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September 23, 2008
LAURA NEAL: Commissioner, thank you so much for joining us this afternoon. I know you have some opening remarks you'd like to make before we have a Q&A.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Thank you, and good afternoon, everybody. Thanks for joining us today. As I usually do, I'm just making myself available for questions. I would like to open up and describe a few things as we see them at this point in the season, at this point in the year, on three or four topics, and then I'll touch on six or seven other things that you've been asking about recently, and then I'll throw it open to questions.
First of all, let me just say that we're delighted to be back at East Lake. I believe I'm correct that it was ten years ago that the TOUR Championship first came to East Lake, and it came here because it's a wonderful venue to play golf, but also because we wanted to try to help tell the story of what the East Lake Foundation has accomplished here in the city of Atlanta, and hopefully encourage other communities to pick up the same kind of program. That is slowly but surely happening around the country, and we're delighted.
I would like to recognize both Coca-Cola and Southern Company for their sponsorship of the tournament this week. The Payne Stewart Award is very special to us, and their partnership has meant so much in terms of bringing the quality of presentation of the TOUR Championship to the point where it is today.
With that said, I'd like to just say a few things about the season starting -- I'll just say generally at this point that we liked the season. We had a good run with the FedExCup portion of the season thus far going into the last week of that competition.
From a competitive standpoint, it was a terrific year. I'll start by congratulating the American team for their win this past week in the Ryder Cup. Actually congratulate both teams for the quality of play, which we thought -- I think everybody who watched any portion of the matches, the play was really quite extraordinary.
Three or four things struck me about the Ryder Cup that may be worthy of noting. First of all, was, in fact, the quality of play. Secondly, I thought the fans in Kentucky were terrific. They were dead silent before the shot was hit and were robustly in favor of the Americans, but they gave strong support to great shot-making from the international team, as well.
Thirdly, I thought that Paul Azinger did a nice little job in his captaincy of the American team and getting the players to a point where they could actually play at the level they're capable of playing, which -- you only do one thing as captain, and that's it.
Fourthly, I thought the setting was astounding. The visual impact to the world of so many people being able to come out and enjoy golf at that level and see golf at that level, I thought Valhalla was just an extraordinarily good place to hold the Ryder Cup matches.
I thought the PGA of America did a superb job from day one in preparing for this Cup, the selection of Paul, the preparation of the competition, the work that was done at the golf course site. And the management and presentation of the Cup, I think, was a good thing for the players, a good thing for golf, and a very positive thing.
And lastly, and I think very importantly, as we had thought there was the opportunity to do when Tiger got hurt, I thought the Ryder Cup was a major impact on bringing some new stars to life for the future of the PGA TOUR. When you just look at the way Mahan, and Kim in particular, J.B. Holmes and Boo Weekley played, I think some of them were already reasonable stars, but they all took a major step up in terms of their notoriety with our fan base, and that's just a good thing.
So while we miss Tiger, and everybody misses Tiger, it does give us this window of players being able to get more attention. That certainly was evident at the Ryder Cup, and I feel very, very positively about that. And not just the Americans. I thought Ian Poulter and Robert Karlsson who played so well on the European team, as well, when they play over here now they'll be much better known than they would have been a week ago.
Beyond the Ryder Cup and over the course of the year, I think the three big things are Tiger's performance early on winning four out of six starts and that incredible performance at the Open.
Padraig Harrington winning two majors and playing so well. And Vijay Singh playing hard and well most of the year, but coming on like gangbusters starting with Firestone and playing so great at Firestone and then coming on in the playoffs and winning the first two to really wrap up the FedExCup. Just a terrific performance.
You know, I think that, at a time when, again, our No. 1 player has been out for the tournaments, to be so well-organized and perform so well, with Tiger out of the economy all during the year, that has been very, very positive.
With respect to the FedExCup structure, a lot of discussion during the course of the year about it which intensified as we got into the playoffs. We made the changes because of wanting to see more volatility, wanting to see more players in the hunt when we got to Atlanta.
