November 2, 2005
BOB COMBS: Ladies and gentlemen, I think we'll begin. Welcome to the 19th playing of the TOUR Championship presented by Coca Cola. We're delighted to be back here at historic East Lake for the fifth time. It's a great venue in fantastic shape this week, as I think some of the players that are here with us this morning can attest.
Just a couple of things, obviously thank you to Tom cousins, the chairman of East Lake Golf Course for all the support, everything he's done to support this event and to Rob Johnston, the chairman of the event and all the volunteers and staff here at East Lake. Finally, Coca Cola, our presenting sponsor, who does so much to help this event.
As we've done pretty much every year for the last seven or eight, we use this opportunity and this great media field to have Commissioner Finchem summarize the year and provide some perspective and where we're been and where we're going. I don't think it's any secret to anybody here that we're going to do something more forward looking than typical this year as you can see from the slide presentation up front that we're really going to focus commentary on the future of the PGA TOUR and it's a dynamic future that I think you'll find of interest. Later we'll hear from some players, Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia and Olin Browne and David Toms will be joining us, and then we'll have a Q and A portion and then some comments about our players.
We're also joined on a conference call by media around the country on an AT & T line so when we get to Q and A we'd like to answer questions from the on site media and then we'll open it up to the AT & T line for those questions.
To the main course, Commissioner Finchem, State of the Tour, strategy for the future.
COMM. TIM FINCHEM: Thank you, Bob. We're delighted to be at this venue. The word "venue" reminds me of when we went to Champions in Houston and Jackie Burke took me aside and said, we're delighted to have you here, this is about ten years ago, and your people have sent me this contract to play here. You used this word "venue." I want you to know when I played on the PGA TOUR we played on the golf course and I don't know what a venue is, but we're going to play some golf this week.
We of course are delighted to be back at East Lake and we want to thank Tom Cousins, our partner and the people at the East Lake Foundation for their partnership over the years. We are pleased to help with what the East Lake Foundation means and convey that story around the country about what's happened here as part of this incredible change in the landscape here in Atlanta, starting with golf.
We're also pleased and thank everybody for coming out yesterday to recognize the Drive to a Billion conclusion. It was a great milestone, and now we're embarking on the second day in which we hope to do in a lot shorter period of time.
This morning rather than recap the year, I think all of you have done a good job recapping the year as we've gone through the year. We had a great year and have had a great year. We had a lot of weather issues, but it didn't seem to deter our fan interest and audiences on television or on site. We spent most of the year focusing on the future. And as we look at the future, we look at we reevaluate ourselves. For the past year or two, we've asked ourselves where are we and where should we be headed.
In terms of virtually every measurement that you could use, whether it's a financial measurement, a fan interest measurement, our growth over the last ten years has been significant and very pleasing, I think, to the players and to our sponsors and our fans, our charity dollars are at an all time high, the prize money has grown every year, our attendance is up on average 21 percent over six or eight years ago, our fan base now exceeds over 112 million Americans who pay some attention and follow on television to some extent what our players are doing out there.
Our international growth has been significant, whether it's international television distribution, international marketing efforts, and certainly the extent of the international participation here on our Tour in the United States.
If you measure public opinion, the attitude of fans and the public toward the PGA TOUR, its players and our tournaments and the concept of giving back is the highest it's ever been. So we're very pleased in all those areas.
In terms of the business side of the equation, our sponsorship today is by far the strongest it's ever been. We have the strongest collection of sponsors on the PGA TOUR, we have the strongest collection of marketing partners, and the number of marketing partners we have, that's tripled in the last five or six years from 18 to 54. And we have a good group of marketing partners.
If we stand back and look at the quality of our overall financial base through sponsorship, it is far and away longer than it was even four or five years ago.
So what should we be looking toward in terms of the future? While so many things have gone so well and our underpinning strength is so strong, we recognize the competition has gotten stronger, as well. Virtually every other sport is investing significant sums in attracting fans to their competitions and the way they produce their competitions on television, and that is our competition at its core. And we have to do the same.
So over the last two years we have focused in two general areas; one area is the normal things you would expect us to focus on, and that is the quality of our sponsors and the quality of the television, and when we announce our new television agreements here in the next few months and we look at the array of sponsors and the way television is going to be presented, I think we will be well positioned for the future.
Another is our schedule. We're not going to talk about the details of our schedule today, but when we do announce it after television I think you'll look at it and see that it's stronger, it has a better flow, we have better golf courses, better sponsor groups, et cetera, to make a good schedule.
And then with respect to our tournaments themselves, starting with THE PLAYERS Championship, we will rebuild the infrastructure for THE PLAYERS Championship and changes the marketing approach for that tournament. We will bring and heighten the impact of our tournaments across the board going forward after 2005. So all that is in play.
