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February 11, 2009
PEBBLE BEACH, CALIFORNIA
CHRIS REIMER: We want to thank our guest here, Davis Love, 20-time PGA TOUR champ and two-time winner of this event and then, of course, PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem for stopping by. First we'll start off with Davis and maybe say a few words about your playing partner today. How did he do out there?
DAVIS LOVE III: It doesn't matter how he did today. Today is a practice round. But it was good to get out there. We got out with Hunter Mahan, who's one of our other two partners, and had a nice day until the last couple holes. It was beautiful and sunny until the last couple holes, got a good practice round in and broke dies. I'm breaking in a new partner so it was hard for me. I'm missing my old partner John Lennon who's not playing, and it's nice to have a friend like Tim taking his spot and we'll do well.
Tim has been working hard on his game the last few weeks cramming for the final exam. I keep telling him I only need him on four or five holes, I don't need him all the way around. So we'll have fun, and we've got a great group. I think it's going to be a fun week as always here.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I had a great time out there today. I didn't play particularly well but I hit some good shots, something to build on, so we'll see what happens. I'm delighted that Davis would be happy if I played four or five holes because that's probably all he'll get.
The golf course is in real good shape, and it's just turned out to be a beautiful day until the last, what, 30 minutes. Davis is striking it quite well. I'll at least enjoy watching him play the next three days.
Q. Why did you want to do this, because you've been encouraged to do this before, I think?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, I played, I think, in three pro-ams early on. President Bush played in the World Series of Golf; I played the first time Alex was going to retire at the BC. I think Alex is still going, and that was probably ten years ago; and that's about it. It's just a question of time. If I play a lot of them, then everybody is going to want me to play probably. So it's just a question of time. Randall Stephenson really wanted me to play and he wanted to play together, so that was the main driving force.
But I must say that having made the decision to play, it's a lot of fun, it really is. It makes you nervous to go out and play with these great players, and being nervous is kind of fun.
Q. What do you think you can get out of the week beyond the fun? An example, David Toms yesterday talking chief, said, "Best chance we have of getting the tournament moved to October."
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Yeah, I think that there are some things that will come out of it probably. We played -- these guys played a lot of practice shots around the greens today, and we played in four -- we got backed up with celebrity competition, or we would have been done in around four hours, 4:20 maybe. Pace is always an issue here, and we'll see what happens with the new rule on play; net bogey is your partner. That should help some.
You learn a lot from being out here, and you learn a lot from talking to players in a relaxed way and hearing different stuff, and of course it gives me an opportunity to spend some quality time with Randall Stephenson, who's a major partner of ours obviously with AT&T, so it's all good.
We have so many customers here -- usually I'm here early in the week. As you know, I don't usually stick around tournaments during the competition because I don't think it's a great time to talk to players about issues or problems we're facing, so I'm here usually early in the week, and we have a ton of customers here in this field on the amateur side. Obviously since I'm here playing I'll have more opportunities to spend with them, too. I get a lot of work done this week, probably too much to make the cut, but that's the way it goes.
Q. You may not want to talk to the players about issues, but do they want to talk to you? Do they seek you out for statements on issues?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: You mean during competition? Well, I don't know, because we're going to start tomorrow. Generally players tell me what they're thinking about stuff, but the kinds of things that are going on now are not -- there's no contention on the TOUR about anything. David Toms made a comment there -- it's all about little things to make us better. I think that's what everybody is focused on now, and that's good. It's a great thing to talk to them about.
Q. Davis, I know you've talked about the Presidents Cup and how much of a motivating force that is. I'm curious if you could sort of elaborate a little bit on your desire to be in that event and obviously join Freddie.
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, I'm excited to be playing. You know, a year ago I was just happy to get started back here, so now we've moved all the way to -- it looks like I'm going to get into the Match Play next week. I've gotten another win under my belt, and I've got a fairly good shot at working my way into the top 50, if not winning, to get in the Masters. Before that, the CA Championship, I'm moving my way closer to that, and I think right around the same couple-week period if I'm in the top 50 I'll get in that and the Masters.
But I'm working my way towards a lot of goals, and obviously one of them is the Presidents Cup, playing for Freddie. He's reminding me every week or two. Somebody at the TOUR is doing a heck of a job because he's using his telephone and texting a lot, keeping in touch with players. And like AT&T may have figured out a way to have two people with the same phone number, so maybe there's somebody in the background doing it?
