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THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP


May 7, 2013


Tim Finchem


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA

JOEL SCHUCHMANN:  Good afternoon.  We are joined this afternoon by PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem.  Commissioner, if you'd like to start us with some opening comments and we'll take some questions.
TIM FINCHEM:  Yes, thank you.  We're at the close of a busy day, and we have some receptions and parties and PGA TOUR wives events and PLAYERS Championship sponsor events, so we have about six things tonight, So I just thought I'd make myself available if you had any questions.
I will just comment briefly that we, as we get into this week, we are pleased with the preparation that we've had, particularly the post‑storm preparation that got us pretty worried last week from the standpoint of the golf course, but also the presentation looks excellent.¬† I think we have kind of a tradition here that we try to make the tournament better every year, and certainly I think that's happened this year.¬† So we're excited about the field, the golf course, and the telecast package.
A few adjustments in television, but basically with the addition of simulcast, we think it's our best television presentation to date, and we appreciate the partnership of Comcast, the Golf Channel, and NBC to prepare us for that.
We will be searching for another record this year in terms of charitable giving here at THE PLAYERS.  We think we will be able to generate that, and I think most of you know we announced earlier in the year that last year's charitable giving across the TOUR was at a record level in 2012 and got us to a point of $1.86 billion to date in the history of the PGA TOUR.
So you will note that starting on Sunday we will be beginning a campaign to reach out to the $2 billion mark, which we think will occur at the end of this year or early next year.  And when I say campaign, the money isn't really the story, it's the people that our tournaments impact, the lives that are changed, the charities that are helped.  However, people pay attention to money.  We know from our experience when we went to a billion dollars that it got people's attention, so it allowed us to communicate to people that when you spend dollars with a PGA TOUR event, it allows us to grow charitable giving.  Certainly we want to repeat that with the $2 billion mark coming after about eight years when the first billion came after about 67 years.  So we feel very good about the strength of our tournaments, their continued growth across the platform, and the extent to which they have been reaching their potential in the markets where we play to help people.
With that, I will try to answer any questions you might have about anything that's going on right now or this week.

Q.  I guess first things first, did Holly fire her caddie or did that work very well as a partnership?
TIM FINCHEM:  She, rather than me trying to give her lessons, she gave lessons to the caddie.  I think that is the best way to put it, and direction.

Q.  Is there any danger that with the World Golf Championships, the TOUR Championships, coming at the end of the PGA TOUR Playoffs, is there any danger that other events you have are going to come close to surpassing this in any way or do you think that's just not going to happen?
TIM FINCHEM:  Surpass?

Q.  Or compete with this event as your top event?
TIM FINCHEM:  I've never thought about it that way.  Our job this week and every week is to make our tournaments as good as they can be given what we have to work with, the size of the market, the quality of the sponsor, the quality of the golf course, the interests of the players, and that's what we do.
So as a consequence of that focus, we have the strongest TOUR in the world, witness who is playing in it, and that is very rewarding.  We're just going to continue on that path.  That's what we do here.  Every year we want to make this better for the next year, and as long as you aspire to make it better, then we're moving along the way we want to move.
We view the PGA TOUR as a platform, as a combination of events that supports the careers of these players, supports what the fans want to see, supports the investment the business and television community makes in the sport, and supports driving significant support to charities and communities.¬† That's what our mission is.¬† We have a three‑part mission that's been around for years.¬† It's generating benefits to players, supporting charities in communities where we play, and helping protecting growing the game of golf, so that's why we invest in First Tee.¬† That's why we built First Tee, because it's important to the game of golf.¬† That's why we spend time with the World Golf Foundation.¬† That's why we worked on trying to get golf in the Olympics.¬† That's what we're all about.¬† I think we're making progress in those areas.
We don't worry about is this tournament going to be better than the other one.  As long as they're all getting better, then we're heading in the right direction.

