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July 2, 2008
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Members of the media, thank you for joining us here today at the AT&T National. We are joined by PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem, if you would like to start us out with a few opening comments.
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Well, I don't really have anything to it announce or anything. It's just nice to be back here in Washington. A number of you have reached out to me in the last few days with a question here or there, and since we had not been together in a while, I thought I would just allow you the opportunity to ask me anything you want.
I'll just say generally, we are delighted with the opening ceremony today and the quality of the golf course here is exceptional.
I toured the changes in the clubhouse yesterday. The clubhouse is going to be second only to one in Sawgrass, Florida; the best tournament golf clubhouse in America. We are excited about where the tournament is.
So hats off to Greg McLaughlin and his team for another good job this year, and with that, I'll try to answer your questions.
Q. That being said, the history of golf in the Washington has always been Kemper and Booz Allen and we don't get a lot of Top-10, Top-25 players, and even though this is Tiger's tournament, we still only have two guys in the Top-10 and a lot of guys not playing this week; is it an aberration, and why are they not coming to a course like this hosted by a player like Tiger?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Well, I don't know exactly if I can characterize it as an aberration or not. Normally I think the unique factor right now is we have four top players in addition to Tiger that are hurt. We know for a fact that three of them at least wanted to play, and couldn't play. I mean, Vijay can't play right now. Zach Johnson can't play. Adam Scott can't play. So that's different.
The other thing, I think that impacted this week, that won't reoccur next year is the British Open Qualifying will not be this week, and I think that has some players playing a couple three weeks in a row and then have to qualify on top of that.
Q. Over here or over there?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Over here. It's just extra golf. I think that change will be beneficial next year.
You know, I think I said last year when we moved forward with this tournament, all of the pieces are here for it to be an especially good tournament on the PGA TOUR. I think that is the case. We have a lot of great players here this week, and one of the things we are looking forward to between now and when Tiger comes back is watching to see who steps up and we'll get another chapter of that this week. So from that standpoint, I'm not too concerned.
When you add some of the players that are hurt next year, Tiger being back next year, I really feel good about it. Now what happens beyond that, I probably shouldn't speculate on because I haven't analyzed the field myself or talked to players about it.
Q. Do you have any concerns or trepidations going forward with the drug testing, the anti-doping program, now that we're here?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: No. We're in the same place we have been.
You know, our concerns were on two levels, as we articulated early in the year. One level is just a notion of testing -- we had no problem with the rule, but testing per se, and worrying that it might change or be counter to sort of the culture of the sport where you know the rules and you abide by the rules and you call penalties on yourself. Testing is not really consistent with that; although I liken it to testing a driver, because a lot of this doping stuff is how things get in your body, not necessarily that you intended them to get in your body. But that's a long-term thing we have to work on.
The other set of concerns was on the players getting educated, knowing the rules, paying attention, asking the right questions and I'm delighted that Allison Keller who runs the program; Rick Andersen, our general counsel; and our outside consultants had I think now virtually have sat down with close to 200 players, asked questions, gotten educated. They have taken it very seriously.
I've been through the procedure myself. So the logistics of the procedures are being handled in a way that I think will not create disruption for our players. So on that side of things, I actually feel more comfortable than I did six months ago because we were just getting into it.
You know, we, of course, we do it and hope it becomes part of what we do; but it's not highlighted and it's not a big deal and it is just part of what we do.
Q. Is it important for you to go first?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: No, I don't think it's important to go first. I think it's important for me and certain of our executives who are involved with the program to understand exactly what the procedure is, because by doing that, you can kind of see what player reaction will be, what players questions will be, and it's just a good, healthy learning experience. I don't view it as anything meaningful from a symbolism standpoint, but just I think it's important that we understand it in the detail of it.
Q. Did it go as efficiently as you thought it would?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: It did. I was very pleased with the way it went, and I think that we have every reason to be optimistic that we're not going to have logistical problems; that it's not going to be a big disruption and it's not going to take much time.
The people that are doing it are quite professional, well organized, buttoned up, and that also conveys a sense of integrity to the process; because as we all know in this area, the integrity of the process is very, very important.
Q. Do you know how long it took you?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Nine and a half minutes. And I asked some questions.
Q. Yesterday or today?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Let's just say I've been through it. I don't know that it's necessary to get really specific.