But in addition to all those things, there is one pressing need, we think, to help us compete, and that is the need to define our season. You may remember 20 years ago almost now, this tournament started. And the reason it was started was to deal with the challenge of defining a season for our fans. We have a long season, a very long season. And in that season are tournaments which are week in and week out much more impactful than some other weeks. So the first Nabisco Championships and what is now the TOUR Championship was created to try to define that season.
But over the years, that has been this has worked quite well, but it's so far into the football season and so far into the fall and we have such varying strength of our tournaments leading up to it that we haven't been able to get the kind of strength that we see in the other sports with the end of the season. If you combine that with the need for a competition through the course of the year beyond just a Money List that really ties all the tournaments together, we concluded that we needed to take some additional steps to deal with that.
That relates to, first of all, creating a real season, which would include a year long competition and a dramatic finish to that competition. When we talk about a year long competition, something that can focus every week during the course of the year, tie the season together, and create a parity, if you will, through the course of the year of the import of every competition.
In terms of a finish, really we're the only major sport that doesn't have a stronger finish than our regular season, a playoff system, if you will, that balances out what's happening during the course of the year with what's happening week to week.
When we talk about the year long competition, we're talking about a competition that would run from January to September that would be based on a point structure to be determined where every week would count. It would be a system where the fans would be engaged in what was happening each week, and it would end with a multi week championship series, our version of the playoff system, and culminate with a significant payout.
We think it's a system that will relate well to fan interest in trying to bring to those 112 million fans something they can focus on week in and week out, something that will create more value for our sponsors, something that will create more compelling television for our television partners, something that will create more excitement for our players, more opportunities for our players to be involved in something meaningful each week, and obviously more financial benefits to our players, and also something that we think will help us drive toward that second billion because we now have announced the commitment to get to the second billion so working with our tournament structure to really build the strength of our charitable giving back is fundamental to everything we do, including a year long competition.
Now, when we set about the idea of a year long competition, in order for us to do it right, to do it first class, to have the kind of presence our television needs to have, to have the kind of benefit package at the end it needs to have, to have the kind of marketing support, this is very important, the kind of marketing support it needs to have to really make it work, we needed a first class sponsor. We needed a company that understood sports, that believed in delivering value, that understands and buys into our mission of giving back, and a company that fits into our Tour week in and week out.
We found that company in FedEx, and we're delighted to announce today that FedEx will be the sponsor of the FedEx Cup that will commence the first week in January of 2007.
FedEx was our first choice. They've had a long history with us, they've had a long history with sports, they've had a long history in charitable relationship given their sponsorship with the FedEx St. Jude's Classic.
They are a company that has significant marketing muscle, perhaps second to none, and the strength of their marketing team is five star in terms of bringing to what we need to accomplish here, the resources that it demands.
So we are delighted to announce FedEx today, and I'll come back in a minute and talk more about the details of some of the things we're going to be doing in 2007. But I want to stop now and introduce Mike Glenn, the executive vice president and director of corporate communication to say a few words on behalf of FedEx and then I'll be back up to say a few more words in a minute.
MIKE GLENN: Thank you, Commissioner, and let me say on behalf of 250,000 contractors and employees around the world, I'm delighted to be here today to talk about the exciting changes in the PGA TOUR. I think it's important to note that our relationship with the Tour dates back about 20 years and really started because of our close association with St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. That institution is totally focused on curing childhood disease and has made tremendous progress over the years, and they would tell you, as we would certainly tell you, that their association with FedEx and the PGA TOUR has done a tremendous job in raising the awareness of their efforts and allowing them to raise the funds they need for this tremendous work.
It was only after that period of time that we really began to appreciate the marketing benefits of a relationship with the Tour, and really was the spring board of our whole sports marketing effort, which includes the NFL, NASCAR and many other efforts. We recognized early on that the PGA TOUR helps us meet our business objectives and build our brand, and later expanded our relationship with the Tour to include sponsorship of the Tour and the Champions Tour, so this was a natural extension of that relationship with the Tour, and we're confident this is going to help us meet our business objectives going forward.
The Commissioner mentioned that there are 112 million people that follow the Tour on a regular basis. All we're looking for is to get each and every one of them to ship a package every day (laughter). And if that happens we'll be happy and be happy to have a long standing relationship with the Tour. Thank you for your attendance today, and we're excited to be a part of this, Commissioner.
COMM. TIM FINCHEM: Thanks, Mike.
Mike will be available as we finish a little bit later to answer any of your questions regarding the FedEx Cup. I'll just say in advance that since FedEx is a title sponsor on the PGA TOUR, one of your questions is going to be "are you going to continue the title sponsorship in Memphis?" Let me say when we started our conversations with FedEx, one of the first things on their agenda was that if we move forward they wanted to make sure that the charitable giving in Memphis and the quality of the tournament continued and continued to grow and improve. That was a fundamental to our discussions.
