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February 23, 2010
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: We just wanted to take a few minutes this afternoon and take the opportunity to welcome Waste Management as our new sponsor here with the Thunderbirds and the Phoenix Open. We have David Steiner, the CEO with us here today, and John Felix, Big Chief of the Thunderbirds.
Let me just comment on it, and then I'll pass it to these two guys. We're excited about this for a lot of reasons, the obvious one of course is that, you know, you need to have a title sponsor and a strong sponsorship to continue in this business, and Waste Management's commitment has provided for that.
As a consequence, not only is there funding for the tournament and the continuation of the success that the Thunderbirds have had for a long time now here in Phoenix, but also financial support to the telecasts this year with the Golf Channel and years ensuing with CBS to present this tournament on a global basis.
But I think there are a couple of other things that are certainly worth mentioning. First: Waste Management is a well-known, well-respected brand. As a consequence, in and of itself, it creates the opportunity for the Thunderbirds and the PGA TOUR to partner with a company that is well-respected, and that brings value to the ability of the Thunderbirds to continue to grow what's happening here, and also value to the PGA TOUR to be associated with a brand of this quality.
Lastly, I would say that -- and I would say parenthetically that, as all of you know, a company is a group of people, and the people at Waste Management understand sports marketing. They understand marketing. They're innovative, and they're a great group of people to work with, which John can attest to you, I think.
Lastly, I would just like to say this: Another important thing that's happening here is, for the first time, we have a company that is totally focused or largely focused on green initiatives coming into the PGA TOUR family.
At a time when there is so much focus on a global basis and a United States basis on a need to nurture green initiatives, to impact in a positive way the economies globally and in the United States, this is very timely.
If you look at the initiatives that Waste Management has created, many of which will be showcased each year this week, this isn't a situation where a company like Waste Management is talking about the problems in the environment or talking about green initiatives. This is a company that's really doing something about it in a very significant way, and to be able to partner with that kind of company I think is very special for the PGA TOUR.
This tournament and all the tournaments on the PGA TOUR are dedicated to giving back to the communities where we play, and to have a partner that's focused on these kinds of issues is a very -- seems to be a most appropriate type of relationship.
With that, I'll turn it over to David Steiner and then John Felix.
MR. STEINER: Thank you, Commissioner.
Waste Management, we've actually been involved with the Phoenix Open as a sponsor for, gosh, about 10 years now, and we have an opportunity to be involved with a lot of different golf tournaments. We're throughout the United States and Canada, so we have an opportunity to be involved with a lot of different golf tournaments.
But this is the one that we chose to become the title sponsor of. Frankly, there's only one reason why we did that, and that's the Thunderbirds. They're what makes this the greatest tournament in the United States, the dedication they have both to the golf tournament, to the community, to Phoenix. You know, their commitment to help us make this "the" best tournament on the PGA TOUR frankly is the reason we are in Phoenix. We have the opportunity to be a lot of places, but nowhere else has an organization like the Thunderbirds.
So, John, my hat is off to you all.
You know, on the PGA TOUR we've also been associated with the PGA TOUR now for many years, and as you said about us, Commissioner, I'd say the same thing about the PGA TOUR. What better brand to be associated with? When we talk with to our customers, talk to our regulators, when we talk with our employees, all of them take a lot of pride in our association with the PGA brand.
We've had an association for many years. This is the first time we've stepped up to be a title sponsor. We're going to be a title sponsor for many years, because the PGA knows how to make it work for a company, for its employees, for its customers. They really do know how to make it a great experience.
At Waste Management, for over 40 years now we've been an environmental solutions provider. You know, our dedication is not just to the sport of golf. Our dedication is not just to the charities that the Thunderbirds and Waste Management are going to support, but our dedication is to making this "the" greenest golf tournament in the United States, the greenest tournament on grass.
We're going to do that in a lot of different ways. This is the first year. Ultimately we're going to make this greener than any sporting event in the world.
But we're going to start out this year by making it the greenest golf tournament. You'll see, when you go out on the golf course, you'll see things like solar compactors for folks to put their waste in. You'll see that for the first time at any PGA event we're going sell all of the fluids in their original bottles so that we don't create more cups, so that we don't create more waste, and then we can take those plastic bottles and recycle them into new bottles.
You'll see a lot of things out on this golf course that you haven't seen anywhere else. I hope you also see a great golf tournament, but what you're also going to see is the greening of the PGA TOUR through Waste Management. And again, you'll see this become the greenest show on grass.