Q. There's been so much talk leading up to the testing program; that golf like every other sport has come to the point where it has to be done, and whether people agree with it, pretty much every major sport is testing. Why the results not to release names and results of players tested and be more open-book about it?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: I don't know. No particular reason except that we don't see any reason to disseminate all that information.
We will probably provide some gross statistics on the program end of this year or sometime next year in terms of numbers of people, numbers of tests. We may do something like that.
This is just the way we set the program up. We feel like it's the best way to go about it, and we're not trying to give it a high, high profile. We don't want to encourage people to find Rocco Mediate because the TOUR announced that he was tested last week. It just invites more conversation about a subject that we think should just be done, and if we have issues that arise, we will deal with it.
Q. If a player tests positive, does that player's test become known? Do the results become known?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: If there's a positive -- this has all been provided, actually, and you can get it us the detail.
A positive test triggers a process. When the process is completed, and the final step in that process is over, we may very well release information that relates to a player, a positive test, and an action that was taken. The first test, the first sample that provides us a positive test just triggers a process.
If you're familiar with our conduct unbecoming process, it takes a little while, because there's an opportunity for appeals and challenges and you've seen this in other sports. So when the process is completed, we'll have something to say about it.
Q. So far this week most of the criticism I've heard is from guys who say: You could be taking cold medicine and that kind of thing and you might not know; or the lack of privacy issue. Wondered if you had a response to either one of those issues.
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Well, the first part of that is, yeah, you hear somebody say, well, can you take a one-a-day vitamin and get a positive reading; and the answer to that is you can; and the reason is it could have been manufactured in Timbuktu in a batch that was tainted, and that's why we provided specific certified options for players to use. You can take a one-a-day vitamin that's on our certification list and you have a certainty or a fairly close certainty that that problem is not going to happen.
It's all about understanding, asking questions and being prepared to do the right thing every day with what you put in your body. Like I said, I have a pretty good belief that the vast majority of players are providing a lot of due diligence and work on understanding that.
The second one is invasion of privacy. The problem we have is that whether we like it or not; to the gentleman's question earlier. We're going down this road, because all sports are viewed by fans and the media as having issues in this area, whether we do or not. With the highlighting in cycling in baseball in recent years, it's become intense with the involvement of Capitol Hill in all sports of what they are doing in anti-doping; we just felt we had to go down this road.
Now that we are going down the road, we have to have a credible program, and the only way to have a credible program and meet the basic tenets of the anti-doping world is to have observed testing. And it may be uncomfortable for some, but that's the price we're paying to have a credible system and deal with the issue.
Q. This tournament is going to be here next year, obviously 2010 and 2011 not. You have a pretty nice golf course being built across the street here. Is there any pressure from the TOUR to play at Avenel or TPC Potomac or whatever you're calling it these guys?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: No.
Q. And would you have a problem if it moved out of town for a couple years?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Well, the first question, why not, I guess there's two reasons for that. One is that the golf course, our golf course down the street here, is torn up. It's not done. I think we learned our lesson in 1985, 1986; that you don't move a golf tournament to a golf course before you've finished, or before it's done. It just doesn't make any sense.
More importantly, 2010 and 2011 is right in the sweet spot of the U.S. Open cycle in this market. You know, from a foundation standpoint, they may very well conclude that a venue outside of this market makes sense for one of or both of those years. We wouldn't argue with that and would say that that probably makes the most sense at this point, but they are taking the lead and we are being supportive.
It's important to note that with Avenel, we were into this event before we pulled the trigger on the construction at Avenel, and we went ahead with the construction at Avenel assuming we are not going to play this tournament there for the long term. But the reason we went ahead with it was, one, it makes it a better club, makes it a better part of the TPC network. I think it's going to be a phenomenal finish to it, and it's good for the members.
So we are comfortable with that, and we don't see any need to try to play this tournament over there. We recognize that the board here has voted to recommend to the members a long-term arrangement, and we'll have to see how that turns out, but we are going to be very supportive and hopeful that the members will improve that.
Q. Speaking of construction on clubhouses, is the TOUR behind financially any of the renovations on the clubhouse here?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: No.
Q. East Lake is also undergoing a clubhouse renovation. The TOUR is financially behind that; correct, partially?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Not the clubhouse, no. No, we're not involved in the clubhouse renovation. East Lake club is doing that.
