|Browse by Sport
|Find us on
September 20, 2011
LAURA HILL: Good afternoon. I'd like to welcome PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem to the interview room for his annual State of the TOUR Press Conference to give us an update on this season and looking forward, as well. Just as a matter of course, toward the end of Q & A, we are going to transition into the Payne Stewart Award presentation.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Thank you for joining us this afternoon. This is my opportunity, as we get to the end of the FedExCup competition, to share with you some thoughts about the year and entertain your questions. I would like to start by thanking Tom Cousins and the East Lake Foundation for their many, many years of partnership and support here, our partners FedEx for another good year of the FedExCup, of course Coca-Cola, the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola has resulted in a close working relationship, as well, with Coca-Cola and the Southern Company, who is the sponsor of our Payne Stewart Award presentation tonight downtown.
These are partnerships and team works that go back many, many years, and it just keeps getting better here at East Lake, and we really want to thank everybody involved.
Before I talk about things from the overall PGA TOUR standpoint, I would like to recognize a very special individual in what we hope will be an interesting kind of way. As all of you are aware, Faith Tanner at the start of the year undertook a year long effort to remember her husband by volunteering at a tournament every single week starting with the Hyundai in Maui right through this week, and she has traveled over 35,000 miles, the vast majority of it by car, to do that, to accomplish that feat. She certainly because of that embodies the spirit of volunteerism that we see week in and week out every year, every week on the PGA TOUR.
While she was moving around in a car, she didn't have room to have much memorabilia from these weeks, although we understand she did collect the badges that she received from each of the tournaments, but our intelligence has it that she never, ever once asked any of our players for an autograph, and I think I've asked for a couple, Faith, so I'm ahead of you a little bit.
But because of that we thought that when she goes home and wants to think about this year, it would be kind of cool if she had those autographs, so we asked the players who won those tournaments, all of them, to sign the badges. We had duplicate badges for all the tournaments, and Faith, if you'll come up here, we'll present that display to you.
Faith, I've got to assume, it's like Mallory climbing Everest, five or eight will try it next year and it will become a trend.
About this year, I think it's been a kind of long, grueling year from the standpoint of workload. It's been a tremendously rewarding year from the standpoint of first watching so many good young players succeed and positioning the Tour for the next ten years. And as I said a couple weeks ago in Boston, we're delighted with our new television agreements. It really gives us a long runway. I won't go through all that detail again. If you have a specific question, I'll be happy to answer it.
But just fundamentally our objectives were to, on the long-term, because it creates a lot of additional value, and a term that would tie our rights together with our long-term Golf Channel agreement, 2001; secondly, to unlock digital capability in a wide range of ways because that's what the fans want, that's what our customers want, our sponsors want; and then third, to generate more dollars so we can continue to grow, we can continue to improve our product and we can continue to enhance the level of benefits that we deliver to players. And we achieved those goals.
I think there were a couple other byproducts from it that perhaps we didn't really assume, and most notably, we're coming out of these agreements, I think, with a very strong level of energy and enthusiasm on the part of our network partners.
I think the enthusiasm that you see out here and you see with fans with our young players has infected our long-time television partners, that and the digital focus that really needs to be built on now has given us a real shot in the arm. So I see a lot of work that's going to come out of that in the next few years.
On the golf course, again, the whole story, I think, is not just some young players who win but a big number of players who win, a big number of players who are more athletic than their ancestors in the sport, a number of players who have unique personalities of interest to the fans. And as I said earlier in the year, I think it's the beginning of a snowball, because players the age of Rickie Fowler and some of the players in their early 20s were seven, eight, nine years old when this tremendous upsurge of young people started when Tiger Woods started winning in the late '90s, accompanied by an increase in the value of an athlete who wants to be a professional athlete in this sport created an upsurge in the interest of parents who have young men athletes in their household showing some interest in golf, some interest in second base, some interest in quarterback, and a much higher percentage of those young men are gravitating toward golf in levels that we've never seen, and that has resulted in a real increase in athleticism.
