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May 15, 2011
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA
TIM FINCHEM: I'd be happy to try to answer anything you want to talk about.
Q. You were on CNBC on Thursday talking about the incident with Tiger and being forced to play here.
TIM FINCHEM: I'm answering questions.
Q. I'll ask you a question. It seems like irrespective of Tiger, it's not unusual for the commissioner to contact players to see if they're going to play in an event or try to tell them how important it is to play in an event, is it?
TIM FINCHEM: Well, I think the question that was put to me, and I'll answer the question that was put to me, it's been rumored that I pressured Tiger Woods to play in the tournament, and my response was no, I did not do that.
Q. Can you answer my question, then?
TIM FINCHEM: We communicate with players all the time with weak fields, weak field events, and we encourage players to move their schedule around and try to include a weak field. We never go to a player and say, would you please, please, please play this event, this event or any other event, ever, and I don't recall ever talking to any player in my tenure about whether or not they were going to play THE PLAYERS Championship unless they came to me and said, I want you to know I'm not playing THE PLAYERS Championship or I want you to know how delighted I am that I am going to play THE PLAYERS Championship. I hope that sets the record straight.
Q. You seem to have been put off by the situation that you would twist Tiger's arm to play when he might be hurt.
TIM FINCHEM: Well, it's not about him, it's any player. It's any player. I don't twist players' arms, and as far as Tiger being hurt, guys, that's a decision he has to make, and I had no information that he wasn't ready to play golf. I don't think anybody did. I don't think he did. I was on the range with him for a half an hour on Tuesday. He was hitting it really well. He went and played nine holes, and he didn't have a problem. He played the next day, he didn't have a problem. He stayed on the range that day, he didn't have a problem. So it's all nonsense as far as I'm concerned, and I don't want to talk about it anymore.
Q. You mentioned at Doral that in the event that a player might put out misleading or erroneous information about a disciplinary issue, you might correct them. Rory has been suggesting that he's not the subject of any pending disciplinary action. I'm wondering if you want to clarify or do you have anything to say in that regard? He's still listed in the field for next week.
TIM FINCHEM: You're correct. Our policy is we don't comment on disciplinary matters. We don't announce disciplinary decisions. We do reserve the right to clarify the record if an individual or the involved player makes a statement that is not consistent with the action, and that is the policy. I don't have any comment on what Rory Sabbatini said or what is alleged.
Q. Can you at least clarify that there is an ongoing investigation into the incidents at Zurich?
TIM FINCHEM: I don't comment on disciplinary matters or whether there's an investigation going on or whether there's a process going on. I don't comment.
Q. Was there any thought to reviewing the policy on whether --
TIM FINCHEM: We reviewed it a number of times. We like the policy the way it is.
Q. There's also a report that the fines are possibly going to be increased.
TIM FINCHEM: We have guidelines for fines. You know, we have guidelines for what we call major incidents. We have guidelines for other incidents, and those guidelines, every few years we look at prize money, we look at the impact of the fine structure. We question whether -- the fine structure is really designed to get the attention of a player on an issue, and in most cases it has the desired effect. Once the player focuses on a situation he takes care of the problem if there is one, and we adjust those fines on a regular basis, so every few years, and I'm not really up to speed on where we are, but it's very possible that that is correct.
Q. Do you have the latitude to do what you want if you feel like a bigger number needs to be involved?
TIM FINCHEM: Correct.
Q. Unilateral power?
TIM FINCHEM: Yeah, there's no regulation that says the disciplinary process is capped at X on a fine or X on a suspension. The player always has the option on a major category fine or a suspension to appeal it to a committee of the board, and that's happened a number of times over the years.
Q. Have you been in touch with Mark Steinberg about Tiger since he left here or do you expect to be?
TIM FINCHEM: No, I sent a note to Tiger saying sorry you couldn't finish the tournament, good luck on your rehab and hopefully we'll see you soon, as you would expect. I do that with pretty much any player that has a problem.
Q. How do you feel about the world No. 1 not being here this week?
TIM FINCHEM: Well, we're disappointed, but that's the extent of it. We have a great field. We have a great tournament. We're hopeful those guys will come back and play. But these are decisions -- we always respect a player's scheduling decision, and I know that over the years, coming back to Tiger Woods and years ago Greg Norman and probably for Deane before that Jack Nicklaus, from time to time sponsors or the media will say, why don't you get this player to do X or Y. The player has to make his scheduling decisions, what works best for him competitively, and we have to respect those decisions.