Q. That's different from what I heard from somebody at East Lake.
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: We are not in any way -- PGA TOUR is not in any way involved in the changes of the clubhouse. We are involved in some changes on the golf course. We provided our staff, Steve Wenzloff, our design guys work closely with Rees Jones on that. The tournament will be supported financially, which I assume you could say "the TOUR," but we are not involved in the clubhouse change.
Q. As far as staying in East Lake, that was a tournament that had moved back and forth before deciding to stay in Atlanta -- maybe what Len was getting at; going out of town for a little bit. The season-ender in Atlanta, as far as the importance of staying in a consistent market and not moving back and forth --
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: There's pluses and minuses going either way.
Right now we have a terrific relationship with Coca-Cola and the East Lake Club. We like being there to tell the story of what East Lake has meant to Atlanta, and we take most of the fact that the East Lake concept is starting to be picked up in other cities, and we want to be part of promoting that. The venue is great and has gotten better with the recent changes that are being done now. And we just lost our other PGA TOUR event which means it's the only PGA TOUR event in a 6.5 million-size market.
So for the foreseeable future, it would be our intent to stay there.
Q. First of all, I wondered what you thought of Tiger's playing with pain when you saw it in realtime, and what did you think two days later when you found out that he had the ACL and the broken shin? Are you surprised more guys didn't jump out of the sky to come here and support him after something that amazing?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Well, let me answer the last part of that first.
Tiger already I think answered that as adequately as I could, which is that players play their schedules for lots of different reasons and they all come at it differently. So you just have to at the end of the day respect their decision.
Here the Foundation, I think this tournament is going to work very well for the Foundation and it's going to be a success for the reasons it was established.
To the earlier question, it was just one of the more amazing, if not the most amazing week of golf that I've seen in the sense of the extent to which it captivated so many people. I mean, if you look at the ratings at the end of the evenings on Saturday and Sunday, and the other thing was, it sort of accelerated as the week went on. Each day was bigger and better than the last, right up to the last putt on the 91st hole.
Amazing stories I've heard over the last couple of weeks about people: Families gathered around TVs, kids who don't normally follow the game glued to hours of golf coverage. Just the whole thing was magic. And then for everybody to be informed afterwards that his knee was even worse than had been discussed, was pretty a amazing in and of itself.
And I'll just relate that one little anecdote; that I visited with Tiger in Orlando a couple weeks after his scoping. And as he usually does, he's giving me a lot of joking about how much he'll play. "Maybe I'll retire when I'm 36 with my knee," all this stuff. So at some point, he said, "By the way, how many tournaments do I have to play to be eligible for Player of the Year?"
And thinking he was joking, I said, "Well, I'm not sure, Tiger, but you've got to play more than you've played thus far this year."
And he said, "So if I play the U.S. Open and win, I could conceivably win Player of the Year?"
So when he won, and then the ACL information came out, I was more impressed with his joking that day. (Laughter) Because I guess he figured out that he couldn't not play the U.S. Open on a golf course that he had played so well on; and he was going to play and he was going to win, and that was the end of that. Pretty amazing stuff.
Q. Along those lines, do you think a lot of what captivated public was Rocco, or do you think without him the rest of the year, more of those kind of guys can help keep things going?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Sure. When Tiger is in the tournament, and by the way, I'm not being critical because he's by far and away probably the most-recognized personality on the globe; he just eats television coverage. So it's very hard for a guy who is playing well, coming through to get the amount of television coverage.
And so the same performance for a player next week or this week or the British Open or a John Deere, any of the weeks we have for the rest of the year will be magnified significantly with Tiger not in the field. And that allows players to become better known to fans, to step up, maybe create some situations where there's a lot of speculation by you folks; here is a guy who has really played great, and you start speculating on how is it going to shake out when these two or three guys come into next year and Tiger is back.
So there's a lot of good story lines that will come out of it. In our business, the only problem in having a dominant player is that it's harder for us to continue to grow the list of stars; and when somebody is as dominant as Tiger, and it's even more difficult, because they pale in comparison to somebody of that stature.
So this is a great opportunity for us, and I think in many ways, it could generate real value for the TOUR for the next few years.
Q. Couple of little questions. Considering what happened at Torrey Pines, had you thought about taking The Presidents Cup into primetime next year? Have you had any discussions with NBC about that?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Yes, we have, and we will be into primetime. We haven't quite figured out the details on the schedule but we won't be a ten o'clock finish on the east, I wouldn't think.