Well, we had more volatility, that's for sure. Not huge volatility. I don't think we tipped anything upside down when you consider that no player out of the Top 70 was able to get here to Atlanta, but volatility that was noticeable.
Most talked about, Padraig Harrington coming in fourth and not making it to Atlanta. Questioning about whether that's the right thing to do. I thought Padraig handled that best himself when he said, "That's the way it should be in playoffs. If you don't play well enough to advance, you don't advance." But we had more volatility, and that was very positive.
On the question, however, of getting more players in the hunt, that didn't materialize, and I guess you could look at it and say, Well, Vijay misses the cut at Barclays. If an Anthony Kim or Sergio Garcia or Jim Furyk step up in St. Louis it's a different story this week.
But the reality is the No. 1 position in the FedExCup is sewn up before we get to Atlanta, and that was not supposed to be part of the equation. So that's an area that we certainly need to look at.
I think the other elements of the Cup are in good shape, and I think -- I'm not at all concerned that we have discussion and questioning about elements of it, because I think that's a good thing when we get more discussion and more interest.
This is all on a continuum. The continuum at one end of the spectrum is that regular season play means everything. The other end is you start over every week in the playoffs. We're somewhere in the middle, and we went from somewhere in the middle to someplace else in the middle with these changes, and it wasn't all that dramatic.
But there is one fundamental thing, and that is that we need a system that gives us an acceleration of enthusiasm, an acceleration of excitement as we come into this TOUR Championship, and we have to make sure that that happens.
We are going to be looking at some ways to change this. We haven't developed any preconceived notions or any quick solutions, thankfully, since this doesn't really affect the playoff section of the FedExCup. We're blessed that we have some time. We don't have to make a decision until probably the first quarter, so we would welcome ideas, which we're getting from fans and getting from members of the media and getting from some of our sponsors about what's the best way to really guarantee the most explosive finish that we can put together. We'll worry about that over the next few months.
I would stress, however, that as we enter this week, we have a great tournament here. We have a great tournament on a great golf course which has been improved significantly since we were here last year with some nice, strategic changes and resurfacing of the greens.
The golf course is going to make it a very special test. It's a good tournament because we have all the best players here who are physically able to play. It's a good tournament and a terrific tournament because it means so much.
I mean, you know, if you just think about the fact that some $22 million is at stake among these -- actually $32 million, $10 million of which has been virtually sewn up by Vijay. But the other $22 million will be distributed among the Top 30 players in the world is at stake, and so that means a lot.
But most importantly I think it's important because, as the players will tell you, to a man, when you play against all the best players, it's very, very special, and this is a very, very special tournament.
So we're excited about the week, notwithstanding the fact that we know we have some additional changes to make.
One last comment about that. I know that I've been asked in the last few weeks about, well, you'll be changing this thing every year. I think it's important to recognize that we view the FedExCup competition as a big part of our future. We are committed to it; it's a long-term proposition. We're not going to get hung up at the start if we have to make a few changes the first few years. Who knows how many years we'll have to make changes until we're at a point where we're very, very comfortable.
I always like, when we talk about changing things, drawing an analogy to Donald Ross and building Pinehurst No. 2. He moved there, and I think he made 213 or 220 changes in the first 12 years of its existence. Sometimes to get perfection you have to keep working at it, and we intend to do that.
Before I throw it open to questions, let me briefly comment on five other items. First of all, I've been getting a lot of questions over the past months, and certainly in the last few weeks, on the economy. We are impacted by the economy and the economic challenges like everybody else. We have a lot of customers and sponsors in economic sectors that are impacted negatively by the volatility in the economy.
Thus far, we have not suffered any major damage. But clearly, if the instability were to continue for a sustained period of time, we will have real challenges. We are encouraged by the steps that are being taken, and we'll do everything we can to continue to drive value and communicate that invest in our sport with the hopes that we can get through this with very little damage.
But it is of major importance to us. Major concern. We're very focused on it, and we're talking to lots of companies on a regular basis. But at this point in time I'd have to say, looking back on what's happened, that we feel delighted that we're not under more pressure than we are. But everybody is getting impacted, as we are, as well.