We will be putting out a press release later today to announce the Stanford Financial Group of Houston, which is a private banking, asset management, real estate development firm of 4,000 employees, will be assuming the title role in the current FedEx St. Jude's Classic but that FedEx will continue in the role of presenting sponsor and that their employees will continue to take up a large involvement from a volunteer standpoint in the tournament. So it will be very much a marriage of two companies in Memphis, and the combination of that we think is going to have a great effect on the future of that tournament.
We'll have more to say in a few weeks on the details of what's going to happen in Memphis, but suffice it to say for now, it's a very positive story for our fans in Memphis and for our relationship with St. Jude's Hospital.
Let me now turn to the FedEx competition, the FedEx Cup, and talk a little bit about the details. I want you to know that the details at this point stop at a certain point because a lot of the detail is not going to be worked out until 2006, and when that detail is worked out, we will have another visit where we lay out the promotional schedule and promotional themes of the Cup and our relationship with FedEx and how that's going to work, how the point system is going to work and things of that nature.
But just generally today, there will be a point system. Players will compete for position on a points list starting the first week in January and going through late August. There will be a point where that portion of the competition stops, players will then be seeded for a four week championship series. The four week championship series will culminate here at the TOUR Championship presented by Coca Cola, but the first three weeks of that four week series will be at other tournaments around the country. You've heard and seen a lot of speculation about those tournaments. We are not in a position today to announce which tournaments or which golf courses, although we're looking at multiple golf courses and we've been having some meetings with golf courses, which those meetings find their way into some of your publications or news coverage.
But we are not done with that process yet. We're not in a position to announce the details.
However, what is fundamental about this series, the point system along with the championship series, two things: One, the players need to play to position themselves in a seeding position for the championship series, and the championship series will then be structured on points, which will be the most impactful series of events in the history of the sport.
The bonus payout at the end of the day associated with the Cup we will announce more detail on next year, but suffice it to say, it will be a significant bonus payout, and it will probably become the largest payout in competitive sports as it relates to a playoff type situation.
The combination of those things create a number of benefits that I'll come back to in a minute. But let me turn to the Championship Series for just a minute and focus your attention on that.
First of all, again, we have two objectives here: One is to pull the season together and make the whole season impactful, and the other is to have a strong finish. The championship series strengthens the end of our season and builds our audience. And if you look at the other sports, the red column is the average ratings of each of the major sports, the yellow column and their playoff events. The yellow column is the average rating in the regular season. You can see that in each and every sport, there is a multiple of somewhere between two and four times the average rating position from the playoffs. In most sports the playoff section of the season is actually worth more in total than the entirety of the regular season.
The Championship Series, again, will see players four weeks from late August to mid September and played in major markets on excellent golf courses. We will have three full field events leading up to the TOUR Championship. We assume the TOUR Championship will continue to be 30 players, and those would be the Top 30 point getters touring the championship series. So the first three weeks you would be playing to position yourself to get into the TOUR Championship, and again the payout would be significant.
Following the TOUR Championship I'll come back to the benefits in a minute, but following the TOUR Championship, we would have a defined fall season, which we currently reference as the Quest For the Card. This season would be comprised of portion of the season would be comprised of six to seven official money events, post TOUR Championship, the Money List, even though 90 percent of the focus now during the season is going to be on the FedEx Cup and the position in the FedEx Cup and the points rate in the FedEx Cup and the championship series and the FedEx Cup. The money will continue during the course of the year. It just will mean different things than it currently does now.
After the TOUR Championship, you can think of the fall series a number of different ways. One of the ways is that actually what players are doing is playing to position themselves to be in the Cup the following year. But in addition to that there will be overall eligibility on the PGA TOUR, securing a card, possibly a continuation of the Top 70 for certain events. There will be World Ranking points generated, and of course, what goes with a win goes with a win, whether it's a two year exemption, access to the Mercedes Championships, whatever, that will still be the case.
As you stand back and look at the new season on the new PGA TOUR season, in the fall you have the Quest For the Card and access to the FedEx Cup competition. From January to September you have the cup competition, concluded with the championship series, culminating in the TOUR Championship.
There are a number of benefits strategically to the stronger season. First of all, we think every one of our events is going to be strengthened. We think players are going to be motivated and incentivized to actually play more. Our television we think is going to be not only more impactful but more balanced because we'll have a better number of huge profile events at the end of the season which can tie to our different television packages. We think overall field strength will be supported, as well, and we think fan interest and some of the other things we're going to do, different platforms, can bring fans to be related to FedEx Cup competition during the course of the year.