Q. Just thankful for the deadline. I didn't know if you had anything to add to that.
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: No.
Q. Secondly on drug testing, do you think that when this is up and running for a year, that if there are no positive tests, as it relates to performance-enhancing that this will take care of any naysayers?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Any naysayers? That's impossible. I think the thing in the whole world of drug testing and anti-doping is that if you're not getting positive tests, somebody is going to write a blog that says your testing is screwed up: How can that be? You have a testing program; you must have had a problem to begin with or you wouldn't have done it. There's going to be naysayers regardless of what happens.
But on balance, among people who follow the sport and know these athletes, I think a rigorous testing program will add credibility to the general notion, which I think we all recognize, there are not that many people who believe that there is any significant issue here prior to this rule going into effect. Credibility requires that we have the program.
Q. Have you completely closed the door on Tiger making some sort of cameo here this week? He did sort of leave the door open in saying that he does not pay attention to his doctors; have you completely ruled it out?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: I quit predicting what Tiger Woods would do when -- the last time I predicted something was I didn't think he would win as frequently as Jack Nicklaus; so I gave up on that. I'm done.
I think Greg McLaughlin indicated yesterday that it was unlikely that Tiger would be here this year. I have nothing to add to that. I spoke to him this morning but he didn't indicate to me that he was planning to come.
Q. One more thing about the rest of the year. There's a lot at stake, not just the majors but the FedExCup and all. I just wondered, in your crystal ball, how you think it's going to be with somebody going for the ten million and you don't have Tiger?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Well, it's the same phenomena as we talked about a few minutes ago. If Tiger was going into Atlanta in the top three or four positions, everybody would think he was going to win.
I don't think there's another player that can go into Atlanta in the top three or four positions with everybody thinking they are going to win. So what everybody is going to think is it's going to be a dogfight, depending on how the -- once they get to see the seeds. So it has all the possibility of being in many ways very, very exciting, and of course that's what we hope to see.
Q. Just want to clarify one thing. If there's a positive test, and the process begins and in the course of this process there's an appeal, is that to you?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Well, there's appeals and appeals. Have we disseminated the information on the process?
Q. I've got some but I'm kind of leading to a question, I just wanted to make sure I had part of that right. I thought part of the appeal was to you, and I thought there was an outside agency that heard the appeal.
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: There is no outside agency.
Q. The buck stops with you?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Yes.
Q. Do you think the more you read about various appeals of other athletes, and it seems like once they get to that stage, seems like it anyway this they are guilty until proven innocent, Gatlin, for example, very hard to get that overturned. Is there a perception in the case of a dispute in golf that the TOUR tends to side with the player that you perhaps might be more willing to listen than perhaps other sports and that you have a problem in that you have too much discretion and leeway?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Yeah, I've written to some people who have written that kind of stuff. The only thing I would say is that we've operated our conduct rules for at least in my case 15 years. We have a wide range of discretion, and we've done a good job. I mean, we are not known as a sport that has bad behavior among its athletes. We work hard at that, and. We do it with a process that includes reaching out to players and educating them; and includes very strong disciplinary action with necessary and includes discretion and flexibility, because they are not black-and-white situations.
As we get into this environment, we're going to apply the same thought process of: We are not necessarily going to conclude that anybody is guilty until proven innocent. It's going to take on -- if you look through the details of what's involved in anti-doping and the substances that are involved, and the levels that are measured, there's a wide range of factual information that would impact our thinking on terms of what steps to take in a given situation.
Whether somebody someplace doesn't like that, I think the proof is in the pudding. We are in a position to keep -- put this rule to effect, enforce it, keep the kind of problems out of the sport that we have seen in other sports, and in three, four, five years, we'll look back and say, did we keep these problems out of our sport.
I've got a high degree of confidence that the answer will be yes.
Q. Will we know if you have someone who is in violation and fails the appeal process? Will we know who that person is, the suspension, the details?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: As I said earlier, at the end of the process, we will in all likelihood, I don't know exactly what information we'll provide, but we would provide information that there's been a positive test and there's been an adjudication of that as a result. The form that that takes exactly, we have not finished that would be my guess. As soon as we get a positive test, we'll get right to work on it.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem, thank you.
End of FastScripts