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October 9, 2009

Tim Finchem


LAURA HILL: Good morning. I'd like to introduce the Commissioner of the PGA TOUR, Tim Finchem. Tim, we had an exciting announcement very, very early this morning on the West Coast here. Just get your initial reaction to the news that golf has been added to the Olympic Programme for 2016.
TIM FINCHEM: Thank you, Laura. This is, I think, a great day for the sport of golf. We are absolutely delighted with the decision by the IOC, and I think before I make a couple comments about how it happened, I'd like to say that I think there are two fundamental benefits to the game going forward that will emanate from this decision.
First and foremost, I think the trajectory of growth, if you will, for the game globally will be significantly enhanced. We have said all along that there is good growth in the developing areas of the world, and there is. But when you consider that over a hundred countries will now invest in the sport to grow the game, to be competitive in the Games in this particular sport, will catapult the level of growth, particularly in Asia, Eastern Europe, also in South America and other areas that have not had the level of growth historically.
I think this is a huge impacter on that equation.
The second thing is, I think golf in the Olympics is going to enhance and strengthen the image and texture of the game of golf globally. And I say that for two reasons. I think that when you consider that golf is now placed, from an athletic standpoint, along with all of the other sports, I think it is going to be more recognized as truly an athletic endeavor.
And I think that in addition to that, the focus on the global diversity of the sport of golf will help us propel down the road of making golf as a sport look like the rest of, in the United States, American society in population, and the same thing globally. And I think those are two very important things that will impact the game of golf going forward.
How did this happen; I think first and foremost, it's a testament to the game of golf coming together. All of the golf organizations pulling with the same oar, setting aside any differences to pull this off.
I would pay particular note and thanks to Peter Dawson of the Royal and Ancient, and Ty Votaw, who is the coordinator of the effort. I think together they led a very positive and impactful campaign to get the votes.
I think the players that were involved, starting at the top with Tiger Woods right down the list with the men and starting at the top of the women with Lorena Ochoa, all of the top players lent their name and support to this effort. Jack Nicklaus was a very important part of the presentation in Lausanne in June, and the four players that were involved in this last presentation, Padraig Harrington, Michelle Wie, Suzann Pettersen and Matteo Manassero were very well received in the presentation in Copenhagen.
I think the fact that about 70 percent of the delegates voted for the sport is a testament to the quality of the presentations and the efforts of the players. One of the concerns the IOC had all along was whether top players would be supportive, and that issue was certainly put to rest.
But what are the reasons that they voted yes? I think the criteria set by the IOC going in were followed, and I think the vote went along those lines. And the things that were stressed were that this is a global sport, it's on every continent. It's a growing sport and it's a sport that's reaching kids. It's a sport of diversity. It's a sport that does very well on television; we have more hours on television than probably any other sport globally. And it's also a sport that corporate sponsors are very supportive of, like the image of, and like to be associated with. All of those things played to our favor.
But all that's history now. Now the work ahead is to prepare for the 2016 Games and we look forward to working with the other golf organizations and doing our part to move that process along.
I'll be happy to answer any questions.

Q. What do you consider the biggest hurdles going forward, whether it be the scheduling in 2016, getting an adequate venue, perhaps even the format that's been presented.
TIM FINCHEM: Well, the format for the moment is at least established and I think has broad support within golf, 72-hole stroke play.
The eligibility, if you pulled a team today on the current draft eligibility, 30 different countries would be represented with a field of 60 players on the men's side, 60 players on the women's side.
I think the scheduling issues, we know there's going to be some scheduling challenges, and we knew that going in and we have all just agreed to fix it. So every four years we'll have to move the schedule around. We'll start that process for 2016 right away. Certainly in the case of the PGA TOUR, we will be negotiating in about a year and a half our television agreements which will go through 2016 and maybe beyond. So we have to address that.
But these are all little things that we can handle.

Q. Kind of a twofold question. How do you see the ripple effect financially, equipment sales, golf course design, what have you?
TIM FINCHEM: Well, anything that grows the game, gets more people playing the game and more people watching the game, impacts all of those things. It impacts the interests of sponsors. It impacts the strength of the manufacturing companies. It impacts the strength of destination golf resorts. And it impacts, and I think you will see, certainly in the developing countries, a significant jump in golf course construction and bringing new golf courses online, because if you want to compete at the world-class level, you have to have a body of players that will allow you to get elite players. The more players you have, the more elite players you're going to have.
Certainly if you look to Sweden as an example, or Korea as an example, that requires facilities, and I think we'll see a huge upsurge. So the golf industry across the board will benefit from this, and just from the standpoint of the PGA TOUR, our product is marketed globally; the bigger the market globally, the better off the PGA TOUR is. And I think most people in golf feel the same way.