Secondly, on sponsorship, we continue to be fully sponsored on the PGA TOUR. We will have the usual amount of tournaments on the Nationwide Tour and the Champions Tour, but at least at this moment we feel very good about where we are from a sponsorship standpoint.
A number of you have asked about the first year of the drug testing. We actually are not done with the first year of drug testing yet, but we're very, very pleased with the level of cooperation of the tournaments, the extent of the preparation for testing that the players went through and committed themselves to making sure we didn't have any mistakes, to the manner in which the execution of testing has occurred in a way that hasn't been disruptive and has been accepted by the players.
And it's because of the commitment of the players primarily, and I think that our staff and our team have done a good job in managing the process. This will be even more intensified next year to some degree, but certainly the full year, but we're very, very pleased with the start.
Television ratings are awfully good this year. We attribute that largely to two things: missing our No. 1 player for two big chunks of the season, number one problem; number two problem, the Olympics during three weeks got higher ratings than normal. Tough competition and took away from our ratings a little bit.
Next year our assumptions are based on, A, all of our players are going to be back, including our No. 1 player; and number two, we get to wait three more years for the Olympics.
The other long-term issue on the Olympics is that of course if we are successful in having golf added as an Olympic sport or schedule tournaments around the Olympics, including some golf competition in the Olympics, which will change that dynamic somewhat.
The '09 schedule, we're not done. A number of you have asked about that in the last two weeks. A lot of you asked in St. Louis, and I said it would be done in two weeks. I wasn't misrepresenting what I believed, we're just not done yet. Hopefully we'll have more to say about that after the TOUR Championship.
And then particularly to the members of the media from Atlanta, the status of the new Champions Tour in Atlanta, it still is our intention to go forward with that event, but we have not completed the sponsorship arrangements. We are looking at at least two different scenarios of how to bring that event forward. It is still our intention to do so and have more say about that over the next couple of weeks.
So that's a fair amount of information in a short period of time, and I'll pause now and try to entertain your questions.
Q. From a financial point of view, you obviously talked about it's a concern to the TOUR, and you spoke to a number of tournaments. Is there a contingency plan if some of these current sponsors? I know most of them are under long-term contracts, but if they aren't able to fulfill those long-term contracts, is there someone within the TOUR that can pick up if those sponsors drop off?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Yeah, we have operating reserves that we can draw upon. Normally we would -- in a normal year or years or cycle we would let the market just support any kind of issues we had with sponsors. If this downturn is extended or causes deeper problems for an extended period of time, that may be more difficult.
It's way too premature to suggest that we might have to resort. We have reserves. But even with reserves, I mean, in a worst case economic scenario we could face retrenchment. I don't see that happening at this point, because even though there are parts of the economy that are very, very challenged, there are other parts that continue to do quite well.
So it continues to be a very, very mixed situation that allows businesses that are structured the way they are to move on, and that is the most logical thing, I think. If we have an additional downturn the situation might be different, but right now, I think -- to your point, we can absorb a certain amount of falloff if it were to happen.
One of the things that happens, though, in every recession I've been involved in, is companies work harder at evaluating their investment. That usually works to our benefit, because most companies we deal with are involved in multiple sports. And on the value proposition we always pencil out very, very good.
In fact, every recession we've had we've come out stronger on the back end. Hopefully that will happen again.
Q. You talked about being patient with the FedExCup and the tweaks that you want to make. What do you say to Coca-Cola? Are you asking them to be 12 years' worth of patient as Pinehurst was with Donald Ross?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, Coca-Cola is a great sponsor to a great tournament. I think one of the designs of the FedExCup as it relates to the TOUR Championship presented by Coke is that we're going to make it better. I mean, it's already a good tournament, let's not forget that, the culminating event of our season, which is what it is this week in terms of the FedExCup portion of the season itself.
One of the designs of the FedExCup is to make all the playoff events bigger events, and that's happened. That we're delighted with. We had a huge event in New York; we had a great success in Boston; we had a phenomenal event in St. Louis; we're going to have a great event this week. We're going to have great crowds.