Our job is to make our tournaments strong enough that they attract significant and sufficient enough players to be able to market the tournament, to be able to excite the fan base, and that's true with THE PLAYERS. Our job is to make the tournament better, and that's all we focus on.
The thing about THE PLAYERS Championship is it's two things: It's one, trying to create the best possible golf tournament inside the ropes out here, a tournament that the players respect as one that's set up and organized to test them in the most fair but difficult way and to communicate that to the world. That's part one.
And then part two, it's our flagship event. So the other part about THE PLAYERS is to use this tournament and this week to tell what else the PGA TOUR is about, you know, what our players and our tournaments do for charity, what our players believe in terms of recognizing our men and women in uniform, what we think about using this platform that reaches decision makers more than any other sport to convey other kinds of messages that need to be conveyed. And that's what THE PLAYERS is. That's what it is, that's all it is, and our job is to make it a little better in both of those categories each year, and I think we made progress in that regard. That's all we can do.
Q. After five years are you happy with the date in May?
TIM FINCHEM: We like the flow of May, we like the weather. We had the storm yesterday, but it's the first rain delay we've had in the five years. You go back and look at the previous 24 years it's been irregular. We've gotten to the point, we're still working on getting this golf course ready, and this year we were helped by the weather, but we did a lot of things during the course of the year that should help us should we get another date. So we like it, players like it, fans like it, and we're very pleased with it thus far.
Q. Curious if you can explain how this WGC in South Africa came about.
TIM FINCHEM: Well, we had discussions with the South African Tour about -- first of all, this subject goes back maybe five or six years. The previous executive director of the South African Tour, Johann Immelman, actually came up with this idea of creating a big event in '05, '06, possibly a World Golf Championship, to raise money more and impact awareness of AIDS and the problem of AIDS and dealing with AIDS. Everybody thought it was a great idea, and we still think it's a great idea.
But the schedule has changed, and then in '05 and '06 we just couldn't get a sponsor for whatever reason. We talked this year, this spring, with the South African Tour about it for the future. We agreed to take a look at it. There are significant scheduling difficulties in the world of golf today generally, let alone South Africa, and the world schedule is moving -- it's a moving target.
So in a vacuum would we like to do it? Sure. Can we do it, I don't know, and I don't think we'll know for a while, and that's the pure and simple of it.
Q. How can there be a $10 million purse when you don't have a sponsor in mind?
TIM FINCHEM: Well, you'd have to ask the South African Tour about that.
Q. With Tiger leaving here, obviously limping out, I don't know if you'd want to use the word concern or what you want to use, but what's your feeling going forward about does the TOUR change at all, do you go in any direction different than you would have?
TIM FINCHEM: I mean, look, when Tiger had his operation in '08, a lot of you guys went to all these doctors and did these profiles, speculation on knees, on health. You had a lot of medical opinion that you could write stories about saying he's got a short career ahead of him, this is what happens in other sports. I don't know. I don't think anybody knows. I'm not so sure he does. I just don't know what his future is.
But you know what, Tim Clark won here last year and I didn't know he was going to get tendonitis in Hawai'i and not be able to play for six months. It just happens in sports. So our job is to do I think what we've been doing, which is try to get exposure for and focus on the best players in the game, period, and it happens right now that a lot of them are youngsters.
This is a great example of how good it can be because you've got David Toms and Davis Love and guys like that and Steve Stricker up there, and you've got Nick Watney and a bunch of young guys, Lucas Glover, which is exactly what we got excited about coming out of last year when Tiger was not dominating television so much and it allowed some guys to flourish from a recognition standpoint, and this is another good example of what can happen.
So the idea of the young guys challenging the established stars I think is something that's a positive thing. The other thing is Tiger has been finishing well in advance of finish time this year, and our television ratings are up virtually across the board, and there's a number of reasons for that, but one of them is clearly the fans are engaging with and focusing on these other players, and that's good news for the future. If you go back to the pre-Tiger era when there was much more parity, but in all those years the number of what you would call an elite player or a star player or somebody that if you walked out on Wednesday the pro-am guys know, somebody that if you turn on your television the fans know, that number increased every year.