Q.  What is your sense on what and when the USGA will do on anchoring and how the PGA TOUR will respond?
TIM FINCHEM:  Well, as we've said all along, we haven't even discussed internally in our organization what our response will be to their completion of their process until they complete it.  We were asked our views.  We made those views known to the USGA and the R&A, and they have to now complete their process.  When they complete it, then we'll turn around and have a conversation with our players and our board about the position we should take at that point.  Until we get there, we're not going to speculate on it.

Q.  A couple weeks ago, IMG, the world's largest sports management group, announced its involvement with the Honda Classic.  Can you just talk about your involvement with that and how you feel the tournament will be affected going forward?
TIM FINCHEM:¬† Well, I think that we have‑‑ and IMG gets a lot of headlines, but there are a range of sports marketing companies that are involved in a number of our tournaments.¬† The vast majority of those transactions and activities are positive, particularly as it relates to if you're a company and you're going to invest in any sports marketing activity, NASCAR, tennis, PGA TOUR, most times a company does not have intern‑‑ now some of them do, but not manyhave internally the entire capacity to do what they need to do to maximize their involvement, to execute their involvement.¬† So they turn to sports marketing companies, whether it's Onsport, or there are a range of them.¬† We probably eight of them, ten of them working on the PGA TOUR. ¬†They do a good job.¬† They serve a good purpose.¬† We have a good working relationship with them.
It doesn't change the basic flavor and structure of our tournaments, which are organized for a charitable purpose.¬† One of the reasons that happens is the tournament is there functionally as a product of charitable organizations in the community.¬† The sponsor‑‑ this wasn't always the case, but certainly in the last 15 to 18 years, invariably the sponsor is equally interested in the charitable impact.
So that means things are done in a certain way, and that certain way is a way we like to see and a way we're very comfortable with.  So there isn't any real downside there.  If it makes the tournament perform better, generate a better impact in the community, staged better, hopefully a bigger bottom line impact for charity, then it's all good.  But we'll see.  In every instance, we'll have to see.

Q.¬† As a follow‑up on the anchoring question, since the PGA TOUR did inform the USGA they didn't favor the proposal, has that opened a conversation or negotiation or are you simply just waiting to react now?
TIM FINCHEM:  Well, we have made our comments.  We have indicated the concerns that we have, as have other golf organizations here to the USGA, overseas on the R&A, and now it's up to them to complete their process.  That's what they do.  Once they complete their process, then it's up to us to say, okay, that's what's going to happen or not happen, and in that environment do we want to take any action or not.  If we don't take any action, we'll do whatever it is they're doing, because our regulations specify that we're going to follow the rules of golf as promulgated by the USGA, provided, however, that we retain the right to go a different direction if we don't think it's consistent with the best interest of the game and the best interest of the PGA TOUR.
So if we're going to go a different direction, that would require an action on our part.  If we're not going to go a different direction, we don't take any action, and that is a choice we have to make.  So until they conclude their process, spell out exactly what it is they're proposing or not proposing, as the case may be, we just decided early on in the process we weren't going to talk about both things at the same time.  We weren't going to try to share with them our assessment of what their suggested change was and couple it with saying what we would do if they did it.
Because, let's say that we had already decided that we weren't going to do it, which we haven't even discussed, but if we had, that wouldn't be in the interest of trying to be cooperative.  We were asked to give our thoughts and our insights and our opinion, and that's what we've done.  They've got to finish their process, and we'll go through our process.

Q.¬† How concerned are you with the lack of support shown last night by the male Hall of Fame members, and does that indicate a lack of‑‑ is it indicative of a larger problem with the induction ceremony this time of year?
TIM FINCHEM:  Getting the players to come back has always been a bit of a challenge over the years.  We've had three or four Hall of Fame members, men, who were ill, and ones that are there all the time.  It does raise a question in my mind about whether this is the best time of year to do it.  It was a phenomenal ceremony.  It's a very compelling night.
But if you do it this week or the week of any big tournament, it's kind of the golf interest is kind of split so there are three or four things about that that we're looking at, and that's one of them.
The other thing is if you look at other Halls of Fame, when they do their induction, in sports and non‑sports Halls of Fame, there are events coupled with it that are of interest to participate in by members of the hall.¬† Maybe we want to look at making it a bigger thing outside of the actual ceremony and induction.¬† So we'll be looking at that.
Certainly we want the Hall to be something that the members‑‑ they have great reaction to their recognition.¬† Witness last night; it's a very special moment in a player's career.¬† But if there are ways to perpetuate that same excitement level, we certainly want to pursue them.¬† So I think it's timely to take a look at everything we're doing and take a fresh look.¬† We haven't done that in several years, and certainly before we made the decision to play this week, as kind of a test, and I guess this is the third year we've done it.¬† So we're going to look at everything and have more to say about it probably later this year.