Q. And how could you characterize your investment, or perhaps the Federation's investment, even in terms of starting up drug testing and travel and all that; what kind of investment did you make in this?
TIM FINCHEM: You mean dollar-wise? I wouldn't call it huge. I think candidly, and frankly, getting into a unified anti- doping policy, the first priority really wasn't the Olympics; it certainly was helpful. We had to deal with that from a defensive standpoint from an image perspective. So I wouldn't call that an incremental cost of trying to get golf in the Olympics. That's expensive.
But the cost of the meetings and moving people around the globe, it has not been inexpensive, but all of the golf organizations have chipped in. And like everything else that's happened with this effort, it's one of those things that helps bring golf closer and closer together; that's certainly the trend the last ten years, and I think that's very healthy for the sport, as well.

Q. Will this be a team event or will it be an individual event? And what is the format again, could you repeat that?
TIM FINCHEM: It will be individual stroke play; as a consequence, players from one country could win more than one medal. It's 72 holes stroke play. The eligibility, as in the proposal is the Top 15 players off of the World Rankings, and then up to two players from any country as you go down the list represented.
So if you get to No. 16, and that country has not been represented, that player would be eligible. And then the next player from that country down the list is eligible, as long as you don't get past 60 players. So that's something we will look at. But that's the draft that everybody seems pleased with thus far.

Q. Will there be only 15 countries represented?
TIM FINCHEM: No. If you take that formula, today, and apply it off the World Rankings, I believe I'm correct when I say 30 different countries would be represented.

Q. Let me throw a couple at you. Why do you suppose after years of perceived fractures within the ranks that there was such a unanimity of voice on this one? And what's to say over the long haul that this turns out to be like tennis where there's interest initially and the players presumably stop caring as much?
TIM FINCHEM: On the first question, from a PGA TOUR perspective, we have not been supportive until the last couple of years, and the reason was we viewed it as a trade off, difficulties with our schedule, and we were not convinced about the growth element that would come into the equation.
We did a lot of research on that this time around, and we became convinced that there were significant resources that would move into the game. And it was just really understanding and spending the time and energy and looking into these countries, talking to the federations, analyzing what governments do, the commitment that countries will make when there is a new sport there with medals to be won, and we just shifted.
There were others, probably, that got more enthusiastic because of that process, also, but I think that was a large part of it.
Also, I think the other thing is that in the last five or ten years, golf is working more together on a lot of different things, and there's more discussion, more interaction, and that helped pave the way.
The second part of your question was --

Q. The parallels to tennis.
TIM FINCHEM: It's hard for me to compare it to what might happen.
I think that golf, especially in an HD environment, works very, very well on television. I just have this sense that players, if players in stepping forward to support golf in the Olympics, their primary -- the thing that struck home with most players on this, players want the opportunity to go and play for their country. They want the opportunities to play for a medal, don't get me wrong. But the real thing that struck home was the real impact to the growth of the game that can be generated, and they recognize the benefit of that without question.
Based on that, I think as long as we are moving forward, I think we are going to see a huge upsurge in golf activity in these next five or six years as people take advantage of golf being in the Olympics from a growth standpoint; the players are going to pay attention to that, and I think that will be enough to assure very strong support for the competition.
Now, we also have to be smart scheduling-wise, but we intend to do what's necessary in that regard.

Q. Being that with the other half of the hemisphere, it's winter there and summer here, do you have any idea what month it will be?
TIM FINCHEM: Both Chicago and Rio were within just a few weeks of each other in that July/August time frame.
The majority of the Olympics are in the July/August time frame, Summer Games. Australia was a little later when we went all the way down to Sydney and they got us into that September time frame. But we can work with any of those time frames. We just have to move some tournaments around, but we'll make it work.