The FedExCup was also designed to help support the entire TOUR, and notwithstanding the economic downturn. Right now I believe I'm correct when I say I anticipate that we will set a record again this year for charitable giving on the PGA TOUR, which is an indication of the net proceeds generated by our tournaments.
We can't get too hung up around the actual about Vijay making the kind of run he made. We just have to work hard at making it better for next year, and that's we're going to do.
Q. I don't know about everybody else, but I followed this as closely as anybody, and I couldn't follow the points system this year. I'm not sure Henry Paulson could have. I'm just curious if that's something that has been up for discussion, and is it going to be simpler or are we still going to be looking at Camilo Villegas trying to make a six-footer to try to get somebody else in the field?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, I have a great answer for you. We have a book coming out, and it's called, FedExCup Points For Dummies (laughter). But the reality is the model we looked at -- seriously, the model we looked at was NASCAR. You know, some people say, You know, you can make it simpler by going back to the Money List.
Well, the Money List isn't any more simple than points, because you still have to analyze why one tournament generates this many points versus another tournament. The difference between money is you have a lot more fluctuation in dollars than you had points, so points we can control and focus on the Cup.
We like the points system. We're not sure many fans really care how many points a guy has. They want to see what relationship -- our research tells us in focus groups and polls is that fans want to see how -- you, know, what kind of lead Vijay has on Phil Mickelson. What's the spread? How can he win it back? What's at stake this week? That's most of it.
If we can figure out a way to make it a little simpler and understand why this many points and why this many players gets that many points, we will focus on that. If we went to the money, the winning player gets 18 percent. That's a number. So we're still in a numbers game.
We like our points system, but we are focused on making actually the whole system somewhat easier, not just points, to understand how to get from A to B.
Q. Two questions, please: One player just told me that this tournament has the wrong name. It's not the TOUR Championship, it's the FedEx Final, and that its name should be changed. Is that something you might consider?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Yeah, I've heard that from a couple people over the last few months. We're going to -- we'll consider everything. I mean, to this gentleman's question, tying the branding and the nomenclature of what's happening in the playoffs to what the competition really is important. So we'll be looking at all avenues to get to a desired goal.
Q. The same player said he wouldn't be the slightest bit bothered if the purses actually declined a bit in coming years. Would you be bothered at all, or do purses have to be going up every year to make the TOUR successful?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No, I don't think they have to be going up every year, and I'm not just saying that because we're in an economically challenging situation. But I do think that the two -- there are a number of barometers or measuring sticks on how we are progressing as a sport.
In our sport, one of those is charity dollars, because that largely represents the net revenue of our tournaments. Another measuring stick is prize money, because for the last 12 years we've been focusing on trying to narrow the gap between world-class athletes in this sport and world-class athletes in the team sports in terms of competition.
We wanted to make progress. We've made it very clear that that's a major part of where we want to go, and we want to be measured by that as an organization.
Does it mean that any kind of retrenchment is the level of purses or flattening of purses is a negative? Maybe not. But in terms of our mission, which is, number one, generating benefits, direct and indirect, to players; raising money for charity; and helping grow the game, going down is not consistent with where we want to go.
But whether the fan would sort of turn off their enthusiasm, I doubt it. I think the fans pay some attention to the dollars, but they're more impressed with what the players are doing inside the ropes. There was never any better indication of that than last weekend.
Q. I had two unrelated questions, and you touched on it earlier. I just wanted to see if you can elaborate. When you look at a golf course that has to get redesigned every year, it suffers a bit of a stigma. Its reputation is hurt. Are you at all concerned if you don't get it right soon, if not next year, then people will attach the same type of stigma to the FedExCup, a there-they-go-changing-it-again type of thing?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No, I think the fans -- first of all, we're working from a basis of strength. It's not broken; it's actually worked across the board for everything we wanted to achieve.
It's just that one key element is that if we're going to carry the television audience, the fan base, into the fall, it's a hard enough job when you turn the page and get into the football season.
It's been a struggle. We made great strides doing it last year, but if we're going to do it every year, we've got to have a climactic finish. It's got to build to a finish.
