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September 3, 2008
ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI
Q. What do you remember from seven years ago here, Tuesday? You probably remember the date. Mike Weir said you came out and told him and Tiger what was going down. It sounds kind of surreal and wild.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Yeah, because one of the reasons was because the players were so excited about being here. I've never seen them so excited about being on a golf course I don't think. As a matter of fact, last year when I was going over this year's schedule with Tiger, he remarked about how excited he was early in the week and how much he was looking forward to getting back here. So it's unfortunate that twice he's not able to be playing.
But the whole week was kind of wacky as you all know, 9/11 and the rest of it.
Q. How much does the club's disappointment toward that situation play into the desire to come back here, the disappointment the club went through and the community? Did you owe them one maybe?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, we were disappointed and they were disappointed. This club is great to work with on the tournament. The membership got fairly involved then. The work that was done on the staging was just so impressive, and of course the players love the golf course.
The next week we were already talking about how we could come back here in some fashion, in some way. It took a little while, but I think we've finally managed to do it. So it wasn't just a disappointment for the club, all of it was disappointing.
Q. Did you have to bring the hurricane with you when you came back?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: We have extra ones from Florida, so we can pass them around. I don't know if some of you saw David Fay here, so I now refer to him as the guy who has the last name that will live in infamy in Florida. During Fay the only dry spot in Florida was the Stadium Course. Unbelievable how it drained. We never have to worry about that golf course again. Ten and a half inches of rain and it was ready to play the next day.
Q. Is there anything that has to happen this week for the TOUR to come back here?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I don't think there's any one thing. I mean, we'd love to come back to this place, and the St. Louis market is a huge sports town without much golf. So when we do come, and it's been since '92, so someone told me we had 10,000 people out here on Monday, the Monday Pro-Am, so we'd be delighted to come back.
But it starts with the club and what their appetite is. They're not a club that wants something every year, but hopefully the experience this year will be one where they want us to come back and we'll find a way to do it.
Q. How about the concept of rotating venues for an event? You're doing that a little bit with Barclays, you're doing that with the BMW Championship. Is it likely to radiate out to other events?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: There's pluses and minuses. Operation is difficult. When you leave a market and go to another market and the market has been used to having it like Chicago, it's difficult, because they roast those who are involved in the decisions. New York it seems to work pretty good. They have a lot of places to play, a huge metropolitan area. So I wouldn't say so necessarily, but where it works we like to do it. Of course we'll be at Crooked Stick in '12, and going to Indianapolis we think will be nice because that's the year the Ryder Cup is in Chicago.
So we'll just see how it goes. You know, we've been talking for years about there are a lot of great markets in the United States where we don't get to very often. The Portlands and Seattles and Minnesotas and Toledos. Every four or five years we look at these things and try to take steps to get to those markets.
Q. What's your view on how the FedExCup is playing out, points and volatility?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Good. I like what we've seen. Giving the trophy to Vijay at Barclays, Ian Baker-Finch I think asked him how he saw the playoffs playing out, and he said, the way I see it is I'm going to win next week and pretty much wrap it up. So if a guy is going to come out and play at the level Tiger did last year or Vijay is doing this year, it's hard to get to a point where you've got four or five guys coming down to the last round, which is kind of what you'd like to see. It's still too early to tell, but he's playing awfully well.
But I would say the structure of the playoffs that we like what we've seen. I know there's some consternation about a player like Padraig Harrington, wins two majors, Top 10, misses two cuts, and he's in danger of not getting to Atlanta. But that's actually what we heard from a lot of fans that they wanted to see. They wanted it to feel more like a playoff, more like a do-or-die situation, and we just moved the needle a little bit in that regard, and so there is more volatility. That means on the upside and the downside. I'm not so sure that's a bad thing. It's something to look at.
I know that some players are concerned that the falloff, the difference between just making a cut and slightly missing a cut is fairly significant, and I don't know what the answer to that is given the other things we want to accomplish with the points. But as Padraig himself said, he thinks this is basically the way it should be. It should mean a lot, you should have to play well, and if you don't, you face the prospect of going home just like any other team sport and playoffs in general.
