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February 1, 2012

Tim Finchem


DOUG MILNE:テつ We'd like to welcome PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem.テつ Tim, thanks for joining us for a few minutes.テつ I'll turn it over to you or kind of let you bring us up to speed with some opening comments and remarks and then we'll take a few questions.
TIM FINCHEM:テつ Thank you.テつ Thanks for joining me for just a few minutes here.テつ Let me just say first that we're delighted with the partnership here between the Thunderbirds and Waste Management on a number of different levels.テつ I'll just mention a couple of things:テつ One, the Thunderbirds have done over the years a phenomenal job of marketing this event and creating the biggest golf tournament in the world.テつ When you look back and see I think it's $75 million cumulative have been raised for local charities, it really has had a huge impact on the overall impact of the PGA TOUR.
I think you all know that Waste Management was recognized at the fall meeting of the PGA TOUR Tournament Advisory Council as the number one sponsor from an integration standpoint, and the evidence of that, the reason for that decision and recognition is obvious if you go over on the TPC at Scottsdale here this week.
Waste Management has been enlightened and focused and worked hard to use this week to convey messages relating to the environment, and I think that's a very positive thing for the PGA TOUR, as well.
The combination of those two things have resulted in a positive continuation of the tournament at the level that we've become accustomed to.テつ So we're delighted, and I want to congratulate both of them for the work that's been done.
And then secondly, I would just say that we're off to a good start this year.テつ We've had good tournaments each week.テつ We've been‑‑ with the exception of Saturday afternoon at the Humana Challenge where we got blown off the golf course, we've had good weather, and the tournaments have all had good finishes.テつ The one this past Sunday surprisingly so, but nevertheless, a very exciting finish for the fans.
With that said, I think, as I said earlier in the year, this is really a year of planning for us now that our television agreements have been extended for a good deal of time.テつ We're spending most of the year thinking about the next ten years and the layout of the TOUR, of the Champions Tour and the Nationwide Tour, and we'll continue that effort.テつ I'd be happy to try to answer any questions you may have about this week or any other matters.

Q.テつ As you mentioned or alluded to, the finish on Sunday in San Diego, there are some players that questioned the setup of the 18th hole in regards to thinking that maybe it was a bit unfair, maybe a bit tricked up, considering that the bank is shaved, using a yellow hazard versus red hazard, numerous other things.テつ Since most people generally like to see birdies instead of triple bogeys winning golf tournaments, could you talk about what you think of the 18th hole and that setup?
TIM FINCHEM:テつ You know, I thought it was fair.テつ There were a ton of birdies that day.テつ We've set it up that way a lot of years.テつ I think it's a difficult setup.テつ It's one you've got to pay attention to.テつ It's not much different than paying attention to your shot into No.12 at Augusta.テつ So it's challenging.テつ But it's also interesting and exciting but I think fair.テつ I think if you sat back and watched every shot hit in there all day, you'd have to conclude it's a fair setup.テつ You have to hit the right shot.テつ You have to execute the right kind of shot.テつ If you hit the right kind of shot, you can walk away with a birdie, which an awful lot of players did.

Q.テつ I'm curious what kind of feedback you've gotten from sponsors like Farmers last week, maybe Waste Management this week, about losing some players to the European Tour because of the payments that they get paid on that Tour.テつ Are the sponsors, are you getting any feedback from them?テつ I know the tournament organizers are never happy about it, but I'm wondering if you feel any pressure.
TIM FINCHEM:テつ No, I wouldn't say pressure.テつ If we have a week where we grant more than a couple of television releases, we're going to have a discussion with the sponsor about it because the sponsor a lot of times is of a mind that if we didn't grant those television releases, somehow it would improve the field.
I think what's changed in that arena over the last 15 years is we have a significantly different number of international players playing the PGA TOUR, and those players by and large support other Tours.テつ They play other Tours.テつ And so even though they require a television release from us, they're supporting other Tours.
So the first thing you do when you look at a list of players, you look at where are they going to play anyway.テつ I mean, are they going to play here?テつ And there's a lot of factors that go into that.テつ I think that the guidelines that we have today continue to work well.テつ I think there's a good balance in terms of giving players the freedom to do some things internationally and also protect our field quality.テつ Players stay within the guidelines, the same guidelines we've been using for a good number of years.テつ And our field quality is good.
I think the key thing, and most of the players referred to are international players, the key thing about international play has to do with the flow of the schedule, given the flow of their own Tours and where they play, and certainly that's the case for the little stretch here where Europe has‑‑ the European Tour has suffered in Europe with the economy, it continues to suffer, it's lost a number of tournaments.テつ It's been forced to add tournaments in the early part of the year in the Middle East and late in the year in China.テつ You know, we can't quarrel with that.テつ They need to do what they have to do to protect their Tour and to grow their Tour.
But I think we're in good shape from a‑‑ and the other thing is this is a moving target.テつ It's never the same every year, and one of the reasons is that we don't grant releases sometimes because players would come two or three years in a row, so we pay attention to that, as well.
But it's a healthy area of discussion with sponsors.テつ Complaints or pressure would not be the terms I would use to describe those conversations.