The Championship Series benefits obviously give us what we've wanted for a long time, a culminating end to our season. We think that in and of itself, if you look at all of our sports, if we do anything approaching any other sports, it's a huge impact on our overall television position, and it helps carry our audience into the fall.
In addition to those things, we have more compelling fall events because they're really focused and they mean something in a tight series. This system is going to allow us to accelerate our Giving Back programs and our Drive to the Second Billion, and importantly, the entire platform is going to be elevated, which is an important part of what we do in terms of our players. Everything we do is focused not just on generating direct financial benefits to players; it's also creating a platform that they use for their own marketing directives.
So with that, I would just conclude by saying that while we'll get into our detailed schedule at the end of this year or January as it lays out after television, right now when you stand back and look at our mission, which is generating financial benefits for our players, number one; generating charitable contributions, number two; growing and protecting the game, number three; all of these are important pieces of our mission. The FedEx Cup, the Quest For the Card series in the fall, the championship series will all come together in 2007 to allow us to continue to grow a pace as we go forward over the next number of years.
Before we ask our players to come up and give us some comments, I'd like to open it up to questions.
Q. Of the number of players, 175 or whatever that start the season, how many do you imagine would be in the running to get to the TOUR Championship? Once the first stage of the points system is over, how many do you imagine would have a chance to compete for those 30 spots in the TOUR Championship?
COMM. TIM FINCHEM: It depends entirely on the way the point system is developed. We intentionally last summer put off the discussion of points because it's detailed, it's involved. The players are going to want a lot of opportunity to comment, and frankly, it wasn't necessary to complete it for television or discussions with FedEx.
The fundamentals would be that as you start the year, everybody has a chance. We assume the first three events are full field events, but mathematically, when you see how many of the seeded players have an opportunity to get to the Top 30, it just depends on the seeding sequence.
Now, we expect that if player A goes through the first part of the season, is seeded No. 1 and has amassed a 4,000 point lead over No. 2, those seedings are going to bring that No. 1 and No. 2 back very close together because playoffs are all about starting over. You position yourselves. It will probably be worth like a small home field advantage.
But what those increments are will tell you what the mathematical chances of making the TOUR Championship are. I don't know that. It could be 144, could be 110, could be 90. It will be a healthy number of players, though, and there will be great volatility going through those three weeks in jockeying back and forth because it's our assumption everybody is going to play. It's going to be difficult for a player not to play and have a chance. The rewards at the end of that stream are significant, not just at the No. 1 position but down. So your competition is all playing, you have to play, and the point structure is going to be such that there's a lot of volatility.
Our intention, the fundamental is does it get the players' competitive juices going, do the fans feel it, and that's what we're going to build off of, how it breaks down in terms of to answer your question, we'll have to see.
Q. And the fall on the bonus, whatever the significant number is going to be, will that be kind of a winner take all or broken down?
COMM. TIM FINCHEM: It'll be broken down but heavily weighted toward the top, and it will be very significant.
Q. Will regular events during the year early on, will they all carry the same amount of points or whatever it is toward that season ending events?
COMM. TIM FINCHEM: We don't know that. We will work with the players, we will work with FedEx, we will work with some outside consultants. Without boring you with the details, just quickly, and then we'll go on to something else besides points because we could be here for days, but you could have a system that's basically flat, you could have a system that's basically tied to prize money, you could have a system that's basically tied to strength of field. My guess is we're going to end up with something that involves all three.
It needs to be a system that encourages players to play more. It needs to be a system that tournaments look at and say, "this keeps me in the running as I compete for players." Those are kind of the fundamentals. We're going to come up with that system that we think is going to be appealing, but I doubt it'll be a system where points are exactly the same, to answer your question. It's going to take several months next year to get that sorted out.
Q. We hear repeatedly from players that what really matters to them most is winning majors, winning the big tournaments. What indication do you have from the players that winning the points system and getting to the end of the season is going to matter so much to them?
COMM. TIM FINCHEM: You know, I would rather we have 30 of our best players right here this week. I would encourage you to go ask them. I don't want to speak for them. So I won't put words in their mouths.
I think that what we're trying to do here is not at all change a player's focus on winning a particular tournament or a major championship; it is, however, to create more balance in the sport between the import of the season and the import of some of the individual tournaments we have.
The texture of the schedule we have, though, we think combined with the rewards is one that I think you'll find a lot of players are going to be very enthusiastic about, but I'll leave it to you to talk to them. They're available to you this week. Some of them are here with us this morning.
Q. The Tiger Woods John Daly playoff was gripping, but it didn't do all that well in the ratings because of the weekend competition with football. Are you apprehensive about competing against this 800 pound gorilla in terms of television ratings? Obviously the NFL in particular is a very formidable opponent.