Q.  Kind of a follow on that.  Two questions that seem to come up every year.  I wonder if you can go back to when this whole process began at the World Golf Village, A, why was the age limit set at 40 instead of 50?  Secondly, why is there a PGA TOUR ballot for a World Golf Hall of Fame?
TIM FINCHEM:  Well, in the first instance, I don't really remember why.  It seemed to be the thing to do at that point in time for whatever we were looking at.  That goes back about 17 years.  It's been a matter in recent years of discussion, as I think you all know.  Some players have raised it.  Everybody today feels younger than they did 15 years ago, everything has changed, we used to have a lot of players campaigning to reduce the age for access to the Champions Tour.  Now most players are really healthy at 50, and they want to continue to play the PGA TOUR a little bit more.  So it's been a matter over the last two or three years of some discussion, and it's currently under discussion.
On the question of the ballot, when the Hall came together, you had a very specific, and today you still do, very specific formulae for recognition on the LPGA side.  And the determination was made to stay with that for LPGA players globally, and then have an international focus and a PGA TOUR focus.  That's another thing that's been seriously under discussion for the last two years.  At the top of the competitive chart, all of those players are now members of the PGA TOUR, or the vast majority.  That wasn't the case 18 or 20 years ago when we had players that were coming up.  You know, Colin Montgomerie last night was a good example.  He played an entire career and not played much here.  That really doesn't happen much anymore.
So it does raise a question about the ballot structure.
And then, of course, those three were added to by the veterans' category and the lifetime achievement category, which we think have worked well in terms of filling in gaps and recognizing individuals that should be recognized because of their overall impact to the game, like Ken Venturi last night.
So those are things that are seriously under discussion now.¬† I think where the World Golf Foundation board is in those areas is that it's very open to change, and has indicated to the staff that we want to‑‑ and this is not new.¬† This is about a year old.¬† But we want to go through a process over this year and next year and review all of those things with an eye toward how it affects the overall feeling toward the hall by current inductees, future inductees, fans and similar to the earlier question, are we just doing it right right now.
So we're examining that.¬† It's such a great opportunity to really‑‑ you know, you learn‑‑ if you pay attention to these things, you really learn a lot about these athletes that you didn't know just because of the process that they go through to be recognized, to be selected, inducted and then have the opportunity to tell their story.¬† And we want to maximize it, but we want to do it in a way that the formula makes sense, and people nod their heads and say that makes sense, and that may not always be the case right now, so we're going through that process.
I wouldn't sit here and speculate to changing things, but I would say we're open to changing a number of things and we'll see what develops.

Q.¬† Since the TOUR brought the digital rights in‑house this year, how's that going and have you had any early feedback on the simulcast?
TIM FINCHEM:¬† It's going well.¬† It was managed by Turner for us for a number of years, and we did bring it in‑house for a number of reasons.¬† One of the reasons was that in a partnership it's sometimes cumbersome to react quickly to situations that call for action to create new products and new solutions for issues.¬† In the mobile environment, those things move so quickly.¬† We've had a number of situations just in the last couple of months that demonstrates the advantage of having it in house, because we can make a decision, react to it, get out there with a ‑‑ reposition an app, remake an app for a particular platform and be able to service the customer a lot quicker and better.
So for that reason alone, it's better.
Then another reason was how it ties into the broadcast area because we were going to get an increased percentage of our fans focused on simulcast, and the simulcast reaction has been very positive, and it will continue to be better.  It won't be fully online here probably until the end of the year.  We have pieces of it that are coming together, but by '14, maybe as early as the start of our new season, which starts this year in October, I hope by then, but certainly by '14, it should be fully online.
The combination of broadcast and digital is really having a positive impact.  Our fan base is better positioned to take advantage of these things than any other sports fan base on a percentage basis, and it shows in terms of how well our television and broadcasts are doing and how much our fans are utilizing our content.  So we're very excited about that area.  It's going to pay big dividends for us going forward and for the fans.