When we first talked to Tiger about this three or four years ago and talked about a structure, he listened and he said, so let me understand, I could win nine times and I've got a little bit of an edge on the next guy going into the playoffs, and I said, yeah, but the Yankees could win 120 times and they don't have any edge; they're starting over. It's playoffs. Tiger said, "Let's bring it on."
So it just depends on how you define what a playoff is and how much is at stake. We'll revisit it.
I do think that the Padraig Harrington thing actually stirs up debate about this, and debate is good and healthy, and some level of controversy gets people talking about it. People around the country are having a lot more discussion on talk radio this year than last year, so I don't know how you measure that, but that's good stuff. So we'll see what happens.
But on balance I'd say we're certainly not disappointed to see that.
Q. Has it been tougher this year just talking about the level of buzz around the FedExCup? You've been up against the Olympics, the NFL again, and the presidential election year; it's kind of hard to get attention.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Yeah, the Olympics I think crimped us. With Tiger being out and the Olympics certainly hurt our ratings generally in a sports focus, especially the way the Olympics went, a combination of the performances and NBC really did a nice job in scheduling it, too nice from our perspective, but got the country wrapped into the Olympics. That made it a little more challenging. That's a one-in-four-year phenomenon.
But we expected the Tiger falloff. I didn't really focus on the fact that we'd get that much interruption from the Olympics. The presidential I guess you could say, too, has been a big focus during this same period of time with -- I think Obama had more people watching his speech than watched the open ceremony of the Olympics, which is significant. So a lot of stuff going on in television of interest. That's the business we're in. You've got to fight for your position.
The rest of the way we need some exciting finishes. We had a great finish at Barclays. I thought it was fantastic. We've just got to do what we can do and the players are cooperating.
Q. The schedule next year, the FedEx, four in a row, and Presidents Cup/Ryder Cup to follow, are you going to be able to build in an off week, a dark week?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, that's the one piece of the schedule that's not done, and we're just not sure how that's going to come out just yet. It's complicated. But we are looking at a couple scenarios. We're hoping to get it wrapped up in the next two or three weeks, and we'll see what comes out. We'll just have to evaluate it.
Q. Scenarios, without getting complicated?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: There's no way not to get complicated.
Q. It's got moving parts?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: The good news is the Presidents Cup is later. That's not an issue like Ryder Cup is this year, so that just makes it easier that way. But there are television and tournament conflicts that make it difficult. There are some current programming situations that preclude us from moving in a couple different directions, but we're not certain those things are set in stone and can't be moved around. So we're working on it.
If I just name one scenario it would lead you to believe that that's the only scenario, and that's not the case. It may be that we leave things the way it is. We'd like to do it as good as we can do it, and we'll see.
Q. NBC is tied to an LPGA event in the open week after the present slot for the TOUR Championship; is that correct?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, I wouldn't say that. I would say generally there are some programming inhibitions in being able to do some of the things we want to do, and I'm not going to comment on specifics.
Q. So there could be an opportunity next year where we may have a dark week. You said keep it like it is, you mean like it is right now?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: There is a scenario like that, and I hope it resolves in the next couple weeks. One way or another it will be laid out.
Q. Is that your desire, to have an off week?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Depends on a number of factors. This year we liked it for a combination of reasons. We thought a buildup to Ryder Cup and TOUR Championship makes sense. I'm not so sure the sequence is as good as we would like it in hindsight. So I'm not convinced necessarily we want a dark week. But we're looking at the option of a dark week and trying to evaluate.
And one of the reasons we're not done yet is because we want to get through this, go through next week, and we want to get the feel of how it sits.
Q. You'll probably know by Atlanta is what you're saying?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Atlanta or at the end of Atlanta.