Q. Somebody else at the other end with Freddie?
DAVIS LOVE III: I think some people were concerned about him as far as getting things done with the Presidents Cup. I think it's the opposite. I think he's going to spend more time than probably he should. He's very excited about it. He's keeping track. Hunter Mahan told me, and his caddie, Johnny Wood, that Fred has been in touch with them this week about this week and about the Presidents Cup. He's already talking, boy, it would be great if you two guys could play together. He's on top of it. He might not answer his phone, but at least he's communicating through text messages. He's telling us what he wants to see, and doing it in Freddie's typical way. He said, "I don't want to have to pick you or your son Drew. You guys are going to have to play your way on."
He's doing a good job with it so far. I would like nothing better than to play for him. Hopefully he would pick himself and we could play together. But if not, it would be great to be -- I would be, like I saw when Tom Watson was the captain and he had Raymond Floyd and Lanny Watkins and Curtis Strange and those guys around playing but to help him, so it will be fun to play a little bit and to help him get through the week.
I'm going to have to really -- like the Masters or any of my short-term goals, I'm going to just have to block that one out, and if I play well with Tim this week and have a good week this week, it'll get me in the Match Play and things will keep rolling, but I am excited about the Presidents Cup.
Q. A couple housecleaning things on you. What is your low round ever, and what was the first time you played Pebble and under what circumstances? Not low round, but low round here.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Low round ever or low round here? Low round ever, 69 at Turnberry in 1990, and it was a windless day. I told the caddie -- the caddie said this is the least wind he had ever seen in 14 years since he had been there. I said, "Yeah, my grandkids are going to think it was howling." First time I played Pebble was in '84 during the democratic convention in San Francisco in July. It was cold. I think 77 is my -- 76 or 77 is my lowest score here. I've played it over the years about a dozen times.
Q. You had time to get down here from the convention? It's a busy week, isn't it?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: It was in the fundraising business when I was in politics. Golf was part of the deal. No, I came down here before the convention to play golf for a couple days because I hadn't played Pebble and I was going to be out here. It was a great experience then, it was a great experience today. There's nothing -- it's pretty special to walk down this golf course, so it's exciting.
Q. On a more serious note, how can you convey to your players, especially the younger ones, the value of this week, even though what we always hear about is greens, six-hour rounds, weather, losing sight of the relationships that the players can have?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Yeah, that's a good question. Somebody was asking me about this yesterday, and I started thinking about it. 40 years ago everybody played here, so what's happened? Why isn't that the case? It's the same time of the year, the weather is the same, the format is basically the same. I think it has to do with one major thing; we have a lot of good golf tournaments now. It's not just about purses, it's about quality golf courses, big galleries, a lot of media attention, four rounds on television every week, and there's a lot of weeks. We have the longest season in sports.
And the competition has changed. I think that compared to now and 25 years ago, there were so many more good players. There was much less distance between the top and the bottom of any list. So these players are grinding against -- like Davis has his goals. Other players are just trying to keep their card. Whatever their goals are, they're grinding. So they want to go to golf courses where they play well, and that's a big part of it, too.
Some players, as we all know, love these style greens. Mark O'Meara wants to go to heaven and putt these greens forever. Other players don't fare as well. They're going to go, they're going to base their schedule on what's best for them competitively. That's just kind of the way it is. But you're right, there is real value here given the customer base that's represented in the amateur group.
I was talking to Hunter Mahan today; he loves Pebble Beach. He loves to play here. But he also said, "You know, there's no place better to meet people that are good to meet." There's a ton of people here that make a lot of decisions that relate to investment in the game of golf, investment in players through companies they represent, and that's an important part of what players do.
I think it's a good point that the young guys need to look at the whole landscape, and probably if you're not going to play here every year, it's someplace you'd want to play on a reasonably frequent basis.
Q. I know Davis particularly not only has won here but loves the golf courses. But I've been coming down here since '66, and what I've noticed is that it used to be the pros were very appreciative to play with these amateurs who were famous and the movie stars and the CEOs, and now it's like, hey, we're the big guys and we don't need the amateurs as much. I just wonder if there's that sort of feeling at all. Obviously you don't have Bing and you don't have Dean Martin and Phil Harris, guys like that. It seems to me there's so many more celebrities throughout the country, you can't really focus on one or two the way you used to. But the people say, oh, there's too many cameras and there's too many this, and the weather is bad, and they find a reason not to come here.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, again, I don't think that's the reason. I think the reason is some guys, it affects their play. Some guys love the whole atmosphere and they play well with it and they can perform and succeed, and like I say, it's -- if you're going to come every year and not play well in any tournament, not just this week, pretty soon you're not going to want to -- why am I going to play over here? I want to play well, I want to move up the Money List, get more points and all this stuff. I think it has more to do with that.