When I go around the country, the first thing I hear from people is, boy, you've got a lot of great young players right now, and they're so athletic and fun to watch on the golf course. So we'll see. But I think that every indication is that this is the beginning of a long-term.
And then the other thing I'd say about the competition, and I don't know exactly how to articulate this, but clearly we've gone very quickly from a point in time when we were very much a sport that was -- had a dominant player to all the way to the other end of the spectrum, not part way, but all the way to the other end of the spectrum. We had a player on the Player Advisory Council on some issue we were talking about in New York saying we're at a point of total parity. Anybody out here can win any given time. And it occurred to me that that's true, and so far the fans seem to really like it, and it'll be interesting to see what develops in that regard going forward.
Our ratings are up this year as a result of that interest, and I think that interest triggered a lot of what was very positive in our television negotiations. On both fronts, television and the caliber of our competition, we're very, very pleased as we come to the end of the FedExCup.
I'd like to spend a few minutes on the FedExCup and share with you some thoughts about where we are here at the end of the fourth year. You know, in the first four years, I think clearly in each of the four years, the player that should have won, won. I thought it was telling that in the fourth year a player who had not won early on but was very consistent and garnered the FedExCup, and Jim Furyk was then recognized by his peers as the Player of the Year, which I think spoke volumes for Jim and a lot about the FedExCup, as well, in terms of where it's come in four short years.
We think, as we analyze fields, that the FedExCup has assisted in creating stronger fields across the board and certainly created a playing context week in and week out where it's easier for players and easier for us in encouraging players to move their schedule around to do so, so we had almost 100 percent cooperation this year with players moving their schedule around, adding an event and playing. And I think a lot of that had to do with understanding how the point system works in terms of you need to play. Not just well, but you need to play to position yourself for this week.
Then toward the end of the -- just before the Playoffs, we had a really good upsurge in the quality of the field at Wyndham with Harrington and Els and others playing, which is another indicative of how strongly players feel about the importance of the Playoffs in and of themselves and the FedExCup overall.
You know, if you go back in golf and look at any tournament, go back to Tom Morris, however far you want to go back, there is a graduation of stature of any event that rides with the extent to which players prioritize that event. That's where it starts. It doesn't start with the fans. It can be impacted by the media, but it really starts with the players. And clearly in these last couple, three years there have been very clear signs of how the importance to players has grown with the FedExCup, and I think this year in addition to Wyndham being a clear sign, also the focus of players coming into Chicago last week with what they needed to do, Justin Rose, John Senden and Geoff Ogilvy, knowing exactly what they needed to do, focusing on it and delivering north of it in each case to position themselves as they came into this week.
You know, a lot of players talking about the uniqueness of feeling pressure that was coming from two different directions. One was pressure that relates to being in position in the particular field this week, and then the added pressure of dealing with how well you have to play overall to move on, and Ernie Els certainly was one of those that talked a lot about that. All of those things, I think, contribute to what fans think about a competition, and in this case a year-long competition.
In addition to the players and the competition, the FedExCup has, in these first five years, had a tremendous impact in other areas, certainly on the financial benefits to players when you consider that we have roughly a $67 million payout generated from the Playoffs through prize money and the FedExCup bonus. Everybody talks about the $10 million. The average winner of the Cup has won through the Playoffs and the bonus about $14 million. And $335 million thus far in the Cup to this year has been generated in terms of benefits back to players. So it is enormously impactful in that regard.
On the charity side, over $40 million has been raised in these first four years and perhaps -- especially this week, perhaps even more importantly is the message that gets out from these weeks in terms of the charitable focus of the week. This week, the East Lake Foundation and what East Lake is all about and the recognition of a growing number of cities now since -- and consistent with the time that we've been here, a growing number of cities that are working with Tom Cousins and the new generation of the East Lake Foundation, which is Purpose Built Communities, to experiment with what's happened here in cities around the countries. The Evans Scholars Foundation in Chicago at the BMW, the Tiger Woods Foundation, Deutsche Bank, and the First Tee of Metropolitan New York at the Barclays are all good message points for us, and those messages get out these weeks.