COMM. TIM FINCHEM: It is. I think the theory here is we can carry our audience with this kind of system right into middle of September. I disagree with you, by the way, about Amex. What you look at in terms of a rating point is if we're playing especially a World Golf Championship, Players Championship, is the average rating over four or five hour period because we're on a late. Our rating at the end of that was up around 5 at the Presidents Cup, we were over 5 at the end, and we were up against the Patriots Steelers game in overtime, probably one of the highest rated regular season games the NFL will have this year.
That tells you that when we have all of our players playing and have something that means something, we can command an audience. But this is different. This is not just an event that's scheduled out there as an island into football. This is a series of events that starts before football, runs two weeks pre NFL, runs two weeks into NFL, is all tied together. It's unique in the sport, and we anticipate all players are going to play. It means an awful lot, and I think it will surpass what we saw in those two events this year.
We feel very bullish about it.
I would underscore, when I talked earlier about the marketing strength of FedEx and a partner like FedEx and the enthusiasm we're finding with all of our other title sponsors there is going to be an enormous focus starting after THE PLAYERS Championship in '06 in educating our fans what this is all about through the rest of '06, and then it's going to build all the way through '07, and then each year after. So I think it's like a growing tide during the course of the year; it will carry us in and have really solid ratings. We'll get nicked if it's a huge football game, but even this year we did well a couple of weeks so I feel very bullish about it.
Q. Maybe it was the graphic up there that confused me. Is the Quest For the Card portion going to be the beginning of a new season? Because it listed it first in the points thing and then the finale. Is it like a college basketball wrap around?
COMM. TIM FINCHEM: It is two things. If I'm playing those fall events, I'm really playing for two different reasons three reasons. They're good tournaments. Two, I'm playing to keep my eligibility for the following year, and in doing so, I'm qualifying to play in the FedEx Cup the following year. So it's both the finish of the other season and it's the beginning of the following season. And so as a consequence, we think those six or seven events are going to mean a lot, be impactful and actually have reasonably good fields, although this system does give a player the flexibility, especially a top player who has performed well enough to get into the finals to take some time off if they want. And that we think creates a situation where it gives them the flexibility to play earlier in the cup season because they're not a player that's concerned about those eligibility issues.
Q. Just actually following up on what Doug was talking about, as far as numbers of players, how many players, if you even have a specific, qualify for the championship series, those three events leading up to the TOUR Championship, and in that championship series, are all those events going to be medal play?
COMM. TIM FINCHEM: Yes, they're all medal play, stroke play events. Our assumption now we can always change the details, but our assumption for planning purposes is that 144 players, the top 144 off of the FedEx Cup points list after that final week say third week in August, will then start the championship series. The first three of those four championship series events of fields are 144. They all give out points. The Top 30 point earners from those three weeks then go on and play the TOUR Championship event.
BOB COMBS: I might suggest a change in the order in the interest of our players' schedules. The Commissioner can address additional questions as we go on, but it might be timely to bring up Adam, Sergio and Olin for some brief reaction and a little commentary with them, and then we can open up the line to the AT & T conference call.
I'll just say in advance these players have a chance to understand the broad outline of how this system is going to work and what the future is going to be like. Tim has not really had exposure to what the weekly schedule in '07 is going to be, so it's difficult for them to answer those kinds of questions. Why don't we have them share their general reaction what Tim has outlined.
Adam, if you want to tee it up, just a couple of thoughts.
ADAM SCOTT: It's obviously a big change to our season, and it certainly gives us something else to focus on, and I'm very excited. It's a little more compact, intense season with the FedEx Cup. So certainly something else to play for outside of just the majors or world golf events.
There's something else, as Tim said, considerable rewards at the end of it, and it gives players the opportunity at the end of the year to take some time off for myself and The International players to go back to Australia and play events without having to be dragged into December and playing at Christmas time.
I'm very excited to see this in '07, and I think you're going to get better competition out here on Tour because it's going to be a little more intense.
SERGIO GARCIA: Well, as Adam was saying, I think that it's going to bring us a bit more together, and throughout those first probably eight months of the year, certain months of the year, you're going to see a lot more of us than you usually see. You know, scheduling for top players like we are will definitely be a bit different than it is now. We'll be playing a lot more here in the U.S., and I think that's always great.
As Adam mentioned, too, being an international player, you can make some different plannings for toward the end of the season if you've played well that year. It gives me a chance to go back to Europe and support also my Tour there, and more than anything, just get some nice rest towards the next season that unfortunately these days we don't get much.
I think as Adam said, too, I'm very excited about it. It seems like a great year, and we're looking forward to seeing it settle down and getting it started. I think that it's looking really good, and it should be very exciting.
OLIN BROWNE: Well, I'm 46 years old now, and so the end of the season is an appealing idea to me, so I do need the rest. Adam and Sergio, I'm not buying into it (laughter). I mean, they're 25 years old and they can run and run and run and run.