As I say, we have a lot more tournaments today than back then and they have a lot of quality and there's intense competition among those tournaments for the players, so I think that's most of it. But there is real value here, too.
Q. I'm curious if there was one specific thing that Randall Stephenson or somebody else said to you to get you to decide to play this year, or if it was a gradual wearing-down process of people trying to get you to play out here or if there was a specific incident where you said yes.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: He was saying last year that he was thinking about playing, and I encouraged him to play. I thought it would be great for him to play, and he said, "Well, I'll play if you play with me in my foursome because I'd like for that to happen." I forgot all about that. About six months ago he called me, and he said, "I'm ready, I'm playing, and let's work on getting together." I said, "Well, what do you mean?" He reminded me of the conversation. I said, "Randall, are you sure?"
The thing about Randall is it's not just that it's AT&T and they sponsor things. He takes a real interest and his senior executives do in the things that they're involved in, particularly here and in Washington with Tiger, of making it better. He's engaged. That's what we like to see from a title sponsor, because if that happens, things do happen to make our tournaments better, so spending time with him I thought was a good use of my time.
Q. You played Pebble today, right?
DAVIS LOVE III: Yes.
Q. What do you think of the changes, the bunkers on 6, the tee on 9? As you probably heard there's some changes in design mostly for the Open next year.
DAVIS LOVE III: Yeah, and it's all the new tees that we won't use but they'll potentially use in the U.S. Open. I don't like 6 because it's harder, but that doesn't make it wrong. It's always good to just smash it down there and hopefully hit a 4-iron up there on the green.
But as a golfer/architect, my brother and I liked what they did. I think it's good for the course.
But you know what the nicest thing that they're doing is things like No. 7, which nobody is really going to notice, but fixing the tees where when you walk you're not going down steps and around. They just cleaned it up, made two nice big tees that you can actually see from 6 green. The things that they're doing that aren't really competitive changes but they're making the course more beautiful and spending a little money fixing things up, just bunker edging and maintenance. It's in incredibly good shape.
Now, if you go look at the pictures over there in the lodge of how rough it was around the edges before maybe some of that, I would stick back in some of the out-of-play stuff to give it the old style look.
No, I love the golf course. Ten more yards on No. 5 maybe isn't necessary, but it doesn't really affect us that much. But I can see when it's dry and fast that a new tee on 9 or a new tee on 11 -- I laughed at R.J. when he showed me where the tee on 10 might go.
But I understand it. They think that we're hitting it so much farther. We've actually only gained 25 yards if you listen to the USGA, not even to us. But a little of it is good, I think, because you want Pebble Beach to still be Pebble Beach. You want the hazards to come into play. I like it. I think they've done a great job with this course over the years. They've taken a national treasure and continued to improve it.
Q. How big a distance will the distance make, 9, 10, I think 13 they're going to push back. In total it's like 200 yards for the Open.
DAVIS LOVE III: Well, since the last time they played the Open here, we haven't gained 200 yards a round, and that's my only argument. Like last week at Torrey telling some of the younger players, which most of them are younger than me now, where we used to play from and the clubs we used to hit into the greens, the 9th hole, the 18th hole, the 13th hole, I guarantee you we haven't gained 80 yards since I started playing on TOUR. So when are we going to stop? I've built 7,600 and 7,700-yard golf courses, but setting up Torrey Pines all the way back every day where those tees are, the players would revolt in the Buick Open. In the U.S. Open you don't have much choice. But we run our TOUR.
So when do you stop? You're adding 60, 70, 80 yards to holes. Well, nobody has picked up that much distance with technology, and that's my only argument is 20 yards a hole to 7,000-yard golf course might be okay if it was the longest course on TOUR. But when you start adding 200 yards every five or six years when you're going to have another U.S. Open, when is it going to stop?
This has always been a pretty big golf course. This isn't Merion. It's always been a pretty big golf course. Torrey Pines, when I came out on TOUR in '86, the South Course was a hard, long golf course, and it's just gotten to where now you play bad, you shoot 77. You play good -- I played pretty good on Sunday and shot 72. It's tough.
