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January 23, 2008
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA
JAMES CRAMER: Good morning, everyone. My name is James Cramer from the PGA TOUR, and I'd like to welcome everybody to a media scrum, so to speak, with Commissioner Tim Finchem, and with that I'm going to turn it right over to Commissioner Finchem.
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Thank you, James.
I'm not going to make any comments on any issues. I'll just open it up to questions.
But before I do that, I would like to announce or re-announce, we said it earlier in the week, that we've entered into a new multi-year relationship with CDW, our new technology partner. They're going to be working with us on a wide range of technology solutions going forward over at least the next five years. That's the term of the first part of our agreement.
Certainly there will be a focus on the TOUR experience and things we do on-line and other technology communication things that we're trying to make more dynamic for the fans. We think we've selected a great partner. They have a lot of energy. They're well-qualified, and I believe they're having a reception this evening at 5:00 to make themselves available to you all and get to know you a little bit, so I encourage you to drop by and say hello to them, which is right here in this facility.
With that said, rather than make comments, I know a number of you have questions in a variety of areas and I'll try to answer your questions.
Q. How would you describe the comfort level of your players with the anti-doping policy?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Comfort level of the players with regard to --
Q. Getting started in July, how comfortable they are with the program, and specifically, some of them have talked about the dignity, whether it fits with the dignity of golfers?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: I don't know how to characterize that. This is all new to all of our players. There's a lot to learn about the process involved, about the substances. It's a lot of information. We're just getting started.
We anticipated, I think correctly, that there is a lot to it, and it is new in our sport. And because as we've studied what's happened in other sports, one of our major objectives here is not to have the pitfalls and the problems that some of the other sports have had. So to do that we felt strongly that the first order of business was to get a good strong team put together. We think we've got a good strong team, but equally important was to allow ourselves some time to get players fully involved in what needs to happen.
We've just begun that process. That's why we set the date for July to give ourselves a full half a year. We're going to be very intense about it.
We had two good meetings yesterday. I think virtually the entire field was at one of the two meetings. We had a lot of good questions. We had a bunch of players who are taking this very seriously, and that's good. That means if we take it seriously and spend the energy, it's going to reduce significantly the chances of making mistakes.
As I've said all along, I think -- I had very little concern about players now that we have a rule going into effect, and this is the first time we've had a rule on performance-enhancing drugs. Given the history of players and rules, I don't have a big problem or a big concern about a player intentionally taking a step to violate one of these rules.
My bigger concern is players making mistakes and allowing things to get into their bodies that will trigger a positive response and then that gets us into the whole realm of was it intentional and how did the substance get into the body. The testing process doesn't know how it gets into your body; all it knows is it's in your body. So that part of it we need to work on pretty hard.
The testing part, absolutely. I mean, I think that testing by definition is a process that speaks to the notion that you don't believe a player when he says he's following the rule. That is counter to the culture of the game and something that's troubled me for a long time. I think it is going to be difficult for players, and I think it's going to be difficult for all of us as we get into that arena.
I think what we have to do, though, is focus on the fact that this is part of the world of sports today. It's a reality. It unfortunately can't be avoided. And hopefully we can limit the focus of looking at things this way only to this area just because it's the accepted way of doing things in sport and maintain our culture as it relates to the historic rules of the game.
As I've said before, that may turn out to be a challenge, I don't know, but that's our objective.
Q. I was wondering, has there been any activity on the TUE front? And secondly unrelated, I'm wondering if we could get the play-by-play of what went down with Westchester and where that stands. That's kind of an uncomfortable topic.
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: I need to ask you back on the first question to make sure I understand it. On the second one, let me answer the second one first, Westchester. It's been widely reported -- we are in discussions with Westchester. We have a multi-year contract with Westchester. Our discussions focus on the possibility to alter the rotation arrangement that we entered into for this six years in some fashion.
As you know, we had agreed to play -- worked out an agreement where we'd play at least three times in six years. We would like to perhaps accelerate the rotation somewhat. But we are in discussion with Westchester on a wide range of options within that, and I don't want to get into speculating on any one course, but we are deep into discussions. We hope to wrap this up quickly, and hopefully we'll have more to say within the next week or so. But obviously if it impacts '08 we really need to know right away. That's where we are. Not much more to say about that.