I obviously think that this PGA TOUR is a great gig, and we all like being a part of it. Anything that we can do to make it better, make it more exciting for the fans and the players, generate enthusiasm at all levels is going to be good.
I just hope that we continue to offer the opportunities to everybody to play that we always have and that we will continue to do that, and I think that Tim and the staff at HQ has pondered all those questions and putting together a great package, and it's got a great future. We're looking at it very open mindedly and all having input, too, which I think is important because I think everybody has a lot of good ideas. The more ideas we get on paper, the more we can formulate a quality program and a quality plan. I think there's a lot of enthusiasm. Are there concerns? I think there probably are some, but I think the devil is in the details and we're working that out. I'm glad Sergio feels he's going to get enough time at the end of the year to recover for the next season.
Q. Were you at all this thing was first hinted at back in March. As a player and especially as someone who started where you did this year, was there any concern that this new schedule would be catering only to the top players and that there would not be enough opportunity, and are those concerns at all allayed?
OLIN BROWNE: As you know, the last couple years I've struggled to maintain my exempt status, but each year I was coming down the stretch and well within the 144 that would have qualified for the FedEx Cup. I think it maybe offers guys who are on the fringes a better opportunity to come in and let their play do their talking. In that regard, I think it lends excitement and continuity to the entire season. Each tournament has value. The question is when you're asking players to condense their schedules and play their entire year in a shorter frame of time, you're going to have more of the top players playing the same weeks, and I think that's good for golf.
At the same time, we need to be cognizant of the fact that today's stars are today's stars, but tomorrow's stars have to come from somewhere. I think we're taking that into consideration, and the future looks bright.
Q. Olin, we heard Adam talk about this is a great opportunity, give him a chance to go back to Australia, Sergio talking about this is wonderful, going to give him a chance in the fall to go back and support the European Tour. You and I have talked about trying to
OLIN BROWNE: I get to go home and play in the club championship.
Q. The other question is are you at all concerned that those eight or nine events following the FedEx Cup will be lacking marquee players?
OLIN BROWNE: I'm not because I think a lot of those events will probably continue to be some of the same events that have always been in those slats. At that time of the year we can't be playing in Minnesota or Four Points North. So I think it will be a fairly consistent group of tournaments, although I'm speaking out of school. I'm not entirely sure about that. But those tournaments have a long and storied history with this Tour and players have supported those events for a long time, and I think by and large, a lot of guys will continue to do so.
Sergio has played a lot of fall events, I'm sure that he'll continue to play some here and there, Adam, as well. I can't speak for the other guys, but I would submit that all things being equal, that those tournaments will continue to get support, and they have value.
Q. Mr. Commissioner, if I could ask you to follow up on that same question, your sense of what the attraction will be for fans, television, for that Fall Finish beyond the Quest For the Card. How confident are you that you're going to have guys like the Top 30 who are here this week playing those events?
COMM. TIM FINCHEM: Well, in talking to a good percentage of the players, you know, my overall sense of it is that a player who you currently see playing at a pace that has him playing in September or October, you'll continue to see that. A player who typically doesn't play much in the fall, may be one to get ready for the TOUR Championship, there's a chance that those players might not play as much, if at all, but as Davis I think Davis Love was saying the other day that it's the rare player that's just not going to play any golf for two or three months and then turn around and start playing. We don't see that very often.
Like Vijay always says, he could play somewhere every day (laughter).
I think those fields are going to be good for that reason. Secondly, they're going to be good tournaments. Olin is right, I think we'll probably end up with some of those tournaments some of them are very popular tournaments, some of the golf courses are very popular. When we announce what we have in the fall, I think you'll look at it on its face and say the fall is going to be just fine.
Q. This is more for the commissioner. Are there some tournaments that are in jeopardy much going away, and will there be opposite field events earlier in the season?
COMM. TIM FINCHEM: The answer to your second question is yes. Our total number of tournaments, when you include let me put it this way: Right now on our drafts, the total number of player starts will vary hardly at all from '07 to '06. So total playing opportunities.
Now, as Olin says, if players play more, that may change the mix a little bit and that's something we have to keep an eye on. But total playing opportunities will be very consistent and we will have some events opposite. With respect to any particular tournament that might not be on the schedule, it's possible, but it won't be for the reason of reducing tournaments; it will be for other reasons. It may be a situation where it's a tournament that just, for whatever reason, doesn't have the strength overall to be on the PGA TOUR. And there are we have great loyalty to our tournaments. We want to continue charitable relationships, but there may be that situation or two. I wouldn't suggest, however, necessarily that there be any at this point, but it's possible.