Q. I was going to ask with the specific dates, you know there are specific dates for Rio.
TIM FINCHEM: The proposal for each of those four cities that were voted on, each of them had dates as part of the proposal, so those dates are available. Ty Votaw has them, and we will be working quickly with the other golf organizations in the next three or four months, how that affects the schedule in 2016, and make some decisions.
One, because it makes sense to go ahead and do it; and two, like I said earlier, from our perspective, we have television agreements to honor and extend and we want to know as soon as possible what we are dealing with. So we will be into that in short order.

Q. But when you saw the dates, there was --
TIM FINCHEM: They are manageable. They are manageable. They are manageable. Some movement in the schedule. I looked at several permutations for each of the city dates, and we will be able to manage our way through this.

Q. I'm just trying to think practically about this, and I'll single out Brazil. I don't think they have a single player inside the top 500, for example and we have not even broached Cambodia or something like that. When you look at the size of the field and how hard it is to crack the top, say, 100 or top 75 in the World Ranking, can you set kind of a time frame of when you can see this growth take place beyond the initial five to six years you mentioned?
TIM FINCHEM: Oh, I think it's going to start tomorrow. I really do.
I know from talking to people in some of these countries that they have been assuming this vote for a period of time. I don't want to say them now, but I have heard some estimations of what may happen in some countries in terms of growing the game.
I've seen and been in conversations and meetings with organizations that are planning things based on the vote and things that are compelling. Paying a lot of attention to some of the things we have done here in the United States and other places that have had these success stories like Korea and Sweden. So I see a lot of activity going forward.
I think the advantage to going to Chicago would have been we have a wide range of golf courses to select. The advantage to going to Rio is we have an opportunity to take golf to a part of the world where it needs to really grow. So we are excited about Rio.

Q. And this is a little bit offbeat, but can you see any parallels in terms of popularity boom between Arnold and television and golf and the Olympics?
TIM FINCHEM: Well, that's a hard one, because with Arnold in the early 60s, it was really a combination of golf maturing on television; Arnold not just being Arnold, but bringing the Masters forward as an incredibly impactful venue. So all those things came together, modern golf on television, the Masters coming of age and Arnold Palmer with his charisma. That's a unique set of things.
But if you look at the trend lines, it started a multi-decade growth run in the United States. This is a little different in the global scale and golf since the 1960s has become very different in its size and scope globally.
I think it's an interesting analogy to draw. I do think that if you go out 40 years and look at the shape of golf, it's going to be very different from the standpoint of participation levels, viewership levels; in some areas of the world today, it's very small.
I always point to the analogy between Japan and China. If China, which has strong golf growth today, could follow on a percentage basis the track that Japan did from after World War II to 2000, the numbers are staggering. So take the numbers and cut them in half; they are still staggering.
So I think it's going to be an exciting next generation for building golf and growing new golfers, I really do.

Q. Pardon me if you answered this already, but have you articulated the other areas aside from just television and participation that will grow as a result of this decision?
TIM FINCHEM: I think -- you just came in? I just mentioned just about every aspect of the golf industry, whether it's manufacturing, golf course design and construction, resort development as a piece of that, real estate. We have been, in the last five years, contacted by a range of developers in Asia and India related to just golf as an amenity for middle class, upper middle class housing, a phenomena that is obviously huge in the United States.
There is a growth trajectory in all these areas and the growth trajectory in my view now is going to be significantly enhanced.

Q. The availability of world-class golf courses in Argentina?
TIM FINCHEM: Well, there are some golf courses that are incredible golf courses. Like any golf course we go to in the United States for the first time, we would go in and work with, in this case, work with the other golf organizations and be part of the group that would take the golf course and do what's necessary to get it to a point where it could serve as an adequate competitive venue and presentation venue.
I can only assume there are going to be opportunities, also, to build some new facilities in Rio de Janeiro. I expect a very strong interest in doing that. We have plenty of time to do that.
So I think as we get organized here in the next six months, we'll be looking at one or both of those tracks and see what develops.

Q. I was wondering if you can take us through the play-by-play of where you were last night, presumably at the Fairmont and when the call came and whether you were on eggshells, because there were some of us wondering aloud whether going to Rio might work against golf, because it's not a front burner sport down there and whether you were sweating it and what the reaction was like in your room.
TIM FINCHEM: The call came in I think at, what was it, 3:30? I was asleep.