Q. A three-course rotation are you looking at?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Well, it could be a lot of different things. We've looked at a lot of different -- the thought was when we went into this with the playoffs that we wanted to reach out to more of metropolitan New York with PGA TOUR golf, with FedExCup Playoff golf, and to do that we wanted to explore playing at different places.
As you know we previously announced we were going to play at Liberty in '09. We have looked at other facilities. We've been in discussion over the last year and a half with other facilities. So we have a wide range of options before us.
As I said, it wouldn't make sense to speculate on any particular option, but we hope to wrap this up and define it for you here shortly. We appreciate the folks at Westchester being cooperative in our discussions.
On the first question you had, was your question has there been any activity --
Q. Well, I'm wondering, have you had applications for the therapeutic use exemptions?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: No, we haven't had formal applications, but we have been active starting in December and going forward, yesterday and now every week, in explaining to players the TUE process. What's important on the TUE process is an understanding of the substances that doctors might recommend and the process whereby a player gets a prescription or a recommendation from a physician that he take something, and the process then the player goes through to double-check to make sure that's okay. And if it's not okay, then he's got to apply for the therapeutic use exemption. And he could be granted a therapeutic use exemption. But it's getting the players to understand the substances, understand the process, understand how you go about doing this.
We're trying to make it as easy as possible, and I think once the players become knowledgeable about it, it can be managed. But that's where we are at this point in time.
Q. Could you just describe the TOUR's current position on grooves, and are you guys any closer to implementing something that would be separate from what the USGA is doing?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: No, we continue to be, as we have been for a number of years, in the posture of supporting the work of the USGA and the R & A in the equipment rules area generally, and with regard to your question as it relates to grooves specifically, we had encouraged and have been very supportive, I think, to the USGA, and to some extent the R & A on the question of evaluating the extent to which grooves play a role in distance and shot-making from the standpoint of the fairway, hitting a shot in the fairway being a premium in the game.
There seems to be a slippage in recent years in that area. You could interpret the data different ways. The USGA has generated more data. Having ShotLink available has been very helpful. The USGA has actually been testing some prototype groove configurations which would provide less spin rate from rough conditions.
So all of that -- this could be a very long answer to the question, and I don't want to go on forever, but all of that area we have taken the position that the USGA and the R & A should take the lead in that area and we should be in a supportive role, in an encouraging role, and that's the role we deem to take as we stay in that posture now.
Obviously in this arena, rule-making is a cumbersome, multi-organizational thing, and especially when you get into questions about whether there should be one rule for professional athletes, another rule for others; how does it affect the amateur. And so as they're doing their research they're wrestling with those things, as well. We're just being encouraging and trying to provide them as much information as we can from our perspective.
Q. You mentioned your concerns about the drug testing. What are you hearing from the players as their major concerns regarding the testing?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Well, I think there is a fundamental concern that I just reviewed, which is that the notion of drug testing -- let me just say, on one hand you have concerns from players that there is a proliferation of substance use in sports and that they hear more from the media and people in other sports about it all the time, and that's been increasing over the last two, three years, five years. So there are a lot of players concerned about that.
But when you turn around and you go into the testing arena, I think the biggest concern is that the tradition of the players knowing the rules, playing by the rules, and if you violate the rules you call a penalty on yourself, things about testing are contrary to that fundamental that's in the sport, a fundamental that doesn't exist in some other sports.
So I think players wrestle with that. I think players, as I indicated earlier, are looking at a lot of information on the surface, looking at an enormous amount of information in terms of a variety of substances that are going to be banned on July 1st, and in some cases it's rather daunting to figure out how, because there are so many instances -- you look at the Olympic Games, for example, instances where athletes inadvertently, either because they didn't take the time to check or they took the time to check and just were misled by labeling, inadvertently got stuff into their bodies that generated a positive test. So I think there's a concern in that area.
I think there is a question about the logistics of testing generally, how it's going to work, a process whereby you -- a process you go through to provide samples for testing. But I'll say it again, we have just begun this process. We have six months to get players up to speed, and as we go through that process, we're not limiting the effort to players. We're talking trainers, we're talking agents, we're talking business managers, so everybody is paying attention.