Q.テつ (No microphone.)
TIM FINCHEM:テつ Well, I wouldn't characterize it in terms of the number of fans, but certainly the integration of the communication with the tournament that results in a robust marketing of the tournament, absolutely.テつ And I think probably the best two examples of that are here and Dallas.テつ Salesmanship Club in Dallas and the Thunderbirds here have a lot of similarities in terms of their focus and how they integrate with the community, and the result of that is a higher percentage of businesses in each of those communities get involved in the tournament.テつ Businesses buy packages, packages have tickets, tickets get distributed, crowds are enhanced as well as financial support.
Those are models that we share with and work with other tournaments on.テつ Every market is different, by the way, in that regard.テつ But yeah, over the last five years we've made a concentrated effort to grow that integration.テつ I think the fact that tournaments have been able to come through the last three or four years in a very difficult environment and maintain their bottom line in almost a consistent fashion is a testament to those efforts.
And here this year with sales going up is another indication of what can happen because the economy here has not moved much, and certainly the real estate market, which has been a drag on the economy, has not moved much yet, and so to see the kind of robust sales that are incurred here is an indication of what can happen with hard work and the right people doing the right things, so it is a very good model.

Q.テつ (No microphone.)
TIM FINCHEM:テつ Well, I'll give you the short version, and then we have people here on‑site that can give you the long version.テつ But it's been discussed for the last year and a half almost, and it's been written about, there's basically two things:テつ One, reshaping the qualifying process to come on the PGA TOUR with much more of a focus on the Nationwide Tour, part one; and then part two, if we do that, restart the season in the fall.テつ So the fall events would apply toward the following year in terms of Player of the Year, FedExCup points, Arnold Palmer Award and those kind of things.
It's taken on different‑‑ I won't go into all the details now because it's time‑consuming because there are a lot of details, it's taken on different directions and discussion over the last year.テつ It continues to be looked at and reviewed.テつ We've had a lot of player input.テつ We've had tournament input.テつ And we have a couple more meetings later in the next month.テつ It'll probably be reviewed again at our board meeting mid‑March.テつ If we go down that road in some fashion, it would probably be implemented in 2013, but I'm not sure about that at this point.
But it has the effect of strengthening the Nationwide Tour, and it has the effect of strengthening the fall events, as well.テつ It also has the effect of strengthening the FedExCup, and it has the effect of bringing to a tighter conclusion what a season is of the PGA TOUR competitively.テつ This year we had the FedExCup champion, then six weeks later we're still talking about the money title, and it would bring all that together, and then the votes for the Player of the Year would come right on the heels of the end of the actual season.
We like that better from a communications standpoint and getting our fans involved in what a season is all about.テつ But we're not done with it yet, and I wouldn't presume anything at this point.テつ But we made a lot of progress in talking about a lot of the pieces and will continue that.

Q.テつ (No microphone.)
TIM FINCHEM:テつ Well, it's never a done deal until our board approves policy.テつ They have to approve policy.テつ I think I would characterize it as very possible.テつ There's a lot of support for it.テつ There's also a lot of questions which we continue to answer, and as we answer questions, we learn things.テつ So some of the underlying aspects of it are subject to change from what we've been looking at.テつ But it's changed a lot anyway in the last year.
I just don't want anybody to assume that we're necessarily going to do anything in some certain time frame just yet.テつ But we're working through it and we're involving all the stakeholders, title sponsors, tournaments, players, and if it's going to happen in '13, I would suspect it would come to a conclusion this spring.テつ And if it doesn't come to a conclusion, it might still happen later on.
DOUG MILNE:テつ Thank you very much.テつ We appreciate your time.

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