And then perhaps most importantly is measuring and recognizing the reaction of the fans to what the FedExCup is. We've had an increase in overall awareness every year, our attendance, our overall gross attendance has been up with one exception the last three years. We attribute the fact that our overall ratings are up this year to the fact that, especially in an era of parity, perhaps, fans are more interested in figuring out who these guys are, spending more time with the telecast and watching them proceed through the FedExCup competition. And so the number of minutes on average that our fans spend with the telecast this year was up nicely.
In addition, our overall cume viewership, 84 million Americans watched us more than ten weeks, 146 million Americans have watched us some. We continue to be on just an event to event basis second only to the NFL in terms of the total audience that's with us in a particular event up against any other sport on average. These are all trends that are really important to the health of our sponsorship, but they emanate from the interest that the fans have.
That is duplicated in the growth of new media, where our unique users are up this year significantly and they've been up every year, another 16 percent jump this year. We're up 103 percent this year on Facebook, 250 percent on Twitter, and I think, again, some of that is attributable to interested young players learning more about young players. But also the interest in the FedExCup, as well.
All of these factors were important in our television negotiations. And I think if you just stand back for a second and look at the FedExCup, in four short years of where it's come, five years now, and then consider next year we're playing at two fantastic venues at Bethpage in New York with Barclays and at Crooked Stick in Indianapolis for the BMW, both of which are going to be huge events for a continual growth, will help fuel continual growth and focus on the Cup.
And then just lastly I'll say that when all this started, any time you bring something forward that's new, there are questions, there are concerns, there are suggestions, but at the end of the day, the strength that we've gotten thus far is attributable to the commitment of the players, the interest of the fans, and the support of the media, and of course the continued sponsorship and partnerships that we have, and that is the formula that's worked for the PGA TOUR, and it's evidenced throughout the FedExCup. We would not be at a point where we are today if it wasn't for that partnership hanging together.
So with that, we have a special announcement a little later on regarding the Payne Stewart Award, but I'll pause and try to answer for a few moments questions that you might have about this year.
Q. You mentioned all the money involved in the FedExCup and tournaments. Obviously the bonus money, I assume, is all from FedEx. Can we assume going forward after 2012 that you want this to continue in this form and that FedEx is going to renew? Is it going to be easy, or do you expect it to be difficult to keep this going? It is a lot of money, as you mentioned.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No, we anticipate -- first of all, we are absolutely committed to it going forward because it's worked. It's accomplished more than we had anticipated by this point in time, and we think it's just going to grow from here, no question about that.
As I think I mentioned a couple weeks ago, we delayed talking to FedEx until after television because so much of their involvement is television. We wanted to nail down a lot of things in television, so we have begun those conversations. We fully expect to continue down that road, and we continue to have these levels of funding, yes.
Q. Apologies for going a little off tack, but there are 5 of the 30 here this week that are Australian players. I was hoping you could give me a couple comments on the Australian influence on TOUR.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: We like Australians here. (Laughter), because Australians like Americans.
I think there's a nice history to golf in Australia. It's very strong with players coming here from Australia, even way before Greg, and of course Greg is -- if you talk to Adam Scott and John Senden and players, Greg had the same impact on youth in Australia that Tiger has had here, and you're seeing that, as well. We have a lot of players on the Nationwide Tour from Australia, and Australia generates great players.
It will be interesting to see, watch The Presidents Cup this year because the last time we were in Melbourne, the international team just went crazy and played unbelievable golf. I think it's going to be a tough one for the Americans down there if they play at that level.
You know, the other thing about Australia is the players that have come up to play in the United States, and I can't think of an exception, handle themselves well. They project a great image. They're articulate, they're great with the fans, they're very friendly, and they develop wonderful friendships and partnerships along the way. A lot of them end up staying in the United States, but I think they've been a very, very positive contributor to the overall texture of the TOUR and continue to do so. So we're very pleased any time an Australian comes up here and does well, it's good news.