You know, I don't think if we change it again next year, we don't get it quite right, change it again, what's the big deal? As I said, Donald Ross spent 20 years changing Pinehurst No. 2, and everybody thinks Pinehurst No. 2 is pretty good.
My point earlier was we're in this for the long haul. This is a long-term commitment. We know it works because we've seen it work. We just want to make it better, and this is a defect that needs to be addressed.
Q. Secondly, on at least the early part of the '09 schedule, for a lot of years anyway, when the Super Bowl ends we go straight to AT&T. Why is San Diego after the Super Bowl this year, and was that any problem like Pebble Beach? I always thought kind of its signature date was following the Super Bowl.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Why is San Diego? I'd have to get back to you on that. Could be a variety of different reasons. Could have been television, could have been a site issue. I don't have it on the tip of my tongue, but I'll give you an answer. In terms of why that position on that date I'd have to check.
Now, what jumps to mind is that when we did our long-term scheduling, the NFL was not decided on their bye week before the Super Bowl or not, so the Super Bowl was influx. I do know that. There may have been some other ones, I just don't know. I'll have to check. I'll get back to you.
Q. You mentioned that because some other sectors are healthier than the financial services sector that you will have options in the event that this downturn continues and is elongated. But aren't you pretty much -- I mean, you have 20 some odd percent of your events are financial service sponsored. You also have automotive sponsors, as well. What does that leave you with, if there were --
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, the automotive -- I mean, first of all, let's start with automotive. We like to think we have a real good balance right now in the automotive sector. We used to have a much heavier reliance on U.S. autos. U.S. autos have struggled more now. We have more of a balance between two or three U.S. autos and some international companies.
On the financial service sector, it's not all bad news. Some financial service companies are doing quite well. Mergers within the financial service sector can hurt us because a company winds up with two big events and they have a customer need for really one. We'll see how that shakes out; that's an issue.
But it's not just those two sectors. I mean, the -- we have a very significant sponsor on the Champions Tour, Constellation Energy. They had to sell the company last week to Mid-American, so for reasons that were related to the same turmoil in the markets.
So now the new owner, to maintain continuity with that sponsorship, the new owner has to be comfortable with the sponsorship of the Senior Players Championship. So there's a lot of ramifications to it.
What I was saying about inconsistency was that within the industry sectors that come to mind, we have a lot of companies that are actually spending more money and taking advantage of the situation. In other sectors we're seeing continued very good support with official marketing partners and purchases at the tournament level.
At the tournament level there seems to be -- it's like the economy generally. In New York we were up nicely this year; in St. Louis it was much bigger than Chicago was last year. Here we're often touched but not very much now. In Boston it was very, very strong. So it's inconsistent, as well around the country. We've had some tournaments that are off a little bit and some that have grown.
So there isn't any real pattern to it. It's just we have to work through it, whether it's within the market or within the pieces of the economy.
Q. Just one short follow-up. In the short-term what you're seeing cropping up in various places such as Atlanta, some problems with gas availability, I imagine that hurts on-site attendance and other ancillary services that you have going on.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Yeah, we've noticed some softness in attendance. Even in markets where ticket sales are up, a little softness in the people that are coming out. There's no science to this. We don't have a lot of metrics. Anecdotally our tournaments are telling us that some people are buying a week pass, they usually come out three days and they're coming out one or two days and it's because of gas. People are just driving less.
It hasn't really been that noticeable. And like I said, it's not huge on admissions at this point. But we have noticed that in some markets. It's an interesting phenomenon. I don't know where that goes in the long-term, but it's not a good thing, gas prices.
Q. Two things real quick on the FedExCup. One, you seemed to indicate that you were happy with the three weeks before the TOUR Championship. Does that mean that there won't be any changes in those three weeks?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, no, because -- that doesn't necessarily mean that, because -- I mean, when you say changes, you mean in like scheduling?
Q. No, in the structure itself.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No, I wouldn't make the statement that there will be no changes in anything at this point, because we're going to take a hard look.