Q. Adam, question for you: If the FedEx Cup has such relevance week to week, is there any concern that this will jeopardize your desire to get back to Europe and continue to be a member of the European Tour if that means missing critical tournaments during the series?
ADAM SCOTT: It's tough to say because I haven't seen the schedule yet. But I don't think it will have an effect on being able to play both tours. As long as majors and world golf events still count for both, I think it's not too hard to get up 11 events in Europe, and I'm sure that the Tour and everyone will take that into consideration when making the schedule because, of course, they want players like Sergio who's European to be playing over here, as well, and not making decisions on whether to play the PGA TOUR or in Europe. So I'm sure it won't be an issue.
BOB COMBS: The players, you may want to get back and apply your craft. You're certainly free to leave at this point and we'll take more questions for the Commissioner. Thank you very much for joining us this morning. We appreciate that.
Q. Commissioner, the outlines of what you have suggested, they sound a little bit like the way NASCAR restructured themselves for the Nextel Cup. How much did you look at that organization?
COMM. TIM FINCHEM: Well, you might note that we have had the Schwab Cup Championship on the Champions Tour now for a number of years. So we think that we have some experience in the year long competitions, and we frankly think that that competition has had a very positive effect on that Tour.
Now, it's structured a lot differently than this one is. But we have paid attention to the other sports. There are cultural differences and sort of historical differences and structural differences in our sport with any other sport, and those things come to bear as we've tried to put together the FedEx Cup. But some of the elements are similar. I think some are very different. For example, the championship series we think is very unique. We didn't try to go the direction of limiting access to that championship series to a very small number of players. We don't think that's what the fans want to see.
One of the in some of those sports, you know, you see the same competitors every week. In our sport you see a broader mix, and we think part of the culture of our sport is important to maintain, which is a player can play his way onto anything at any given time. Nobody makes a decision for him as to whether he should be allowed to or chosen for a team or allowed to race or whatever; it's solely up to what a player does with his golf clubs. That is one of those cultural elements that's maintained here in the cup. Yeah, we looked at other sports, but we think this is unique and we're excited about it.
Q. Do you think that you will sell this as you did with the West Coast Swing and the Florida Swing or will this be a radical thing in how you sell it?
COMM. TIM FINCHEM: I think there's a possibility we might maintain some integrity to the West Coast swing because it has a uniqueness about it. My guess is we probably will maintain an integrity to the fall series after the cup is concluded. I doubt we'll go much past that. It's something we haven't really focused on, and we'll do that in 2006.
Q. Have you had any kind of informal sounding out, so to speak, with TV partners about the bare bones of this plan? Did you get any kind of indication that they like the idea? And then where are you on the date change, possible date change of THE PLAYERS Championship?
COMM. TIM FINCHEM: To answer on the television part, yes, we have given a general flavor to the direction we're going with our television partners, and I think for all the reasons we have talked about this morning, they see the possibilities in terms of strengthening our overall product. That certainly plays into television, certainly from the standpoint of balancing the season, and certainly with respect to field strength and things of that nature.
With respect to The Players, we are focused on the possibility of moving to May, but as we did about four years ago, we will enter into our television discussions with March as a possibility, May as a possibility. Four years ago when we did that we ended up in March. I'd say the odds are a little more weighted toward the May date, but there are a couple issues that need to be worked out.
Q. You mentioned Stanford Financial stepping in with FedEx St. Jude Classic. They bought a significant portion of Spring Creek Ranch, the Nicklaus designed course. Is there a thought that the tournament might change venues?
COMM. TIM FINCHEM: Well, it's something we're going to be discussing in the weeks ahead. I think that that golf course has a terrific reputation. A lot of our players have played it. The infrastructure is not in place for us to consider it at this moment, but it may be something we look at down the road. I wouldn't rule it out.
Q. You talked about the desire to play at top venues. There's been some reports that some of the tournaments might have rotating sites. Can you talk about that issue?
COMM. TIM FINCHEM: Yes. In one or more cases, we may look at some rotation. I think it's been reported actually, Ed, in your newspaper that we've had some conversations with different clubs in the Midwest and a number of clubs have been mentioned, Belle Rive, for example, and others, and we were scheduled to play at Belle Rive and we had to cancel the tournament because it was the week of 9/11, and we've wanted to go back there ever since. This might be an opportunity to do it.
All those conversations are fluid at the moment. They'll be firmed up over the next several weeks and actually corresponded as we start to get into television, and we'll just have to give you the detail when we get there. Our focus on the championship series is to play all of those tournaments at a series of golf courses that are just first rate, competitive situations for our players and for the fans, and hopefully golf courses that strike a chord with our fans around the country, and we need to be getting there. We'll have more to say about that later.
Q. How do you address some of the concerns of the tournament directors or individual tournaments that all of this is leading toward a two tier system, between has and have nots, where you have a wider gap in purses, maybe lesser fields for some of these tournaments? Is there an issue there?