Q. You talked about going from having one dominant player to total parity. What has the sponsor response been to that shift?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: You know, it's good. I think there was always an overstatement of the problem if you have a dominant player, and let me just parenthetically say, Tiger could start to be a dominant player again in a couple weeks, so I wouldn't rule that out, either. But during this period, I think the negativity was overstated. Tiger was playing 17 weeks a year, we have 47 tournaments, and they're all growing.
On the other hand, there's a real interest with this number of young players, and I think that sponsors feed off the fans in that regard. They see the galleries and they see the interest level and they see the television numbers, and in today's world, if you're spending millions of dollars for a sport, you're really studying it pretty carefully. It's been very interesting.
I think, and I've said many times, pre-Tiger, I was always asked the question, what are you going to do, you don't have a Jack Nicklaus, what are you going to do? And we grew in those years. And for 10 or 12 years, it was you have a dominant player, he's only going to play less than half the events, what are you going to do going forward, and we grew. And the fans like good golf, they like watching good golf. And if there is some personality behind it, great, and there often is because we have this wonderful group of players.
I always believed we'd be healthy either way. You could look at the period between Nicklaus and Woods and say, well, it's not exactly the same as now because Greg Norman and Fred Couples were really elite players at a super level from an attraction standpoint, and we are very much -- at least at the moment, again, that may change, but we just keep moving on, and so far, so good. We'll see.
Q. Have you hit upon the right formula in terms of points, resets, all of that? Do you anticipate any sort of tweaking down the road? I suppose you'd always be open to suggestions.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, we're open, and we still have that one sitting out there that we talked about the last couple years in terms of the amount of volatility early in the Playoffs where a player can blow by a lot of guys, and is that a good thing or a bad thing. You can debate that back and forth. It'll continue to be debated, I'm sure. I'm sure there are some other things that will be debated. But a couple years ago, we said, why don't we just take a break here and let it sit for a bit, and I think there's been a growing recognition that you've got to play well all year, but then you've got to play well when you need to play well in the Playoffs because they mean more. So the pressure builds and, as this thing has moved on, I think fans like that. They like to see that.
You win a couple tournaments early in the year, you've got to hang in there and you've got to come back when other guys can move, and you've got to step up and play. I wouldn't speculate that we would necessarily change anything, but on the other hand, this isn't a system of right and wrong. I mean, there's a range of things you could do. But I do think there's an argument for continuity and letting people settle in with what's happening. It's particularly -- it's a challenge for television to cover when you have two different competitions going on, particularly like last year here where you had a lot of different stories, and the first three weeks in the Playoffs you've got a lot of different stories with the cut line, and then you've got stories at the top. I think it's great television, and I think our partners are doing a really good job. It's a challenge, but I think they've really stepped up and really hit on it now, and I think it's captivating for our fans, and it's good.
Q. Have you given any consideration to making player discipline more public, both behavior issues as well as recreational drug use and performance enhancing drug use?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Not really. I mean, we've talked about it a lot over the years. A major reason we talk about it is because you guys ask the question from time to time, and it makes us think about it. So we do, and we look at -- we've looked at ourselves and we compare ourselves to other sports. But again, and I've said this many times, a large volume of -- we don't have a raft of conduct issues every week anyway, but the large percentage of what we have during the course of the year are things that happen out on the golf course, maybe a few people witness. We don't see any advantage to informing the whole world about something that, generally speaking, we take care of with an individual player. Most times it's a matter of getting in front of the player. So we don't see any reason to go there.
Now, if we have a situation -- you know, David Stern has a player jump in the stands in a fist fight, then he's got a responsibility probably to tell the fans, okay, here's what we did about that. And if we had a similar situation, I suspect we'd treat it similarly. But most of our situations aren't that. I think that we have -- we also have a unique set of athletes. We have a set of athletes that by and large pride themselves on their conduct. They accept the fact that they're role models. They work hard at that job, and we appreciate their efforts, and it's important to the integrity of the sport.