Q.  Are you comfortable with golf being the only sport that allows viewers to call in and potentially dictate the outcome of competition, and has there ever been any discussion of possibly trying to change that rule or not adhering to that rule?
TIM FINCHEM:¬† Yes, we've talked about it over the years.¬† We've gone through scenarios where we've had officials watch the telecast and get ahead of potential call‑ins.¬† We still do some of that.¬† I mean, if you're asking my personal view, I kind of go back and forth on it.¬† On the one hand, it's a pain.¬† On the other hand, it's interesting.¬† It's interesting when it happens.¬† Just looking at it from the standpoint of a fan, not as an administrator.¬† It gets people into some of these situations which create different messages, like maybe the rules ought to be simpler over here or over there.¬† And I'm glad the USGA and R&A and all of us are talking about that now and maybe systematizing the rules in certain areas that make it more realistic, if you would, in terms of if you're comparing it to other sports on that one thing.¬† But if you compare some of the penalties in our sport to what happens in other sports, it's kind of crazy.¬† You're going to disqualify a player for a scorecard that was wrong for reasons that he had no idea, where in effect, the scorecard just on its face, you say, is that fair?¬† So wherever you come down on that, some of those things are interesting to fans and you create conversation.¬† So on that side of it‑‑
But you get a lot of fans out there that call us and say this would never happen in baseball, never happen in football, why do you let it happen?  So I don't have a firm position on that.  I do think it's good that it's become a matter of a lot of discussion, and I think that's healthy and we'll see where it would come down on it.

Q.  What was your player reaction on the Vijay Singh decision?
TIM FINCHEM:  On the?

Q.  Vijay Singh decision?
TIM FINCHEM:  I thought they understood the facts.  I didn't see much reaction, period, that was negative among individuals or people in the media that paid attention to what the facts were.  I saw a couple of things written where there was no reference to the substance, there was no reference to the facts.  It was just why are you letting this guy slide or something like that by individuals who just didn't want to pay attention to the facts or cared to write about something and not pay attention.
The fact is that WADA changed the ballgame.  The game is over, pure and simple.  So players understood that, end of story, really.

Q.  Were you disappointed in any way that Vijay continues to refuse to address the issue even in light of the ruling last week?
TIM FINCHEM:  He does what now?

Q.¬† That he refuses to discuss the issue or comment in any way on the subject even though he got the ruling that he received last week?¬† Has anybody advised him that he should maybe chat‑‑
TIM FINCHEM:¬† Well, I don't know if anybody has advised him.¬† I haven't spoken to him about it.¬† Vijay, I'm not so sure he has anything to say.¬† I mean, he was very forthcoming in the media ‑ that's how the whole thing started ‑ about what he did.¬† I mean, without hesitation.

Q.  Well, he was forthcoming with one magazine.
TIM FINCHEM:  Pardon?

Q.  He was forthcoming with one magazine, not necessarily everyone.
TIM FINCHEM:  Well, but that was the story.  What do you want him to say?  If I was him, I'm not so sure I'd talk about it.  I'd kind of like for it to be gone.  He didn't do what he probably should have done, what we ask players to do, but it was all a function that came out as a function of his admission.  I don't know what he would add to that.
I don't think he's said anything on the subject since the decision, that I've seen.  So if he wants to be quiet about it, I'm not going to argue with him about that.

Q.¬† Would you characterize your Anti‑Doping Program as strong as it can be or as strong as it needs to be?
TIM FINCHEM:  Well, it's like a lot of things, I don't know if when you say "strong as it needs to be," it begs the question, needs to be what to accomplish what.  In the world of doping, if you don't test, you're subject to all kinds of innuendo and rumor and suggestion.  You're just subject to it.  If you test, you're subject to people not believing your testing or not believing you test enough or not believing your athletes.  We knew all of this when we got into doping.
My view on the substance of having a clean sport revolved around the premise that our players play by the rules, and if you're going to change the rule, I thought that was more important than adding a testing program.
Before we entered into our doping program, we didn't have any rules on performance‑enhancing substances.¬† We never said this is a poor performance‑enhancing substance; you can't take it.¬† There were no rules.¬† People seem to ignore that.¬† I'm talked to about it a lot, and people look at me like why are you talking about this.¬† There were no rules.¬† I think the important thing was rules first.
The testing part of it was important because,A, everybody assumes you have to test because nobody trusts anybody, so you have to do it; and secondly, because the doping world expects it to have efficacy.
So from our perspective, our doping program has been very effective in both areas.  The rule has been clearly communicated.  We've had very few instances where players have been in a position where they didn't understand the rule.  We've had hundreds of situations where players have communicated with our doping program to check what they're doing.  So there is a large volume of evidence that players have been aggressive about making sure of what they're doing and putting in their bodies.
Probably the only way you could satisfy everybody in this arena is if you tested every player 52 weeks a year regardless whether they're playing or not, you never had a bad test so maybe, maybe‑‑ but then you might hear arguments about whether your testing works.
Right now, the only two areas we are focused on are in the EPO area.  You can't test for that without blood tests.  There is a blood test for that, and to do EPO, you have to do blood transfusions.  We find it difficult to assume that whatever advantage EPO provides a PGA TOUR player, which we don't see much of, is worth going through blood transfusions.  However, we're monitoring it anyway, and we could still go to a blood test for that reason only.
And then growth hormones, the thing we talked about with Vijay.  There is no test for that.  There is no reason to go to a blood test for that at this point; however, there may be and probably will be at some point in the future, which, given the concern about growth hormones throughout the sport, I suspect we will do.  But we are in the same boat, as I said last week, with the leagues in watching the science, watching the development of testing.  Once we go to it, then we probably test for both, and then we'd cover everything.
Short of that, we think we have a pretty good system in place right now.  We have a pretty good comfort level.

Q.  To follow up on this.  Did the resolution or the way that it played out cause you to want to review any part of the process, or are you satisfied with the way it played out?
TIM FINCHEM:  No, I think any doping case you learn something.  There are several things here that we're focused on, most of them procedurally.  We like to think that we have a very good, as I said earlier, done a very good job of bringing players' focus on the details.  Any time you're relying on communication, we know this just from dealing with constituencies and communication requirements, that you can't ever do too much in that regard.  To ever have a player say I didn't know in this particular instance that I should have called you or checked your certification list or something like that raises a question in our mind as to whether we're aggressive enough in that area.  We are actively looking at some ways to intensify our efforts every year in that regard, especially with rookies.  So that's an area.
The procedures that we use under our Anti‑Doping Program, little things that have to do with what happens when charges are brought, appeals are made, we're looking at some things in that area.¬† Certainly while, from day one, we've had a good working relationship with WADA, and WADA has been to our offices, we've been to their offices, we've consulted with them closely in the development of our plans, we're working with them now in the development of the plans for the Olympic Games, we feel like maybe we need even a closer coordination with WADAon the science side so we know as we move down the road in this growth hormone area and the EPO area, we know everything we need to know.¬† So we're probably going to make some changes in terms of escalating the communication there as well.
So there are a number of things.  They're not huge things, but we learn as we go and then we try to get back, kind of like a golf tournament.

Q.  Was anything of substance achieved today at Golf 20/20?
TIM FINCHEM:  I'm sorry?

Q.  Was anything of substance achieved today at Golf 20/20?
TIM FINCHEM:  I wasn't there, actually.  I was practicing my caddying.  But I understand it was a good meeting, and I'm going to get briefed tomorrow, and a lot of good things were discussed and we're making progress, so I'll wait to hear the report.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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