COMM. TIM FINCHEM: I don't think so. Eight years ago I heard those concerns when we added the World Golf Championships to our schedule. I think the fundamental is that over the years, the PGA TOUR as a brand and a concept as something in sports has grown significantly, and that growth has underpinned all of our tournaments. Any tournament that's on our Tour now can market itself successfully with good management.
The FedEx Cup, adding the element that it will, will just increase that dimension, increase that value of what being part of the FedEx Cup on the PGA TOUR means to a tournament. And if you go back and look eight years ago when those concerns were raised and you look today at purse structures, virtually all of our purses are competitive, our golf courses have gotten better, and as I said at the top, a major focus of ours now after today and certainly after we get done with television is going to be to continue the effort, and we will make great strides on this in the next two years, to create a parity, a strength week in and week out.
I've often said that we're jealous of some of the team sports if you walk into an NFL stadium or NBA arena, you could close your eyes and not know which city you're in. Because of the nature of our sport, we have to deal with different real estate and golf courses. But from the positioning of the tournament in the marketplace and the staging of the tournament, there shouldn't be that much difference, and I honestly think that with the FedEx Cup and some other things we're going to do, we're going to be there in '07, and that's going to diminish any concerns that our Tour has. We'll be able to grow their charitable functions across the board, they'll all have quality fields, marketable fields.
Q. Could you talk about how the seeding would work, like what the benefits of being a higher seed as opposed to a lower seed would be going into those final four events?
COMM. TIM FINCHEM: Well, you want to be a high seed because, like I said, you're not starting from zero in the seeding. You will have a certain number of points walking into the first event as a base, and if you're the No. 1 seed, it's going to be this much comparative difference between you and No. 5 over three events to get to the fourth event, that much more between you and No. 10, 15 and 20. So you're going to be heavily incentivized to achieve the highest possible seed because mathematically you're better positioned given your playing level to get into the Top 5 or 10 in the cup, and again, the financials are going to be heavily weighted toward the Cup.
You will be able to run you'll get this because we'll be showing it to players next year anything we show to players is not confidential. But you'll be able to see some historical analyses that we will do next year that will run some models on, okay, let's take 2004, let's plug in performance in these tournaments on these golf courses, let's assume this seeding, and this is what happened at the end. And they'll show you the volatility and they'll show you demonstrate to a player why it's in his interest to be in a highly seeded position. It will also show a lot of players that they're still in it because it will have high volatility.
Q. Tim, obviously the players are independent contractors that can play when they want, but in this discussion of 2007 and the grand plans that you have for the Tour, one of your marquee players, Phil Mickelson, is not here this week. I'm curious if you've spoken to him in the last week and are you concerned or disappointed that he's not here during this important tournament?
COMM. TIM FINCHEM: I'm disappointed he's not here. We're going to have a great tournament with a terrific field. But, you know, you always want all 30 players here, so I'm disappointed.
I do think, however, that our focus right now is the future, so we're not going to gnash teeth. Players have to make up their own decisions, and there's not much more that's worthwhile me saying about it. I'm disappointed and I wish he were here.
Q. On the first three tournaments in the championship series, are those all going to be existing tournaments with just a date change and a designation change or might one of them be a whole new event?
COMM. TIM FINCHEM: I'm not sure yet. I would say at least two of them will be existing events, maybe all three. However, one or more of them may move around to different golf courses so that what the event is would change in that context really, and it takes on a different kind of construct in the championship series and maybe even a different positioning in the markets that everybody plays in.
Q. Just a question on the bonus payout at the end of the FedEx Cup, you said was going to be the largest in competitive sports. Is that a lump sum? Are you speaking about the individual who wins would say get more than the winner of the Nextel Cup? Will it be the single biggest payout?
COMM. TIM FINCHEM: Well, both. I think the individual who wins most likely will based on where we think we're headed here, the payout would be to that individual the strongest for a playoff performance, whether you consider a team sport, the bonus they receive for winning the World Series or Nextel Cup or any of that. And the reason for that is it will be a variety of revenue streams that come together to make that happen, starting with FedEx's sponsorship. But also, we will invest in the payouts down from that will be significant, certainly in the Top 10 and then on down, we'll have more to say about that next year.
Q. Will it count toward the Money List?
COMM. TIM FINCHEM: We do not anticipate it will be official money, I don't believe, no.
I just want to close and thank you for being here. I want to thank Mike Glenn and his team for being here. We're looking forward to this partnership. We've done the easy part, talking about it. Now we've got to go over the next 12 months and finish the details and execute it. As we go forward, we'll keep you informed and we look forward to your help bringing the details to our fan base in 2006. Thanks a lot.
End of FastScripts.