Q. So you're in your pajamas.
TIM FINCHEM: I had my cell phone on, and I asked Ty not to call me, just to send me a text and I'd focus on it in the morning. But I woke up and got the text, and there started all this e-mail chatter. And I paid attention to that for a while and kind of went back to sleep at four o'clock.
Prior to that I was in team rooms following this magician around who was entertaining the teams, who is the most incredible guy I've ever seen, and then we had the tasting reception and entertainment for people that supported the tournament. So I went from there and got a few hours sleep and got the word. So it was exciting.

Q. Were you nervous at all?
TIM FINCHEM: I was a little nervous just because I didn't expect Chicago to get 18 votes. I was on the line with Peter Dawson this morning and I said, "Peter, let me understand this, Europe felt bad about America not getting the Olympics in Chicago, so they gave President Obama the Nobel Peace Prize as a consolation." (Laughter) He thought that was amusing.

Q. Some of the IOC members who voted today had concerns over golf's perceived elitism and the cost of golf equipment. Do you see that perception changing significantly over the next, say, five years, now that government money can be officially plowed into the growth of the game, particularly in the developing countries?
TIM FINCHEM: I do. I think there's a lot going on now that's going to change, and is changing, the image of the sport.
As I mentioned earlier, I think this is an affirmation of the global diversity of the sport, but within the areas that have golf and the areas that will have golf, I think it is a challenge to the golf industry to reach out and make the sport available to people who historically haven't had access. And when we look at the couple hundred kids that were lined up out here in San Francisco in one of the most difficult areas of the city, to open a First Tee facility, and the enthusiasm and the look on their faces, that tells me that the programs here are beginning to take hold and need to continue to grow.
But we are excited about the progress that's being made. It's just a long, difficult progress. If this was basketball and we could hang a hoop up, with the calibre of players, starting with Tiger right on down to Lorena Ochoa to create enthusiasm it would be very easy, but it's not. You need real estate, you need space, you need money, you need resources. But it's a slow process. So I do think we're making progress and this is exactly what we need to expedite this process which I think is really, really important to the future of the game.

Q. On the organization, will there be a recognized body from the U.S. representing golf? David and Peter had the international thing, right?
TIM FINCHEM: No. The golf in the Olympics is overseen by the Olympic Golf Committee which is an adjunct to the International Golf Federation, and it is made up of basically the same organizations that form the board of the World Golf Foundation, the major golf championships, the tours, the women's tours, and it has adjunct advisory groups, and that is kind of an interim org that was established to get us to this point. Now that will be refined, and the governing body for the Federation that, the IOC recognizes as the go-to organization, will be representative of the best players in the world, the major tours, as well as the sanctioning bodies, the rule-making bodies, etc.
What is left to do then, and I think the org that's in place now is pretty good anyway, but maybe it will be tinkered with, but what is left to do is put the staff organization, the administration organization, that will really operate the effort on a global basis.
Then in terms of what will happen in a country to support the promotion of athletes going to the Olympic Games, the support of athletes going to the Olympic Games, that will probably vary around the world, and we haven't addressed that. That's on a long list of things that we said, you know what, let's get the votes, we have seven years, we'll sit down and figure this out afterwards. So now we will get after those kind of things.

Q. If the organizers in Rio feel they need to build an Olympic golf course, will TPC Properties throw their hat in the ring?
TIM FINCHEM: I think we'd be happy to help build a facility, but I think any facility that would be done down there would be done in a coordinated fashion with many, if not all of the orgs that are represented in the group that I just discussed.

Q. Is that a yes or a no?
TIM FINCHEM: Well, I don't see us going down there and doing a facility. I think we would participate in an effort to do a facility.

Q. Are you even going to be in Rio?
TIM FINCHEM: Will I be in Rio? I've always wanted to go to Rio. Sure. If I can get a ticket, I'll be there.

Q. Coming back to the location, the golf course has already been identified, or when the bid was made for Rio, golf wasn't part of the Olympic Games, so additional funding of a considerable amount will be needed; is that going to be funded by the IOC or by the government of Brazil?
TIM FINCHEM: You know, I haven't studied that really. I expect it's some of both, and maybe some of us. I mean, you know, I think that that's something that we will have to talk to the organizing committee about, in conjunction with the IOC. I'm not really worried about that. It's a detail and we'll work through it, and the resources necessary we'll figure out how to do in conjunction with those two bodies.
LAURA HILL: Tim, thank you very much.

End of FastScripts

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