With that, Commissioner, I'll turn it back over to you.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Thanks, David.
MR. FELIX: Thanks for the kind words you said about the Thunderbirds. I'm here representing 55 active Thunderbirds, all of whom are volunteers, and probably another couple hundred life Thunderbirds, again, all volunteers who have put in hundreds and, in many cases, a couple thousand hours in any given year to try and make this golf tournament not just a PGA TOUR event but a real happening, and I think, you know, our community -- we're sort of the stewards of the event, but the community supports it in that way. We can't thank our sponsors enough.
We're so appreciative of the fact that Waste Management appreciates what we've done and what has been done for years in this tournament. It's not just things that have happened in the last two or three years that have made it great. Many of the things that go on here are things that started 20, 30, and 40 years ago. We owe a debt of gratitude to all of the people that came before that played a part in that.
And then we just have the most fantastic golf fans anywhere, and many of whom, yes, come out here because they like to have a good time, but there's nothing like watching golf in this kind of weather on this kind of a beautiful golf course and seeing how good these guys are now. The level of play is absolutely mind boggling how good they are.
What you see here as far as the coordination, and I think the support was there from the very first time that we got together. Commissioner made it a point to meet us in Houston with Mr. Steiner and the rest of his team, and I think it was pretty clear from the get-go that this is where they wanted to be, and we were very hopeful at that time that we could put something together, and in the end, we came up with something that makes great sense.
It put a tremendous security blanket under this golf tournament, and it's offered a whole new sort of a piece in the process of not just business and golf and charity, but now we've got the green initiative. That has actually given us -- we like to have a pretty good time as we're doing things. We're going to probably be coming up with all kinds of different ways to have fun with that. I mean, it's a good message, and we can't thank you enough, and we're looking forward to a great week.
MR. STEINER: We know how to have a little fun, too.
DOUG MILNE: At this point we'll open it up for a few questions relative to Waste Management and the tournament if you all have questions?
Q. Sir, what's your feeling about the way golf manages itself in terms of the green environment?
MR. STEINER: Look, I don't think there's any other sport that you can point to that has such commitment to green. You know, I've got three young boys, and I can tell you that when you live in an urban environment like I do in Houston, Texas, taking them out to the golf course is a special treat for them. So I think not just the PGA but golf as a sport in general has become I think the greenest sport in the world.
So, you know, we're proud to be associated with that. But, you know, look, any time you have a golf tournament like this and you're bringing over 100,000 people here to view a great golf tournament, you're also going to have some challenges with respect to that, right?
So how do we work with the tournament to make sure that everything -- ultimately what we want to see is that everything that is put out, whether it's, you know, it's plastic, whether cardboard, paper, food waste, everything gets put out gets put back into the stream of commerce. Everything gets put out gets turned out into energy. Everything that gets put out gets recycled. I think that's going to be a challenge for us, and it's a challenge we take on with a lot of enthusiasm. This is year one. We're going to make this thing work over the next six.
Q. Or more?
MR. STEINER: Or more. Absolutely. So we're here for 75 years. How about if we go for 100? Let's round it out. (laughter.)
Q. Commissioner, what is it about this venue that you're able to replace a sponsor so quickly whereas St. Jude, Bob Hope, those ones have taken so much longer?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, in those two cases actually we've had a pretty good track record through this downturn. Those two cases were both situations where, in the case of Stanford at Memphis, the company basically imploded last year, and then Palm Springs there was a late bankruptcy so we weren't in the market cycle. But it is challenging right now. There's no question about it.
In this particular instance when you have -- well, when the Super Bowl was here the same week as the tournament a couple years ago, the media asked me, What do you think about playing in the same market as the Super Bowl?
I said, Well, I'm sure that the commissioner of the NFL would like to have the crowds that we have here at the Super Bowl, but they don't.
I mean, this is a huge event. It's a huge event and a huge market, and it attracts a lot of attention because of that. I mean, it's a happening.
Beyond that it's done what? Raised 65, $66 million for charity in the process over the years, and it's had great golf on television. You add all that up, and any company that is looking at getting a message out, solid branding communication, and then the extra part about having it be a terrific business-to-business environment, which we market every week, but when you're in Phoenix at this time of year with this weather, with the excitement on the property and with the television audience we command, it's pretty special.