But most of our focus -- well, I just wouldn't make that statement. The answer to your question is no.
Q. Secondly, are you prepared to guarantee that going forward you won't make this tournament, in regards to the playoff system, will not be irrelevant starting in 2009?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, I don't think it's irrelevant now. Like I said, playing for $22 million is not an irrelevancy the last time I checked. I don't know how to answer your question. Guaranteeing anything, I can't imagine that the end of the FedExCup, with what's at stake, is ever going to be an irrelevancy. So I can pretty much guarantee that.
But I suppose the word "irrelevant" is in the eye of the beholder. It's a subjective analysis. If someone came to that conclusion I'd be surprised.
We're going to take some steps to attack the one thing that's bothering us about this being as good as it can be. We feel strongly it's very, very good. We know what it's producing for the players, for the fans, for the charitable recipients around the country.
It's just that if we're going to proceed with a system that ends in something called playoffs, it needs to have an exciting climax. We intend to take steps that make sure that happens. That's all.
I think it would be better at this point to wait and see what we come forward with and then challenge us to defend how it's going to work.
LAURA NEAL: Tim, I'm going to step down and let you transition into the Payne Stewart Award, making that announcement for us.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Tonight we will be doing the formal ceremony downtown, the Payne Stewart Award. This is the ninth year we have conveyed the award, and we wanted to share with you the opportunity to learn about the decision on this player's selection as to having joined us for a few minutes to make some comments and answer your questions.
Before I talk about him, let me just restate that -- when Payne passed away, there were two things that occurred to us. One was that he was -- his departure left a real hole in the PGA TOUR. It was a hole that had been filled by a guy who was noticeable and was totally professional, impeccable in his presentation, great sportsman.
In addition to that, the last time that I had an opportunity to visit with Payne, he wanted to impress upon me -- that was at the Ryder Cup at Brookline -- how important he felt it was that the young players come in and be reminded of the contributions of their predecessors to the continuation of the real value of the game, respect for the rules, respect for the culture of the game, respect for the game to properly prepare and execute as a professional.
After his passing, we determined that we wanted to remember Payne, and we wanted to use his memory to reacquaint younger players with those ideals, and thus the policy board created the award which has since been tied to a wonderful grant that's sponsored by the Southern Company, and Dave Altman is with us here today. That supports the Payne Stewart Foundation, the First Tee facility, the camp he was involved in in Missouri, and then as well, the charity at the choice of the recipient.
And I want to commend Southern Company not for just those efforts with the grant, but for taking steps that really have promoted what the Payne Stewart Award is all about and the values that it represents.
So that evolved into actual recognition each year, first with Jack and Arnold and Byron Nelson, who exemplify sportsmanship, integrity, the spirit of giving back to communities and to those in need, and really an understanding of what it means to be a role model in today's world of professional sports.
That means paying attention to your presentation as a professional and really respecting the individuals that have gone before. Over the years we have had a committee of individuals who represent the major golf organizations and some of the major tournaments around the world, as well as prior recipients who provide their input in terms of who they think would be a deserving recipient.
This year that process led to the selection of Davis Love III as the recipient.
Before I bring him out, let me just share with you some thoughts about Davis. We all know him as a terrific competitor. Won 19 times on the PGA TOUR. Won the '97 PGA Championship and the '92 and the 2003 PLAYERS Championships. He's represented the United States six different times on Ryder Cup teams, as well as six times on The Presidents Cup teams.
He has been a leader on the PGA TOUR both on the golf course and off the golf course. He's served three different terms as a director, a player director elected by his peers on the policy board for a total of ten years of service on that board.
And those of you who are familiar with the goings on of our board, the representation that players have to policies and regulations know that that's a position that keeps you busy out here on the PGA TOUR.
Off the golf course, his foundation supports both national- and community-based charities and programs that focus primarily on children and their families. I think when we stand back and look at Davis from the perspective of what the Payne Stewart Award is all about, we see a player who has all through his career always been prepared, has presented himself as a complete professional. While he has been a strong competitor, he's always maintained respect for his fellow competitors and for the rules of the game. He's represented the game's highest values around the world as a player and as a humanitarian.