It's been harder to do that the last 12 years because there's so much focus on Tiger Woods. I want to see him come back and win. I want him to win all the records, and I don't have any reason to believe he won't do that. There's nothing that tells me he won't do that, medical things aside. But it's also good for the long-term health of the TOUR to have exposure on these other guys, and we just need to take advantage of that.
Q. Deane Beman on has a new book out about his career. I don't know if you've read it, but in it he says that had he known that the governing bodies would have handled the equipment issues the way they did, he wouldn't have left when he did. Do you have any comment on that?
TIM FINCHEM: Well, no. We handled them the way we did. We think we've handled them quite well, but I'm not going to publicly get into a debate with Deane. Maybe over dinner one night.
Q. Do you envision a set of circumstances where you think the TOUR would reconsider its policy on testing for HGH?
TIM FINCHEM: Possibly. I mean, I think that the big question about HGH is reliable testing. That's the challenge with all sports. That's the first question. And even blood. And then the second question is if there is reliable testing available and it's only blood, do we want to go to blood, which is another step. And as part of that review, you would want to think about whether HGH makes a difference in this game. We're testing for a lot of stuff right now that candidly doesn't make a difference, but we do it so that our program has credibility in the anti-doping world, and that's just part of being part of the anti-doping, which we feel we are very much part of the anti-doping movement today. So I don't know.
I know there's a lot of work being done by the leagues in the United States, by the anti-doping associations. We actually are supportive of the coalition to find answers on HGH and all these questions, and we'll see what develops over the next several years.
It may be something that comes to our doorstep as part of golf entering the Olympics in '16 because in that year there will be a pool of players who are eligible for the Olympics and they'll be subject to whatever the standards are for the Olympic Games, which might be somewhat different than ours. So we'll keep an eye on it. But I can't give you a definitive question on that.
Q. You mentioned the difficulty of scheduling. Is there any wiggle room in moving some tournaments around next year? I'm thinking specifically about the event that might want a different date than the 4th of July.
TIM FINCHEM: I'll answer the first part of it. There may be some changes in the schedule for next year. Most of our scheduling focuses for '13 and beyond going into television discussions this summer. But it's possible. We haven't actually finalized things for next year, so there may be some movement.
Q. Can you talk about the scheduling and television negotiations?
TIM FINCHEM: It isn't set. It isn't set. It's a combination of schedule, it's a combination of us finishing up some pieces of business that we would get done before we sit down with television. It's largely about schedules and time frames. Different networks have different things going on. Also NBC just came through this merger. But my guess is sometime this summer we'll get to it.
Q. Do you envision the FedExCup Playoffs being virtually in the format we're in now, and do you expect FedEx to stay on through 2013 and beyond?
TIM FINCHEM: Yes and yes at this point. We like the flow of the schedule. I suppose that -- I suppose there are things out there that could impact that from a scheduling standpoint. There's an awful lot of speculation about where the NFL is going to land on their schedule, but that probably affects the first quarter more than our playoff schedule, although you just don't know.
I would say generally yes, but I wouldn't say -- don't hold me to that.
Q. You extended Northern Trust and you brought on Humana. Are you happy with where you are with title sponsors now going into those TV talks?
TIM FINCHEM: We're always trying to get sponsors out further into -- so we have a longer horizon focusing on stuff, so that continues, and we'll have probably a couple more announcements in the next week in that regard. But we're very comfortable as to how things are going, yes, and we anticipate having a very robust situation going forward. We managed to get through the downturn in very good shape, and now it's just a question really of dotting the I's and crossing the T's until we have another meltdown, and we'll deal with that.
Q. Can you comment on how great of a job the guys did yesterday getting the course in shape? All the players were very complimentary once they did go out there and the course was in incredible shape.
TIM FINCHEM: Yeah, I think they did a fantastic job. I was at a dinner last night, I went to speak to the dinner and all these people wanted to talk about -- all the people were guests of Jeld-Wenn, had been out in the afternoon, and all they wanted to talk about was, how did you manage to do that? And actually I thought it was pretty spectacular myself because of the speed in which they had between the weather being really bad and working through the weather and getting the bunkers ready. So hats off to our guys. They did a spectacular job.
Q. A combination of the human effort and all the things the TOUR put in place?
TIM FINCHEM: The sand capping, the SubAir helps, but still awfully good job.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports