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January 20, 2009

Tim Finchem


Q. What does Arnold Palmer mean not only to this tournament, but to golf?
TIM FINCHEM: This is supposed to be a short visit, so, you know, he's probably the biggest impact on the growth of the game from the '60s to the '90s. Probably the best example for our players to follow in terms of the consummate gentleman and how a professional should relate to fans. He's better than anybody probably in the history of sports in my view. So he's something very, very special.

Q. Does his coinciding of the advent of television and the televising of golf, was that a big factor as well?
TIM FINCHEM: Well, I always say that when golf and when CBS and Augusta and Arnold Palmer came together in '58 and '60 that was the beginning of modern golf era. The best stage in golf, a great television interview on CBS, and then the most charismatic player maybe in the history of the game and three things came together and off we went. You just look at how many golf courses there were in the '50s and start comparing it to the '60, you don't have to go much further.

Q. What do you think about Tiger's being at the Inauguration?
TIM FINCHEM: First of all, I thought it was terrific and I'm delighted that they spent some time together afterwards. And I think that it's just another indication of the persona of Tiger Woods transcending the game of golf and meaning so much more to a lot of people.
I used to say before the Inauguration Day he was the most recognizable guy on the planet, I am not so sure I would say that any more with Obama being President. But certainly the most recognized athlete.
And then to have the opportunity with that audience to reaffirm what he, part of his recognizing the people in uniform, I thought that was a special part of his message. So I was very pleased with the game and happy for him.

Q. Since the season began there's been a lot of talk over the last six months about how the game has been impacted by the economy and how things have been in flux. You've obviously been dealing with that and thought of that over the last several months, since the season began do you feel better or worse than you did say three or four months ago about things?
TIM FINCHEM: Well, I certainly feel more concerned about the economy than I did four months ago. As far as the PGA TOUR, not too much difference.
Actually, I thought Arnold, I read the transcript of his answer to the question last week and I don't think you could have, I can't answer any better than he did. We have a great group of sponsors, I think they have gotten a lot of value from using our platform over the years. Times are tough, we're going to take our knocks, but in his words, he thinks that we might come out of this better than maybe some other businesses.
And I hope he's right. It's just going to be a struggle. I am comforted by our first couple weeks our charity numbers were pretty close to last year. They appear to be doing quite well this week, it's too early to know the details. But so if that holds up for the year that would be, I can't believe that it will, I think it we'll take some hits to charity, but if that holds up and we can get some new sponsors and as cyclical as it has been in the past, you know, who knows, maybe we'll get by without serious problems. But we have a lot of challenges right now, no question about it.

Q. Four years ago there was a lot of the tremendous amount of success that you had in getting sponsors to re-sign. Is that the number one concern the commissioner of the PGA TOUR has right now?
TIM FINCHEM: I don't think it's number one, because you can replace sponsors, usually. I think we will lose some sponsors in this cycle the next couple years. I don't think there's any question about that.
The challenge is to retain a hundred percent sponsors, you got to replace sponsors in a downturn, and when the economy being as dour as it is that will present some real challenges. So it's not, it's a combination of things. It's, do you lose sponsors and if so are you going to replace them.
I'm always an optimist, I think we will, but we won't know until we're done doing it. So we are very concerned about that.

Q. How about the sponsorship of this event?
TIM FINCHEM: Well, Chrysler is sponsoring and we have had a long, great relationship with Chrysler. We have no particular reason to believe that won't continue, but as we all know the auto industry is challenged right now and we just don't know where that's going to lead. I think it has to do with the length of the downturn.
I read the news about Fiat today and I assume that's good news for Chrysler if that deal comes through. So we'll just have to see. I do know that Chrysler, like most companies on the PGA TOUR, are there for a reason, they get value, they believe they get a lot out of it, and in this case I believe that if they can possibly see their way through to continue they will continue. But we'll just have to wait and see. They're no different than a lot of other companies that we have relationships with, it's just that they have been a very long-time partner.

Q. Was there a message from the PGA TOUR staff that came down to the players?
TIM FINCHEM: Well, the players have always been great. The reason we have been a hundred percent sponsored in prior downturns is because of the players. But this is a tough downturn and no matter how good you did something a year ago or five years ago, you can always do better. And we just want to step it up and do better and not take any, and not go to bed two years from now thinking that we left anything, any stones unturned. We want to bring it all out if we can and that's what we intend to do.

Q. You made a suggestion to the players a month or so ago that it would be nice to see them add a few events to their schedules in this kind of economy. Do you feel that was taken to heart by the players?
TIM FINCHEM: Yeah, you know, we have already seen some positive steps in that regard to get players to play a little more. Maybe shake their schedules up a little bit. We'll see how it develops. I think we have to remember that the majority of players play a significant number of events if you compare it to the low versus the high, but we are asking players to do that, we'll just have to see where it comes out.

Q. (Inaudible.)
TIM FINCHEM: We have a lot more tournaments now than were normally played. But, yes, it would be. And mixing up their schedules is what we're talking about now. I think the strength of the tournament here is that we obviously have had a good sponsor for a long time, but we, the community is invigorated and integrated into the tournament. It's all about -- I mean from the inception of this tournament it's been strong in the community and that's why it's had a good run. The golf courses have been good, the sponsors have been good, but the community makes it work, it makes it good for the Eisenhower Medical Center and at least at this juncture we don't see it falling off for now. That's the good news.

Q. Has Tiger gave any indication of when he's going to come back?
TIM FINCHEM: He hasn't whispered it to me. He doesn't know. He's going through the game plan that he set out awhile back and that leads to him playing some time in the spring. But that, but with Tiger that's a function of when he believes he can go out and win a golf tournament. I think if that was three weeks from now he would be playing three weeks from now. So we'll just have to wait and see. But when he feels like he's at a point where he can go win, he'll be out there.

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