It is a manageable process, but it takes work. You've got to pay attention, you have to be knowledgeable and you've got to put some energy into it. I think those are the basic concerns.
Q. The tournaments in Tampa and Atlanta are losing their title sponsors. I just wondered given today's economic conditions how difficult will it be to find replacements there and what you guys are going to be doing to help the process?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Well, that's hard to say. I think generally you would look at deteriorating economic situations and say, boy, it's going to be really tough. But we've been 100 percent sponsored through the last two recessions. I'm cautiously optimistic we will continue to be 100 percent sponsored if we went into a recession, we're not in recession yet, through another one.
I think the product that PGA TOUR players put out there is extremely marketable. We have interest in the market in sponsorships today, companies that aren't sponsoring. It continues to be the fit. Are we going to continue to play in Atlanta and Tampa, and if so, is there a fit with a sponsor, because all potential sponsors have their own view of calendar and site.
That's the challenge right now, not the economy; that may change. Things may worsen, but right now we're optimistic that we'll be 100 percent sponsored. I feel reasonably comfortable that we will be going forward.
Q. Back to the anti-doping thing just for a second, you had said earlier today that now that you have a rule in place you're not concerned about a player intentionally violating those rules. My question is did you guys need this, not just because of public opinion, but given the money in the game today and the effectiveness of these substances in other sports, as a deterrent, to prevent people from being tempted to try these things?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Do I believe we need it? No, not for that purpose. The reason we needed it, I think, was twofold. One, the growing perception by fans generally of sport, that athletes in sport do stuff is on the ascension. There's no question it's different than it was a year ago, it's very different than it was two years ago. More things that come out in other sports drive that. So when you come behind that with rumor and innuendo, it can change the perception of your sport.
I don't want to see the perception of this sport changed in any way, shape or form. That's number one.
Number two, the reality is that our players were going to be subjected to these rules anyway and probably to some form of testing anyway. What I mean by that is that clearly testing is going to go forward on the European Tour because of governmental requirement that they do so, and there's no question that it may not happen -- I'm not so sure when it happens now, given the fact that the European Tour and the U.S. Tour are going down this path, but the British Open was clearly going to test.
Now, once that starts to happen, our players are at risk under the same set of rules -- actually broader rule in Europe because we carved out three categories of WADA substances that we don't think we're testing for that our players if they go play in Europe are going to be tested for. So they're going to be in the arena anyway. If they're going to be in that arena, they need to be educated; they need to know how to avoid problems as they move around the world.
That's what I said earlier about that's the way the world is going. I've concluded now for a year and a half that testing in this game is inevitable. That doesn't mean that I think that we have a rule and that players are going to violate the rule. I happen to think the opposite. I happen to think the nexus in a TOUR player's mind about the relationship of the game itself and the role of the rules is too strong. I really believe that. That's not to say it might never happen, absolutely would never happen; I don't know that. I just don't see it becoming a problem.
What I do think is a problem is that people don't believe that and that when you have rumors and you have stuff happening and you have headlines and you have comments, I see an erosion of that.
In addition to that, if we didn't do anything and one of our players went to Europe or went somewhere and was tested positive -- it's just not worth going down that direction when we can take some steps to avoid it, and that's what we are trying to do.
Q. In other sports there have been some of the trainers that injected the guys. They're saying they thought they got B-12 but actually were injected with something else. Is there some kind of steps that the TOUR is taking with the trainers involved that players are not going to have that happen to them and not inadvertently get drugs that they don't know they're getting?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Well, players can be tested for substances in their body. Like I said before, the testing protocol doesn't really care how it got in the body, it just tells us whether it's positive or negative. So it's incumbent on a player not to let -- I don't know of any players getting injected by anything, but it's incumbent on a player to know what's entering his body, to know whether having entered his body that substance can cause a positive test and take steps to avoid it. It's as simple as that. It doesn't matter whether it's a supplement or something he bought at a health food store or an injection. It doesn't matter where it comes from.
If it's going to enter your body, it's your responsibility to make sure it doesn't, and based on the reaction of 153 players yesterday, I think they take that very seriously.
Q. I'm a little uncertain on some of the discretion or influence you could have on a test result, I guess primarily the difference between performance-enhancing and recreational. Could you discuss what role you play in all this testing? And specifically, I guess, the difference in possible penalty between pot or steroids?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Well, I don't play much of a role in testing. I play a role in dealing with a situation where we had a positive test.