And in addition to the respect of the game, he is a man who has studied the history of the game and has great respect of the contributions that his predecessors have made to getting the PGA TOUR to where it is today.
I'm delighted to present one of the individuals that I feel has one of the real -- is one of the real impactors on the PGA TOUR, Davis Love III. Davis?
DAVIS LOVE III: Yes, I'm honored to receive the Payne Stewart Award. I was touched when Tim called me. I couldn't believe it. I've had a hard time keeping it under my hat. It's been fun thinking about it.
I wish I was here playing, but I've been down on the range several times and heard the speeches. One time I snuck up right at the end of Brad Faxon's speech. Everybody thought I had been there for the whole time, so I got credit for listening to Brad's speech and supporting him.
But it has been nice to watch, be a part of the start of the award when I was on the board, and watch all the recipients. To somehow get selected to be on the list of these great champions and great men is quite an honor, so thank you to the TOUR and to the Southern Company for selecting me. Hopefully I can live up to it in the future.
Q. Just for the moment, I'd just like to hear some of your favorite Payne stories, or at least your best one, printable one.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Printable? That cuts it down (laughter). No, I've thought about a lot of them. It was funny, when Tim told me about the honor of the award, I thought that I should bring everyone into my bathroom. I have bookshelves on either side of my mirror. I have a lot of junk there obviously. Like most people, stuff things up in the bathroom.
But on all my bookshelves I have pictures. Pictures of me snowboarding with friends and a book that Tim gave me that I'm trying to read and other things. But I have a picture of Payne in an awful-looking pair of nickers and sweater near the maintenance barn at Bay Hill. I don't know who took it and why I have it, but it's laminated on a piece of cardboard.
After he passed away, it's been sitting there ever since. I talked to Tim on the phone. I was outside actually doing some stuff in the yard when he called. I went in and I immediately saw that picture.
The next day I found a What Would Jesus Do bracelet in my drawer in the same bathroom, and it all hit me all at once what that meant. Payne was a great competitor and a great friend of mine, and to have my name on the trophy is going to be quite an honor.
Then it brought back memories of all the stories of reasons why we loved Payne. We were just talking outside about the Ryder Cup, which obviously everybody is talking about, and how Faldo did everything wrong and Azinger did everything right. We were talking about how Kite did everything right in the Ryder Cup in '97 and his players didn't play that well. But how much fun we had going on the trip with Payne to Valderrama a few months before, and what a team leader he was and what a friend he was and how funny he was.
You know, just the stories about Payne, everybody has them, of him being -- his kindness and his friendship and fun and competitiveness. But my best story is I got to play with him in a match in the Ryder Cup in 1999. Before we went out there, he goes, "I want something a little more out of you than I've been seeing in the past. I want to see some competitiveness. We're going out there to win, and I don't want any cautiousness. I want you to play hard and give me everything you've got."
I've played some Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups before and I thought I knew what I was doing, so I was trying really hard. He kind of hit it in the rough at 17 where Justin made the putt. It wasn't a great lie, but I could have got it on the green and I put it in the bunker. I felt pretty bad, because obviously if we were on 17 it was still -- the match was still going along.
He had no shot out of the bunker. We were walking up to the green, and I said, "You know what, Payne, you get it on the green and I'll make it." He looked at me like, sure.
So he hit it out, and you could tell he was mad. I had about a 15-footer. He came over, and I said, "I've got it." He was going to help me with the read. He came up and he started jabbing me in the chest, and he goes, "That's what I'm talking about."
From then on I felt like I knew better how to play a Ryder Cup or a Presidents Cup because he challenged me, he inspired me and pushed me. After I finished my match the next day, the first place I went was to go watch Payne.
Fortunately Payne's match wasn't the one, and they pulled me off and I got to go watch Justin's last five holes or six holes, which was incredibly exciting.
I just remember Payne, and we had these pajama pants that were American flags. I remember Payne on the piano bench dancing around in those pajama pants smoking a cigar late into the evening, and I kept going back to the room down the hall to watch the replay to see if it actually was going to happen again on The Golf Channel, that we actually won.