Now, sure, 11- or 12- or 13-under, we're still shooting under par to win, but there's no way you can argue that the pros out here should shoot 5-over to win a golf tournament. Something is wrong. It's too hard when 5-over wins a golf tournament. That's my only thing.
It's getting to the point where I had an amateur this week arguing with me that the game was getting too easy. I said, "Are you kidding me? We have to go to "V" grooves and smaller headed drivers and back the ball up because it's too easy?" We're talking about 200 or 300 expert golfers. Everybody else is not that good. They need to get -- their equipment needs to get worse, and that's always the thing is whatever you guys complain about for us, if you complain the ball is going too far, your courses get longer. If you complain the ball is going too far, your equipment gets worse, too.
It's still a hard game. We need people to play the game. As an architect we build the shortest short tees of anybody, and maybe we do build some long ones, but you have to -- Jack was great about making big fairways, getting people down. That's what we have to do. We have to make it fun for the beginners and not make it too hard that people don't want to try to learn and try to play. Anyway, that's a whole 'nother subject.
But I like what they've done here. I think it's great. I've always liked Pebble, and what they've done to Spyglass is great, too, and a couple new things at Poppy. They're really working hard here to improve the golf courses every year.
Q. How did you get paired with Tim?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: How did I get stuck into running for the board again this year? Tim and I, I was on the board when Tim was, I guess, a rookie commissioner. I was chairman of the PAC when they selected Tim, so I've been around with Tim for a long, long time. We've gotten to be friends because of business but also because of going skiing and going fishing and getting to know him away from the golf course. It was just a perfect -- he said, "Look, I'm going to play this year. I know your partner is not going to play. I would really like to play with you. Randall would like that, as well. We've got to go find somebody else fun to play with." It was never a question. It worked out perfectly for me. So hopefully we can talk him into continuing to play and it's just not a one-shot deal.
I think me or Brad Faxon are one of the guys that he spent -- David Toms -- a lot of time with on the board would have been a natural choice because we know him well enough. It's easy for him to just walk right out and play with me. Today was -- there was no feeling him out and getting to know a new partner. I haven't played golf with him. I've been on the mountain with him and fishing and obviously hundreds of meetings and phone conversations and business things, so it was just a natural fit.
Q. You've never played golf with him?
DAVIS LOVE III: I've never played golf with him. He would never say this: He doesn't play much golf. He's a very good golfer for not playing much. He's a very good fly caster for getting to go six days a year. He's an incredibly good skier for getting to go six or eight days a year. He works nonstop, and his family comes first, and then his hobbies are second or third.
He has worn himself out the last couple weeks. I get reports from Jacksonville, from my buddy. He's been pounding a lot of balls trying to get ready. But he really doesn't get a whole lot of time trying to do much else. There's always some excuse, this economy, that economy, this TV negotiation. There's always something. He doesn't slow down very much, and his board members, like me and Brad, have really pushed to make things easier for him as far as travel and saying, hey, you do have to take a day off every once in a while.
You guys see him on this TOUR, and the players see him on this TOUR. But they don't realize that he's on the Nationwide Tour and he's on the Champions Tour and he's in Jacksonville, and he really is all over the place. I don't know how him or a lot of our staff keep the pace up that they get to keep up. I get to go home for two weeks and do nothing, and they don't get to do that.
He does hit it surprisingly well for not playing much, and he's got, I think, six shots, and he's a good player. He'll be a good partner. Nothing like having a 17 that's really a 12 (laughter), but he'll be a good partner.
Q. It looks like the weather -- hopefully it'll hold out, but it looks like it might rear its head on the peninsula this week. Can you talk about playing here when the weather gets cold and damp and the wind kicks up a little bit?
DAVIS LOVE III: We're used to damp but not really being that cold. It was extremely cold Monday in the wind. It must have dropped 10 or 15 degrees the last two holes when the clouds came in and the wind picked up today. It's surprisingly chilly. The ball just doesn't want to go anywhere. When it's raining here and wet, you're used to balls spinning back and not rolling. But in the cold air it just doesn't want to go. So I think that's going to be a tough thing. Courses are going to play long. They've been predicting doom and gloom the last two days, and we've gotten lucky so far, so maybe we'll get lucky. We're used to it. We're used to bad forecasts and pretty decent weather.
Ever since that rainout here we've been lucky. It's been a long stretch of good tournaments. I don't know if that means we're due for a bad one or if we're still in the good streak. And if they move it to October it wouldn't be in the FedExCup season is what you can tell him.
End of FastScripts