back to 80, and you just keep working on it. And a good golf tournament gets better each year. Same thing with this.
It can be done better, it can be explained better, it can be presented better, and the players can be even more excited about it. I happen to believe that that's a function of how excited the fans get about it, which has a lot to do with what you write about it. If the fans are excited about an event and a player is engaged in it, it will be a success. I think it's already a success, but it can be bigger yet.
Q. Down the road can you provide any relief into that fall where it's crammed in there where they might have to play seven of eight? Can you throw an off week in there somewhere?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, we've already done some of that. In '11 the Presidents Cup is in Australia, so it's going to be very late. In '09 the Presidents Cup is in San Francisco, we're already looking at playing it a little bit later than the historical date, which is even maybe better for the Presidents Cup because the weather in October in San Francisco is fantastic.
What can be done with the remainder of the schedule is something we'll be looking at, but there's no question that it would be helpful to have some more separation there.
Q. When do you think you'll have the schedule nailed down for next year? How much fluidity do you still see?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: The schedule that needs to be nailed down for next year, it's nailed down now, so if we were to make any changes, it would have to be by the holidays, and it would be heavy lifting. But if there was going to be any more movement and spacing, it would have to be done in the next two months probably.
Q. Spacing it out, wouldn't that creep you farther into football season, and I thought that was the whole purpose of this exercise?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Yes and no. If you're talking about the Presidents Cup or the Ryder Cup, they're going to perform well anyway. I think that the Presidents Cup has demonstrated now it's got legs enough to perform well, particularly when it's in the United States well into football, and so does the Ryder Cup. So I don't think that would be a major factor.
I think that the regular schedule of the Playoffs, it's important to keep a continuity to bring the audience along because we finished last week, they're looking forward to this week, and you certainly want to take advantage of that, if at all possible.
Now, it may be that there's a one off situation where you can't do it quite that way, but we'd kind of like to avoid that if we can.
Q. Did you ever think you'd see the day where you would put up $63 million in prize money over four weeks and guys would be bitching about it?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I don't think they're bitching about it. I wouldn't characterize it that way.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: We've got $28 million in cash and $35 million that's going to go into players' deferred accounts. I think that's -- our job is to take actions and make decisions that are in the best interests of the TOUR players generally and the fans, and I think that's what we've done in this case.
Can it be done differently? When you stand back and look at -- you guys are taking a couple comments here, and I understand that, but when you stand back and look at the import of what these comments are about, these, again, are not fundamental questions.
Q. Tiger said this morning he can't fathom the idea that the TOUR doesn't play in Chicago next year or in '10. In retrospect was that a good idea to move this tournament around, out of the No. 3 market in the country?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, Tiger has won, been first or second, six times here, so I've got to believe that plays into his emotional reaction (laughter).
But the decision was made based on a number of factors, not the least of which was I think sometimes people forget, we have three purposes as an organization, and that is player benefits; two is raising money for charity; and three is helping grow and protect the game. The Evans Scholar program will be much better off because of the decision to do what we've done. The fans in Indianapolis and in St. Louis will see terrific BMW tournaments in those two markets in the next three years.
Having said that, we recognize the reaction of the fans in Chicago, and we have to take that into consideration when we look out past '11, and we will, but I think it was a good decision.
Q. Referencing back to Els' comments, did the players actually have an up-down vote on this thing?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: We have a system. The players get together and give us their comments with our directors present at multiple meetings. We have a Player Advisory Council, and we have a board of directors, just like any company. We call it the PGA TOUR Policy Board. I'm not going to get into the details here, I'm just going to say we worked reasonably hard, I think very hard, to reach out to players over an extended period of time. If something is far off in the distance, perhaps they don't get as focused about it.
If the policy board made decisions without fully understanding the detailed focus of the players, we should correct that. I think it's important to recognize on this question of deferred money, there's no benefit to the TOUR whichever way it goes. The money is either going into an account for a player and the interest is deferred, or it's going into his bank account and he goes and spends it now. That's the only difference. There is no benefit to the TOUR. There is no agenda as to why it's in the interest of the TOUR.
So when the TOUR directors made that decision, they did it on the basis of what they believed was in the overall best interest of the players.
Now, having said that, I would recommend that we do whatever the players basically want to do, within reason. If it's all cash, it's all cash. But what we heard was a lot of players saying that, look, why don't we take advantage of the vehicle, and that's what you would do and I would do and most people would do, but not everybody would do it. And a number of players feel differently for whatever reason. It doesn't matter, they're entitled to that view. There's no point in arguing. The merits are the merits. I think the board should, going forward, make decisions on the basis of what players feel.
And if what players feel about that issue was not properly measured, we should go out and measure it again, because candidly, I certainly don't care, nor does the TOUR care, it's just what's in the best -- from a fiduciary responsibility, we have a fiduciary responsibility to make decisions that are in the best financial interest of the player. So they made that decision and they made a decision to provide more options to the players because, just so you know, I don't know if I mentioned this, this is self-directed investments. The players determine the vehicles to which the funds will be invested to their benefit.
Q. Can you give them a choice whether to take the cash or to put it to deferred funds?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No, that we can't do legally. It either has to go all cash, all deferred, or it could be split between cash and deferred, and that was an option that we put to the players. We put to them three basic options, one was all cash, one was all deferred and one was split. Based on multiple meetings and a lot of input, we concluded that not only was it in the best interest of a lot of players, but it was what most players wanted to do.
It certainly doesn't have to be that way. I'm sure based on all this commentary it'll be something that will be reviewed.
Q. Did you get a commitment from the high profile players, or at least an understanding from the high profile players, like Phil and Tiger, that they would play in all four events?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No, I never asked for a commitment. I never ask for a player to tell me, if we schedule the Presidents Cup, will you play it. We go out and say, here's a tournament we're going to play, this BMW tournament with the Western Golf Association, it's got this date on it. Do you like moving in this direction? I don't ask a player to commit to me that he's going to play. It's just not the way we go about things.
There was no decision made with the assumption that any player would do anything. There were a lot of decisions made with the assumption that the vast majority of players strongly believed that this was a good idea. And by the way, I think they do. That's why almost 100 percent are playing every week. And the ones that aren't playing every week are playing a lot, and two of them have played in enough that they're in a position to win next week, at least at the moment. That's where we are. So I wouldn't make too much of all that stuff.
Q. Did you get a chance to talk to Goydos about why he's not here this week?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I did not.
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