The things that could be blown out of proportion by putting them on Twitter or Facebook or in the media, we just don't see any upside to it. And frankly, we have never gotten any emails from fans saying, I want to know who said a bad word last week or I want to know who smoked marijuana.
Q. You mentioned earlier that television deals have been locked up, which is obviously good news. I'm just wondering if you have any concerns from an economic standpoint going into next season in any aspect.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, I think we're in good shape. We seem to have come through the worst of it in a way that allowed us either to replace or renew virtually 100 percent of what we have. We will always have -- these things roll over, so we always have every year renewals to get done. Companies change their strategies, so you always have every once in a while a replacement to get done. But I think now after three years of this, this climate that we've been in, which is really a climate of uncertainty -- it was really a crisis climate for a while, now it's a climate of uncertainty. But I think we're in a position to move forward, and I think the confidence that television has showed in us is going to be another step in helping with that. I don't see any interruption to that.
Now, that assumes that we're doing okay generally, that there's no real downtick, falling off a cliff or general falloff in confidence in the next couple of years like there was in the fall of '08. Another fall of '08, it creates difficulties for everybody. But within that relatively -- where we are now, creeping forward, hopefully the economy will uptick in a couple years, Washington gets its act together, it'll help, and it'll be better, but I think we're okay for the moment.
LAURA HILL: I think we'll transition and allow you to introduce our Payne Stewart Award recipient.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Thank you very much for your questions, and if you want to chat about something else, we're around.
Let me turn my attention to the Payne Stewart recipient, which we'll do tonight down at the hotel. This is the 12th Payne Stewart Award that we've presented, and I think everybody here is aware that we present it to an individual every year based on the input from a kind of golf blue ribbon committee that gives us their opinion as well as former recipients, and it's presented to an individual that represents sportsmanship, integrity, the spirit of giving back, again, as I mentioned, an understanding of what it means to be a role model, an individual who through their actions on and off the golf course has distinguished himself with his demeanor, his preparation, his words and his actions.
And I'll say more in a moment, but let me bring in and introduce to you this year's recipient, David Toms. (Applause.)
Let me just make a couple more comments, and we're going to go into a little bit more detail tonight. As much as I just went on for about 15 minutes about how far the FedExCup has come and how committed the players are to it, here's a guy that wants to be in Morgantown, West Virginia, on Saturday watching LSU, but he's going to be here playing golf. Just another indication of prioritization.
You know, so we talk about what -- this award is really about remembering Payne and also using it as really a way to create a focus by young players on why what David Toms and his predecessors in this award do and what they represent is so important, and it contributes back to the image of the sport.
David has been out here almost 22 years, I guess, and he's continued to be a premier competitor. That's why he's here this week. He's won 13 times, he won the PGA Championship here in Atlanta, he won again this year, his 13th, at Crowne Plaza, Colonial, and that was the week after the playoff at THE PLAYERS Championship. So competitively he continues to be right at the top, and having played in three Presidents Cups and three Ryder Cups, he'll play in his fourth Presidents Cup down in Melbourne later this year.
But as a role model and an individual that believes in giving back, David started his David Toms Foundation back in '03. He's raised and given away millions of dollars to kids who are abandoned, underprivileged and abused. He and his foundation got involved in the aftermath of Katrina. They have done such a good job that the Wall Street Journal recognized David's foundation in 2006 with a recognition focused by category, and this category was athletic-based foundations organized for charitable purpose, and the recognition was for the lowest percentage of dollars raised being spent on administrative, so it was the highest percentage of dollars raised being spent on really helping people, which as you know is a key indicator of measuring the strength of any charitable cause. In Louisiana generally, and Shreveport specifically, his foundation activity is well recognized.