So I would say all those factors contributed to this. But also, as David indicated, David and his team are well aware of all of this. This wasn't something that they sort of woke up to this year. They've been involved with the tournament for a good number of years, and also for the PGA TOUR. It was kind of a transition as much as anything.
Q. How would you describe this tournament, this atmosphere?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Unique. I don't think it comes as a shock that we've had years where we've had some concerns about the, you know, pushing the edge a little bit much in terms of the atmosphere that's created. But I think the Thunderbirds have done a terrific job in the last number of years to make sure that they have it both ways.
They focused, as they say, on the genius of the "and" and have a big event with an awful lot of people, have tremendous enthusiasm for the play, significant decibel levels, but at the same time maintain an atmosphere that the guys can play golf, and that's not an easy challenge. It takes not just, you know, executing the week of the tournament but a lot of planning, a lot of foresight. They've made a lot of changes.
I think if you talk to the players who are here this week, they really do enjoy their experience here. So we're very comfortable with what's happening here now.
Q. With the kind of crowds this event draws in part because it's a good time, would you be agreeable to seeing that kind of atmosphere spread to some other events?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, I think the atmosphere is that at a number of events. There are a number of events on the tour where there is the big event side from an atmospheric standpoint and not just a quiet, staid, 100% of the galleries are core golfers. We have an increasing percentage of fans who are not core golfers, who come out because the sport has gotten quite big.
That creates its own challenges, but we'd rather have the challenges with that happening than not, and certainly what this tournament has done is -- David and I were talking about this earlier. It demonstrates what can happen when you take the product, you effectively market it, you do great things for charity all around what's happening inside the ropes, and so other communities have paid attention to that. That helps us.
Q. In that we're in Phoenix, that you're here this week, will you or have you already met with John Solheim, and can you give an update on that situation?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, I think we want to stay the course here and talk about Waste Management and the Thunderbirds, but just quickly, we actually are not at the table in discussions with John Solheim. I mentioned this a couple weeks ago.
Those discussions are between Karsten Manufacturing, John Solheim, and the USGA. The issue there relates to the language in the antitrust settlement between those two parties. If that language got changed, it would free us up to be able to adopt a different rule vis-a-vis the pre-1990 Ping Eye 2s. It's really up to John Solheim.
And as I said back in Los Angeles, he has a terrific opportunity, in my view, to do something very positive for the sport here. I hope he does. But that's -- those discussions related to that are between he and the United States Golf Association. We'll see what develops.
MR. STEINER: I've got an illegal wedge in my bag. Does that disqualify for me for the pro-am tomorrow? I'm an amateur. I'm okay, right?
MR. FELIX: I'm playing, too. I don't think you should use it.
MR. STEINER: When you see my golf swing, you won't care. Won't make any difference.
Q. Do you have any fallout from Tiger's press conference from Friday? Anything to add to it?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: We've had a lot of reaction. I think reaction generally is quite positive. There seems to be a feeling that we're now looking to the future.
I thought his statement was comprehensive. It dealt with the issues that people wanted to see him deal with, in my view, but also I thought his statement set the bar for his performance going forward. And when he said things like, I want to rebuild the trust that people have had in me, I want to come back to the game with a renewed level of respect for the game, he's really setting the bar.
You know, over the last 14 years we've seen what happens when Tiger focuses on settling the bar for himself. He's an individual that improves himself every year in almost every category, and this is a new category for him, but I honestly -- I looked at the guy Friday who seemed to me to be quite determined in that, and if history is any indication, I certainly wouldn't bet against him in his efforts.
Q. Can you confirm a report that he's in the Phoenix area this week?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I don't know where he is this week, so no, I can't. Maybe he'll be spotted Saturday as one of the 150,000 people out here. I don't know. (laughter.)
DOUG MILNE: Any other questions relative to the tournament?
Q. John, with the Super Bowl not being played this year on Sunday, do you have a number in mind what you think attendance could be?
MR. FELIX: Well, I think our tournament chairman David Raugh has thrown out some relatively aggressive numbers. I can tell you this: I don't know what the number is going to be, but it's going to sure be fun to watch and see, because, you know, Sunday is traditionally -- we still have a pretty big crowd. I mean, I was pretty amazed at the size of the crowd we held last year when the Cardinals were in the Super Bowl, and we had a playoff taking place well into the first quarter and we still had a pretty darn good crowd following our playoff that went three holes.
It should be significant; let's just leave it there. I'm sure David is throwing some numbers around, but I'll let him do that.
DOUG MILNE: Thank you for your time.
End of FastScripts