My wife would come and get me and say, "You're not going to believe what they're doing now. You have to come back to the team room." Every time I came back he'd be more and more exuberant (laughter).
That was the last time we got to spend with him. He was at his happiest I think as a golfer obviously with the way it played, but with his family, with his faith, with everything in his life. I think he was at a great place in his life, and that was a fun time. So that will always be one of my best memories.
We had our arguments. We argued over golf things sometimes. We argued through Tim over business things a lot. I remember -- I don't know if I should say this, but Payne argued that Tim or the staff shouldn't have an airplane, and so I explained to Payne that Tim went to three tours and he went to tournaments, and I showed him the schedule.
I said, He goes to a lot more tournaments than you do, Payne, and you have a private plane." We argued and argued and Payne didn't want to give in. But eventually, and Tim will tell you, he admitted it was probably smart. That as much business as Tim did he could probably use an airplane.
But he was always fun about it. He was probably the friendliest he's guy to argue with I had ever been around, because he didn't want to be mean about it. We got into some arguments over golf things or business things, but at the end of it he was always like, All right. Come on by the house and have a beer, or, Let's play a practice round tomorrow. It never went past that conversation.
Obviously it was great to see all the Stewarts at the Ryder Cup and enjoying it. I know Paul made them a part of it because it's kind of Payne's time maybe to be a captain, and we certainly missed that opportunity.
He stood for what was great about the game. He played it with passion and he carried on traditions and a lot of the things that the next generation beyond me and generations after need to appreciate. That's what's so great about this award, is guys like Brad Faxon or anybody that's gotten the award can get up and talk about the things that are important to them and the reasons why they give this award.
To remind the younger players and the rest of the Golf world what's so great about this game.
Q. Do you think that that trophy will fit on the bookshelf in the bathroom and maybe replace the book that Tim gave you?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, "50 Places to Fish Before You Die" is a pretty good book. I have a PLAYERS Championship trophy and a Wannamaker Trophy, and this will be the third that I keep in my house, for sure.
Sea Island has a lot of my trophies along with Louise Suggs and the Yates family in a nice trophy room. I've held a couple of them back, and this will be one that I hold back for sure.
Q. Following up on Payne's family at the Ryder Cup, can you talk about Aaron and his golf? Some people have seen him play, and obviously he has a passion for the sport.
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, it's exciting that he's carried on and that he's playing. Hopefully he'll play well. But I think it was great that all three of them were there and were part of it. Paul was such a big part of Payne's life and vice versa, and hopefully Aaron can carry on.
It's hard to follow in a father's footsteps in golf. I know it was hard for me, and it's hard for my son and hard for Jackie Nicklaus, and it'll be hard for Aaron without his dad around. Hopefully he can continue on.
He's got a lot of guys out here that knew his dad that are pulling for him.
Q. Speaking of your father, you've mentioned the two other trophies that you have, and those are playing trophies. Here's one that's almost like a lifetime achievement type. What do you think your father would say about you getting this award?
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I think the reason I think that I got this award would be because of my father and the people -- like Harvey Penick or Ben Crenshaw or Tom Kite, the people that he had me associate with and was smart enough -- Harvey Penick was my dad's golf coach, but my dad tried to emulate Harvey Penick.
He felt like he was the ultimate golf professional. Never asked for anything back from the game and gave as much as he could. This award shouldn't really go to me, it should go to the people that have influenced me, like a Kite or a Crenshaw or a Harvey Penick.
I can list Jack Lumpkin and right on down the list of people that my dad called his friends, the guys that he worked for, the Wes Ellises and Claude Harmons that he came up under and the great players that he played with. You know, the Players and the Nicklauses and the Palmers that I got to know as a young kid.
Harvey Penick told my dad to hang around good putters because you'll play better, but he also learned to hang around good people and appreciate what they did not only on the course but off the course and what they stood for. He would be proud of this a lot more than hitting the golf ball.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Thank you very much for being here.
End of FastScripts