Q. Given all those constrictions you talked about, you had time in Beijing; granted, it's a long way off, but how could you possibly work an Olympics into this time frame from a scheduling standpoint? A golf Olympics, I mean.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: As long as the competitions are that week, I don't think it's a big deal. We would spread the schedule every three years to make room for it. But remember, what I just said is currently you don't spread the schedule and the Olympics is a challenge for us. So in the one sense we're going to move non-Olympic golf out of the Olympic window at least one of those two weeks.
Q. So you turn it into a positive?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Yeah, to a degree, assuming we get cooperation with all the pieces of the schedule, and we already know all the major golf organizations are on board to make it work. The only place it can fall, any time early July until late September, typically they fall from mid-July until the end of August, but that's a pretty wide range. It would be different if let's say we were in the Olympics for 20 years and those five Olympics would affect different weeks different years. The good news is you get seven years' notice.
Q. That was my follow-up, how much advance notice.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Yes, seven years.
Q. Are you satisfied with the Deutsche Bank finishing on Monday, on Labor Day? I'm not sure how many markets NBC televised Jerry Lewis' telethon instead of golf. Do you guys want the Monday finish, and has everybody been happy with it so far?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, the tournament loves it. The tournament loves it. The sponsor loves it. They have three weekend days in Boston. It's a big event for Boston, a family kind of event. They love it.
Television I would say it's kind of a wash. On the network side, maybe if you throw in cable maybe it's a bit of a plus because they have weekend cable. Schedule-wise it's fine for Boston. It puts a little more pressure on this week.
So what we do long-term on that, we'll take all that into account. I think it's something we'll just have to work with, but we're pretty much locked into the schedule through '12.
Q. Any idea on how many markets got blanked out of that Monday?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: You know, I don't have that information -- because of the telethon?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I don't have that information, but if you take just network television, first day performed better on the Sunday than the Saturday -- it's kind of a wash.
Q. Are you okay with 144, 120, 70? Has there been any talk about making them full-field events?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: It was originally. I proposed full field and then we changed it. The players felt strongly that -- a lot of players feel very strongly that this playoff in order to make that happen you have to reduce the field.
Q. Can you do it, though, where you have a full field but not everybody is in the playoffs?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, nobody liked that when we brought it forward originally. It was confusing. So I think we're okay where we are now for the moment on that point. But that's one of those areas where there's no right or wrong, there's pluses and minuses. It depends on who you are and where you are in terms of how you're looking at it. In some of these situations it depends which piece of the pie you're looking at and you get a different view. But right now we're reasonably pleased with where we are for the moment.
Q. If you factor in everything that you were up against, what was your reaction to the numbers? Did you expect more?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, you mean television ratings?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: A little bit. I mean, I knew that the Tiger factor, the majors, Firestone, WGC, playoffs, would take away that soft part of the audience. I under-anticipated the impact of the Olympics. I was off a little bit, not a lot, but off a little bit. But what I liked this year was, and so far in the playoffs, is the amount of interest. I think when we do our data after this is over we'll find that the percentage of our fan base that understands and sort of gets with what the Cup is for and what it's designed to do will have gone up again nicely after a pretty good start in year one, and all we're trying to do right now is continue to build interest in the concept, and then we have to rely on the competition to take us -- spike it based on finishes and leaderboards and things like that.
Q. I guess now the odds of Vijay getting knocked off are roughly akin to somebody, I don't know, coming back from 20 points down in the 4th quarter. But a lot of things have to happen, and I guess ideally you addressed this already, but is there a way -- how many scenarios do you have to examine before you preclude a foregone conclusion after two events?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I don't think we ever have seen anywhere you can preclude it because in our sport, winning has to be -- I mean, the culture of the sport is winning is so very, very important, and the only way it can be important is if you get a lot of points. You have to get a lot of points for winning. If you win twice, it's twice as important. You come out and -- here's where I think most of us feel about that, that if you come out, Tiger aside, virtually all the best players in the world on the same golf course two weeks in a row, doesn't happen very often, and a guy beats them twice in a row, he ought to get the just rewards.
Now, should he have it wrapped up after two wins? No, but he doesn't have it wrapped up. We'll still look at it. We'll still look at it and say, let's make sure we've done the right thing here.
End of FastScripts