And then lastly, I'll just say that we've been very successful in this sport for a good number of years, and as we always talk about, it begins with the image of the sport, and the image of the sport is driven by the players, how they carry themselves, how they conduct themselves, what people at home feel like they represent, and when 93, 94 percent of Americans say I want my kid -- I'm comfortable with my kid using a PGA TOUR player as a role model, significantly higher than any other sport, it's because of players like David Toms. David Toms, in addition to everything else, has been a leader on the PGA TOUR. He's been on our policy board, and all of us in the sport owe him a debt of gratitude for the contribution he's made in that regard, and David, we're delighted that you're going to get this recognition tonight. Congratulations.
DAVID TOMS: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: David is going to say a few words and then we'll open it up for questions.
DAVID TOMS: First of all, it is truly an honor for me to be here today. When I was a youngster growing up in this sport and out there beating balls and putting on the putting green until dark every summer night, I always dreamed of playing pro golf. To play on the TOUR as long as I have, to have that success, it's really a dream come true.
When Tim called me I guess a couple months ago to say that I was going to be the recipient of the Payne Stewart Award, I was really taken aback. I think I was up in my camp up in Arkansas just relaxing, and he told me -- I started thinking about the ceremonies that I've been to here, the Payne Stewart Award ceremonies here at East Lake. Byron Nelson and Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, all these people, the who's who of golf, and to be mentioned with those people is truly an honor for me.
My wife has always said to me, you have a hard time putting yourself -- giving yourself enough credit in the game, and you know, this -- something like this is different. It's different than winning golf tournaments. It goes beyond that. And to be a part of this award, to be a part of today and what goes on tonight is truly special. And I want to thank everyone that had a hand in voting me this award this year. I know a lot of the past recipients and a lot of the higher-ups in the game obviously thought enough of me to give me this award, and I just want to say thank you very much.
Q. You're old enough to remember the guy. I'm wondering what your memories are of the statue there and what kind of guy he was and if you have any funny stories.
DAVID TOMS: Yeah, I looked up to Payne even before I got on the TOUR, just because he was one of those guys you wanted to see what he was wearing. Especially when he was with the NFL stuff, you're like, what's he going to wear today. But not just that, just the way he performed in the game. For many years he was kind of the guy that they said was runner-up all the time, and then all of a sudden he got over that hump and started winning big events. I certainly followed him. He was a guy that kind of talked like me, kind of had a southern accent, and had a great smile and was somebody you could look up to. He was certainly that role model.
But I didn't -- one of the regrets is that I didn't get to play on a team competition with Payne. Knowing what those team competitions are all about, I know it would have been a lot of fun. He was always the guy in the locker room that made people laugh, that was pulling practical jokes on people. He and Zinger went back and forth all the time. To not be able to play on one of those teams and really get to know him better this way, I regret.
Some of the things I remember most, I remember one year playing in Morocco, I used to go over there and play every fall and play in King Hassan's Invitational. One year Payne was there with his mother on the trip. We all had our wives, and he had his mother with him, and so many nights we'd dress up, you'd put on a black tie and go out, and it just seemed like they had a lot of fun being together. You could tell they had a great relationship. I remember that.
I remember one day at the golf course after the round, one of the -- the prince was kind of in our little locker room area, and they had some crazy music going, and Payne put on this funny hat and he was dancing around singing. As a young player you look at that and you go, there's a guy you see on the course and you see how he is as a professional, but you get him off the course and you see he's just a normal guy and has fun. He went on to win the tournament that week, and it made an impression on me what he was all about. He was about being very professional, but at the same time he could get way from the course and put on a pair of khakis and just be another person.
I played with him in other events. He was always encouraging which was great as a young player because he's one of those guys like Mickelson or Tiger or those guys now where you're paired with them and it can get pretty chaotic with the fans and all the stuff that's going on, and sometimes it's hard to play your own game. But Payne was good about taking the young player in and saying, hey, just go play golf. Those are the things I remember. He was certainly a great player, and I'll never forget the scene on the 18th hole there at Pinehurst when he won. It was a pretty amazing thing in golf.
A lot of fond memories. I wish I would have got to play with him a lot longer. But just to be associated with this award with his name is a great honor.
LAURA HILL: David, congratulations. Enjoy this evening.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports