home jobs contact us
Our Clients:
Browse by Sport
Find us on ASAP sports on Facebook ASAP sports on Twitter
ASAP Sports RSS Subscribe to RSS
Click to go to
ASAP Sports e-Brochure View our


September 11, 2003

Tim Finchem


BOB COMBS: Welcome, thank you very much for being here this morning. I'm Bob Combs of the PGA TOUR staff. It's a big week for this community, and a number of us at the PGA TOUR have been fortunate to come here and to see what incredible strength this community has, the volunteer base, the crowds, what you do for charity, see the golf course this week and hear our players talk about it, you're all truly set for a terrific week of competition.

Before I bring up our honored speaker this morning, I'd like to acknowledge the presence of some of our title sponsor memberships, particularly sponsorship by Sam Allen who's with us. Also we're fortunate to have the kind of executive board that we have, Mark Kilmer of our volunteer charity with us as well as several executive committee members. Thanks to all of you. I'd like to introduce and bring up the PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem who's had such a strong role to play in the continued growth and development of this tournament. He's going to make a few overview comments and be happy to take your questions afterwards and then we'll have a special ceremony and presentation immediately following. Let me ask Tim Finchem to come on up.

TIM FINCHEM: Thank you very much. Good morning, everybody. Let me just make a few general comments, and I would, as Bob mentioned, enjoy trying to answer any of your questions. It's been about three years since I was here last, and I'm delighted to be back. I've heard a lot of good things about what's happened here from our staff. The tournament has progressed well, and I'd just like to comment a little bit on each of those.

I had a nice visit this morning with the members of the board here, and I'd just like to share with you some thoughts.

First of all, our relationship with John Deere, when we were here I guess six years ago and we announced a new relationship, a new direction between the PGA TOUR and Deere, we were excited then, and I must say in looking back on it, the relationship with the John Deere Company has been more than we had even anticipated.

We all recognize that John Deere is one of the most recognizable, respected brands in the country, and we'd like to think -- the PGA TOUR is a solid brand, and if you accept that notion for a minute, this is a union and a partnership between two of the great brands in the world, each of which represents an awful lot of great things in a partnership, something very, very special.

We sensed then, however, as we announced a few months ago and extended further that relationship, here with the sponsorship of the tournament through 2010 on the TOUR with our licensing agreements for equipment and landscape products through 2014, so it is one of our relationships that has perhaps the longest continuity into the future of any relationship that we have, and given, again, the quality of the John Deere Company and the people at John Deere, that's really special to us.

John Deere and the people there have really stepped up to put energy into this relationship to make it work in ways, as I indicated earlier, that go beyond our expectations, and I just want to thank everybody involved. I know Sam is here and I'm going to have lunch a little bit later with Bob Lane, but the entire team at Deere has been a terrific team to work with, and we're delighted with all the progress we've made.

With respect to the tournament, the John Deere Classic, this is a great story. I told the members of the board a little bit earlier that as I go around the country and talk to tournaments about the whole idea of giving back to communities, something that we cherish as part of our culture, the players support the notion of leaving some $75 million this year behind in communities where we play. Obviously a culture, part of our culture that pays great dividends in terms of the reputation of our sport, the interest of companies to invest in our sport, but the reason I talk about John Deere in other cities is because I look at the Byron Nelson tournament which is the leader in total dollars, and I look at the John Deere Classic, which is not just -- we'd like to say it's the leader in the per capita commitment in the community in terms of charitable giving and very, very special, but it also ranks the top half of our tournaments generally in terms of total contributions. So it shows what can happen when the community comes together and utilizes PGA TOUR golf for community purpose, and it's a great example of what can happen.

When we created a couple of new tournaments this year in Charlotte and Boston, when we were working with our existing tournaments, we point to the John Deere Classic as an example of what can happen when you get energy harnessed.

So I like to start with that because it's really important.

Beyond that, the operations of the tournament, I just went around the golf course with some of the tournament staff, Clair Peterson, our tournament director, and some of our other folks, and the operations, the staging, the look of the tournament, the promotion of the tournament are all handled at a level to parallel any PGA TOUR event, and that is a credit to the commitment to get better every year, and as we look back over the last five or six years, this tournament has really grown as a result of that commitment and its leadership.

We think that as we look at and evaluate tournaments on the operational side, everything from how players are handled to fan enhancements, experience on-site, the promotion of the other 51 weeks of the year and all those different things that this tournament is being managed very, very well in an A plus fashion, and we couldn't be more delighted.

The TPC here at Deere Run, this is a D.A. Weibring designed golf course. When I came here years ago to announce the construction out here in the field, we had an excited player with some architectural experience who wanted to build something special, and we had a partner in John Deere that knew something about growing grass, and what a combination it was.

I think the thing that sets this golf course apart, I mean, it's good-looking and works well, it's a good venue, Golf Digest has ranked it I guess No. 42 among golf courses that you can play, that you can come in and play, anybody, but I think what was special about the development of this golf course was D.A. Weibring's passion, his personal commitment.

You know, a lot of people have architectural skills in golf course development. It's not every day you see an architect really put his heart and soul into what can happen. He had a great piece of land to deal with. To have a dedicated golf course, what we call a core golf course without development around it, all the banks of the river here and rolling terrain is very special, but he laid this golf course in there so it looks like it's been there a long time, and so we were off to a good start.

Now we have a terrific superintendent in Chris Hague, who has taken advantage of a great golf course layout from a strategic standpoint, and really brought it to fruition from a conditioning standpoint. I think the players you've heard from this week are delighted with the conditioning. It's now set up in a way because of that conditioning where we could have an even better championship here, so we're very, very pleased with that as well.

We've had great player feedback this week. The staff and members of the board earlier were asking me why do you think we had some other players come this year, and the first and foremost reason is the golf course. The word of mouth about the golf course throughout the TOUR the last few years has been very positive. With the change in date, it gave the opportunity for some players who don't play or haven't scheduled themselves on some of the other dates we've played here to come. They wanted to play, they took advantage of the opportunity, and the reputation of the golf course among the players is very, very solid.

We could not be more delighted as to what's happened here, what's happening this week, the partnership we have with this community continues, and I look forward to meeting with Bob Lane and telling him about our enthusiasm because to be quite candid when the players are as enthusiastic as they are, it makes my job a little easier and it helps me to have an easier day.

Let me shift for a minute and give you a few thoughts about the PGA TOUR and where we are generally this year. I suppose I could sum it up in this way, that I can't imagine if you're a what we call a core golf fan, somebody that follows PGA TOUR golf, that we could find a better year competitively in terms of what's happened. We've had it all already, and we've got a ways to go. We've got a wide open race for Player of the Year with a bunch of multiple winners in there, about eight multiple winners and a couple of young guys who broke through winning major championships, so we've got a wide open race for the Arnold Palmer for leading money winner. We have a bunch of players in there in their 40s who have played stellar golf this year, Jay Haas, Craig Stadler, Peter Jacobsen, Nick Price. I know Peter is playing this week.

We had a good indication of the future of the PGA TOUR with the quality of play from our younger players this year, this tremendous group of young players that's coming into the PGA TOUR, a number of whom are in the field this week. Just to mention a few, Baddeley, Barnes, Gossett, Kuchar, Kuehne, all here, and so what else could you ask for? We've got a little bit of everything, and it's just terrific from a competitive standpoint. So we're delighted about that.

Now we go through these last couple of months leading up -- we're all excited about the finish of THE TOUR Championship, we've got a Presidents Cup coming up that's going to be terrifically exciting historically in South Africa bringing the best players in the world to that continent for the first time, and particularly in South Africa is going to be a fundamentally powerful experience for South Africa, for golf in South Africa and we think for PGA TOUR golf everywhere.

We have a number of Presidents Cup players here this week in Love, Leonard, Funk, and of course the assistant captain Jeff Sluman, who Jack Nicklaus selected to assist him in preparing the team and conducting the competition.

So we've got a lot of golf left and it's going to be delightful to watch and see what's going to happen with these various individual races, but that said, overall, the PGA TOUR is extremely healthy. I would only point out, I'd like to talk about these subjects, but I know we have to go on to questions, but let me just make two points about where we are. We are one of only two sports, NASCAR being the other, whose television ratings are up on average over the last five years, which in and of itself is unique. Secondly, I think that the number of sponsors who have come forward to the PGA TOUR, the Champions Tour, the Nationwide Tour during a recession has put us in a position from a sponsor based standpoint, we are actually stronger today than we were going into the recession, and we said all through that, we answered your questions all through that period, yes, we are going to be fully sponsored, but to have that kind of demonstration of confidence in the future of this sport is rewarding, but beyond that, clearly sets us in a nice position as we go forward.

Finally, let me just mention that from the long-term perspective of the PGA TOUR, the challenge is diversity and growth, and we can't have growth without diversity. We have to think long-term when we think about diversity, and that's why we're so excited about the First Tee program, which is going to do an exciting experiment in public schools this year with the Snag Program, which we're excited about, but that is the future of growing diversity in the game, and we really believe that as we go through this next generation, the game of golf in the United States will look like the rest of the country.

I'd be happy to answer any of your questions.

Q. Speaking of the future and the PGA and what you're looking at on the horizon, can you talk a little bit about projects on the horizon for the PGA TOUR, specifically the PGA Village in Central Texas?

TIM FINCHEM: That's a PGA of America project. That's our sister organization based in Palm Beach, Florida, which is the National Association of Club Professionals, PGA of America. So where that is in terms of their permitting and the extent to which they're going to move forward has been going on for a while and I really couldn't give you much detail on that. When you say projects, are you referring to golf course projects?

Q. Yes, sir.

TIM FINCHEM: We are well under construction in New Orleans with a facility designed by Pete Dye that will be the home of what has been referred to as the Compaq Classic over the last few years, Compaq has been merged with HP, but we're really excited about that facility. Pete has done a terrific job. It's a great piece of land, not similar to this, but similar in the sense that it is as well a core golf course property.

We are opening this year in Los Angeles the TPC at Valencia, California, just across the street from the Valencia Country Club where we play the SBC Champions Tour event. A tremendous piece of property, one of the prettiest pieces of property you'd ever want to see, little valleys out there with oak groves. We are under construction outside of Dallas at Craig Ranch on the northeast side of Dallas with a Tom Weiskopf designed facility. So we have some projects coming forward.

We're being, I think, quite selective in how we grow at this point in time, and with the economy off, our growth has slowed somewhat, but if we're working on two or three projects at any given time, we think that's a nice number from a management standpoint.

Q. Commissioner, when this tournament moves back to July, what's the TOUR's thoughts? Are you anxiously watching the effect of the field as it continues to grow and is there any thought of getting it away from the British Open down the road?

TIM FINCHEM: Well, I answered this question earlier. We're certainly set through '06, and yes, we will evaluate it carefully. We thought that given this particular schedule, having the opportunity for a number of players who haven't played here to actually be on the golf course would probably result in an improvement in the field or some other players playing, regardless of where it went from here, and I suspect that will be the case, but we will evaluate that carefully. As far as post-'06 goes, I just don't know at this point where we're going to come out. We do our schedule in four-year blocks, so we'll be doing '07, '08, '09 and '10 to prepare for television discussions in '05, and there's a lot of moving pieces, a lot of issues that fallout of the scheduling process, but we're going to work through it and work very closely with the tournament here. We already know in general what they'd like to see happen, and we'll see where we come out, but right now it's a little -- we haven't really got into the scheduling process. We'll do that next year.

Q. Can you address how many tournaments are fully sponsored through '06 at this point?

TIM FINCHEM: All but --

Q. I'm sorry, I didn't mean '06, I meant '10.

TIM FINCHEM: Oh, just two or three. We just started the process of extending past '06. AT&T is extended to '10, we have two through '08, John Deere through '10, but it's next year that we really start the process of extensions, but our objective would be to do a lot of extensions early because when we do that it allows, as is the case here, there's no mystery here, so the tournament can work closely with the title sponsor. They know the relationship they're going to have and they concentrate on other things without worrying about turnover, so it's a nice thing to have and you can get more done in terms of long-term planning and execution, and I think if you ask the folks here they'd probably echo that.

Q. On the subject of long-term planning, what is the future for some tournaments? I know there's talk about Seattle, talk about Minneapolis getting an event. Can you talk about what's in and what's going to be out in the near future as far as events?

TIM FINCHEM: Well, again, it would be speculative. We some years ago had a list of cities we'd like to play in. It included Seattle. We still don't play there, although we played the World Golf Championship there last year. Portland, we now have an event on the Champions Tour in Portland. Boston, we now have Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston. Minnesota, we have a really first-class Champions Tour event in Minnesota, now 3M is the sponsor. St. Louis and Indianapolis might be on that list today. We were supposed to play but for what happened two years ago today, we would have played a World Golf Championship already in St. Louis at Belle Rive. We cancelled all our tournaments that week after 9/11, and we'd like to go back there, and maybe it would be for a World Golf Championship, I just don't know.

So the objective of trying to get PGA TOUR golf reasonably in front of our bigger markets is being met, and I don't think we have a lot of areas crying out for being ignored at this point, but we have a couple things we need to attend to. One of the nice things about having the World Golf Championships is we have the flexibility to move those things around a little bit and it gives us the opportunity to impact some of these other markets.

Q. You mentioned what happened two years ago today. Can you talk about what that day was like for you and how that's impacted the tour in the two years since?

TIM FINCHEM: I was in a board meeting in North Carolina, and we had two directors on a speaker phone, one of whom it was about 5:00 o'clock in the morning his time in San Francisco, and he said I just looked at my television here and I just saw a plane crash into the World Trade Center. The thought that flashed through my mind is what is a prop plane doing over the City of New York, and I said what kind of plane was it, and he said it was kind of a big plane. I said, are there weather problems? He said no, it's a bright sky. At that point in time, who could have envisioned the ripple effects? It was tough. I was going into some meeting the other day in a building and it took 20 minutes to get through security, this, that and the other, and the cost to this country and the ripple effects of our daily lives which will never be changed, what happened in 20 minutes, is just enormous.

In terms of the PGA Tour directly, we had some short-term impact with tournaments being cancelled. We raised, I guess, $5 million for the relief funds in Washington and New York in short order. We were already working on security significantly, but we greatly intensified our security. The Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup schedules were all pushed back a year. Our players have gone through -- anybody who flies has gone through all those hassles. The security focus that we have as we plan movement of players or as we plan visits has changed. It's just a ripple effect that goes on and on and on.

Q. Do you plan to stay with the 48 events scheduled?

TIM FINCHEM: I don't know for sure. That's something that would be part of our -- one of the factors that we deal with in the scheduling process is how many weeks and how many events, how many weeks do we have two events and all of that. I don't really know at this point. Frankly I'm trying to keep my mind open on these issues, let others sort of prepare their arguments one way or the other, and then we'll start to have it out in January and it will be a multi-month project because it has a lot of important ramifications. We take this part of our business very seriously.

Q. Do you have a feel for how fans respond to the current parity versus a Tiger domination, a few names in a dogfight?

TIM FINCHEM: A great question. Sometimes it's harder to take the temperature of the fans than it is with what the media writes. What the media writes and comments on is fascinating to me because when Tiger is winning eight times and locks up Player of the Year in August, we answer questions about what are you going to do to create some competition for Tiger, and when he wins three or four times and he's second on the money list and there's six or eight guys in the hunt, then we're answering the question, gee whiz, how are you dealing with the fact that these new guys are breaking through and what are you going to do if Tiger Woods doesn't dominate anymore.

My perception is fundamental, and certainly our research focus groups when we talk to the fans is they like it both ways. They liked it when Jack Nicklaus dominated, and in all these years after Nicklaus and Watson when we were answering the question all through the 80s and early 90s, where is your dominant player, the fans were growing the PGA TOUR. During those years the Tour really had solid growth, and the fans like to see good golf.

Now, it helps to have stars to bring in new fans, no question about it. Some of the people that are here this week who haven't been here are bringing more fans to the John Deere Classic. So new fans, it's fundamental to have stars, but to have stars they've got to win something. So when Ben Curtis wins the British Open, he then positions himself to become well-known to become a star. You've got to start somewhere. If you go back -- this is an interesting thing. If you go back 30 years and you track the growth of the PGA TOUR from the size of our fan base, which today over 100 million Americans over the age of 12 indicate that they watch and follow some PGA TOUR golf. You look at the size of the fan base, you look at the size of television ratings, you look at purse growth, charity growth, you look at all the measurements, there's a direct correlation between all that and the number of recognizable name players on the PGA TOUR, which 30 years ago might have been 20, and today is 70, 80, 90.

So that is a -- now, would you trade Tiger Woods for anything? No. To have the most recognizable individual in the world in athletics in your sport, you don't trade that for anything. He is phenomenally impactful. But behind him it's great to have -- if he's going to be the number one player in the world, the more recognizable players we have, it's great, so that's why this year is terrific.

The other thing is a lot of people ask your question or have your question on their minds, which I know is why you want to write it, because you know your readers are interested in it, and that's a great thing. People are talking about it, is this good, what's going to happen, Tiger is not dominating, gee whiz, he's been our -- that's good, that creates conversation, and when people are talking about your sport, that's a good thing.

Q. Commissioner, there's a perception in the community that Deere Run is struggling a little bit financially or there are rumors to that effect. Could you address that situation and the future of this facility?

TIM FINCHEM: Well, we don't as a general rule share the detailed financial information of a club. We don't see any reason to do that. I'll just say that we feel like this club is on very solid financial footing. We're still here because of that. When we're not here anymore, you can ask me why we left, but I think we're in good shape, and we feel real good about what's happened here on all fronts.

End of FastScripts.

About ASAP SportsFastScripts ArchiveRecent InterviewsCaptioningUpcoming EventsContact Us
FastScripts | Events Covered | Our Clients | Other Services | ASAP in the News | Site Map | Job Opportunities | Links
ASAP Sports, Inc. | T: 1.212 385 0297