The way we view what we call substantive abuse, which have already been historically banned with illegal recreational drugs, if you will, and performance-enhancing substances, even though the test will relate to both groups of substances, in our view -- it may not always be the case. There might be a case where somebody is taking a -- if we got a positive test, it could conceivably be that a substantive abuse is being taken for competitive advantage. We would doubt that, but it's possible.
If, however, we concluded that it's being taken because it is being abused, either because of a lack of judgment, dependency or addiction, we would treat it in that context, which would include a wide range of potential actions, including some disciplinary action, some therapeutic action, and some continuing testing action. So it could conceivably be that a player is disciplined at some level and then if he's allowed to continue to play he's tested on a regular basis to help him deal with those issues.
We view that as somewhat different than a player who has intentionally taken a substance to gain competitive advantage. That would be dealt with in a different arena.
Q. Who decides that, you?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: That would be me, and subject to an appeal process.
Q. I guess my question would be, is there any danger you put yourself in as being the judge and jury of this as opposed to -- if I'm not mistaken on the LPGA it's just very much black and white. You either have it in your system and you're penalized or you don't and you're not.
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: What we try to do is construct a program that we think works, is workable, has the flexibility to beat the aggravation of the system and we're comfortable with that. Candidly I don't think it puts me in an uncomfortable position. I think it puts me in a position to make a tough decision.
But we have a lot of comfort that we've managed in the discipline area for the last 30 years, and me for the last 15 years, and I'm called on to make those decisions frequently. They're not any different. It has to do with players' conduct, it has to do with action that relates to the conduct and action that can take care of the problem. I think we have a pretty good history of dealing with that, and we would anticipate continuing that.
Q. And lastly, just to clarify, if there is a positive test, what will you be releasing to the media? I'm a little confused on that. After it runs the appeals process.
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: At this moment it's our intention when the process is completed, we would release to the media the fact that there was a violation and what the sanction for the violation is.
Q. But not the drug?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Not the drug.
Q. I was wondering if you could comment on the death of the TOUR caddie Steve DuPlantis overnight. He was the caddie for Eric Axley. Any comment on that?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: I know nothing about this except what was described to me two minutes before I walked in here. Apparently he was a pedestrian struck by a vehicle. I know he had a long history on the TOUR. I had met him. I don't know him well. I haven't talked to anybody who knows anything more about the details. Our condolences to his family. It's a tragedy, but beyond that, at this juncture I really have nothing else to say.
Q. I hate to follow a serious question with one that's a little more flippant, but I'm wondering what your reaction was when you saw Tiger say that he thought winning the Grand Slam this year was essentially plausible?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Essentially plausible? Qualify that a little bit.
Q. Within reason, I think, was the thrust.
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: I don't know if that's a flippant question.
Q. I'm hoping that he listens to a colorful answer.
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: I don't know if anybody would -- if Tiger Woods thinks he can win something, I don't know if anybody is going to argue with him. He's been reasonably successful where the first one is played, he's been reasonably successful where the one is being played here (laughter). I think he finished -- had a strong finish at Birkdale.
Q. One shot out of the playoff.
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: So he hasn't been too shabby there. And at Oakland Hills, I can't remember his Ryder Cup record.
Q. They stuck him with Phil. You can't count that.
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: So he may check his pairing (laughter).
I don't know where that feat would be in his tier of objectives, but if he could maintain during the season the way he finished up last year, he's going to be very tough to beat I would guess.
As usual, it's fun to watch. I've said this many, many times over the years, but the great thing about Tiger wanting to win more tournaments than Sam Snead, win more majors than Jack, is it takes decades to do that, and that's a good thing for everybody (laughter).
Q. If we put to one side performance-enhancing substances and recreational drugs, do you have any concerns that PGA TOUR players might be tempted to use illegal substances to speed up recovery?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: There are substances on the list that do just that. A number of the substances that are banned are substances that allow a player to recover more quickly either from exercise or injury. So we think those are covered.
The fact that Advil is not covered, no, that doesn't trouble us. We think that the WADA list is a comprehensive list, and that doesn't trouble us.
End of FastScripts