July 1, 2003
BOB COMBS: Thank you for coming here to the 100th Western Open presented by Golf Digest. There are a couple of parts to today's program, the Commissioner is going to give an update on our policy board meeting to answer any questions on that or any other topics and then we'll move to the second part of the program where we have some pretty dynamic announcements about the current status of this tournament and its future.
So to kick things off, let me bring up the PGA TOUR Commissioner, Tim Finchem.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Thank you very much. Thanks for having us here this week. On behalf of the players and the staff, we've had a good board meeting last two days and I'm going to start with an announcement coming out of that board meeting. We may have some details coming out of the meeting that we'll talk about in a few days.
As all of you know, we have been meeting regularly with the USGA and the R&A to some extent over the last couple of years in looking at the overall issues related to the questions on equipment used in the game. The proposed regulations that have been discussed over the last couple of years by the USGA and by golf organizations, we had a meeting last night with the United States Golf Association representatives, and this morning we presented and received approval from our board on a position statement regarding equipment which has a number of components, and I'd just like to share it with you for a moment and then answer any questions.
First of all, philosophically as we have said in the past, we believe that there needs to be and the USGA believes reasonable limits on technology in the game. We recognize that technology will always advance.
We recognize that as part of that, the current initiatives with regard to monitoring COR, coefficient of resolution in the clubhead, and the overall distance standard, are appropriate limitations to that philosophy. We also believe strongly that the credibility of the process in testing equipment and monitoring the impact of those regulations is paramount to have a system that we all have confidence in.
We further believe that going forward after these rules are fully implemented, we need a thorough and careful research and monitoring of their impact, research and monitoring of what's happening in the game from the standpoint of clubhead speed and the related affects that it has on distance and the further related he it has on the challenge of the game, given the golf courses we play.
Consequently, the board has approved a position statement which will be handed out to you, but which in sum, includes the following, that we believe in these limitations, reasonable limitations, and that we as the PGA TOUR are committed to partnering with the USGA and the R&A to do the following things:
One, to conduct necessary research in the technology area, to develop appropriate rules, to communicate to the media and the public the actions taken and the result as achieved, to monitor on a regular and consistent basis whether the equipment rules have achieved the intended purposes, and finally to modify those rules in the future as circumstances warrant.
In terms of the proposed rules related to the spring like effect or coefficient of restitution, we support the new characteristic time which is generally referred to as CT, measurement method and the related use of the pendulum tester to measure CT in the clubhead.
We ask for implementation of the pendulum tester on the PGA TOUR no later than January 1, 2004. And further, our board has approved if the USGA should fail or delay implementation of the pendulum tester beyond January 1, 2004, then we will consider adopting that measurement method of CT and the pendulum tester for PGA TOUR competitions regardless.
The pendulum tester and CT have been referred to our equipment committee to work closely with the USGA over the next few months to iron out any continuing questions that have been raised about its efficacy, and we look forward to implementing it on the Tour no later than January 1, and perhaps sooner.
With respect to those rules related to the golf ball, we support the indoor test range two initiative as currently proposed by the USGA. This initiative in effect draws a line in the sand as currently configured. What I mean by that is that the golf balls that are currently approved would continue to be approved for use on the PGA TOUR. But the balls that surpass the overall distance standard as measured by this new testing schematic would not be approved, and the effect of that is that we are effectively drawing the line in the sand of the distance from the golf ball where it currently is.
I hasten to point out that, that means with current testing, and as clubhead speeds continue to accelerate as the average athleticism of the players on the PGA TOUR increase, that would mean the distance the ball is going to go will continue to grow somewhat, but we envision at a very slow rate, and not caused by jumps in equipment or technology.
Further, we urge the implementation of this ITR Phase 2 by the USGA no later than June 1 of 2004. With those two rules in effect, we will then commence a very systematic cooperative effort with the USGA to monitor whether or not our current assumptions as they relate to the ball and the clubhead are correct, and to make the results of that monitoring available to the media and to the public. Consequently, our board has approved a further restitution that calls on us to partner with the USGA and the R&A to collect relevant data, using a variety of testing techniques including our ShotLink system, including but not limited to the distance of the golf ball, club selection and swing speeds at the players of the highest level.
We will also partner to gauge the opinion of the public about equipment in our game, and to share that opinion impact as it relates to technology and its impact on the professional entertainment side of the sport with our board and the USGA.
As a consequence, we will be aggressive in our communication of what is happening with these new rules in place.
Finally, our board has approved that going forward, we will continue testing and looking at, as we evaluate public opinion, as we evaluate the impact of changes that of increased athleticism on the game, we will continue to look at additional modifications, should they become necessary. If our assumptions today are incorrect, we want to be in a position to take additional steps if we find them necessary.
I'd be happy to answer any questions that arise out of this or other items.
Q. You said you're going to have monitoring on a regular basis, can you walk through what that entails, is there going to be like a testing center on the first tee and how is that going to work?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No, it would not be on the first tee. We are going to measure what our average clubhead speeds are on the PGA TOUR are. We are going to measure where the highest clubhead speeds are. We are going to measure, because of our ShotLink capability now, we can measure precisely what's happening with distance. We will add club selection to the array of evaluations that are in ShotLink. We will continue to work with the USGA in their new, upgraded testing capabilities, so we will know and monitor very carefully what is happening with the game, and we will take the mystery out of it. And by applying these rules and monitoring, we hope to hamper down the rumor mill a little bit in terms of what is happening. But also, we'll be able to communicate effectively what is really happening.
Now, based on that, we will also evaluate and monitor and research what people think about it, much more systematically than we have in the past, to be able to understand as we talk about options, maybe, in five or ten or 15 years, if they should become relevant, what the impact of those options might be.
Today, there is a lot of questioning, skepticism about what this would do to the game, what that would do to the game and we really don't know. So, we are going to be doing some research in that area.
Our hope is that by the USGA moving to make these rules effective, that these jumps that we've seen since 1996, 1997, will turn back to what we saw from 1980 to 1996, which was technological improvements to make the game more fun but not the kind of jumps that we have seen. And that will take the pressure off changes in the golf course, take the pressure off the argument that the game is somehow revolutionary and it's changed and give us a comfort level going forward. So we will be monitoring and looking at a whole range of things.
Q. Will, in January 1 of next year, you have either random or mandatory test of the COR of any of the clubs in players bags?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: We will employ the pendulum tester and we intend to employ it no later than January 1. It could be earlier, but no later than January 1 of 2004. That is just a device that allows players to determine whether their clubhead is conforming. That machine will be available to manufacturers, to test clubs as before they are distributed to players. It will be available to players to test their clubs. It's not mandatory, but a player who has the opportunity to make sure his equipment is conforming, by and large, will take advantage of it, because as -- and I want to clear up one point.
There was an article in the New York Times last week about the question of testing players equipment, and somehow this is a departure from the past; that's not the case. Currently, if we receive knowledge by players or from any source that golf balls, golf clubs, putters are non-conforming, we often take action to test that equipment. We sometimes randomly ask for golf balls to test and have done so many times in the past ten years. We check putters to see if they are conforming to the Rules of Golf, when a player brings it to our attention. And same thing with club heads, wedges, grip configurations and the rest; so this is nothing new. It's just taking the mystery out of the equation.
The rumors are running rampant right now and we need to get the rumors out of the game, and the only way to do it is to be able to verify, and this is a system that allows us to verify without having to take the clubhead apart.
Q. The portable COR testing, the implementation, will it be on the range for people to use and it will not be mandatory; it will be voluntary?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: It will be voluntary. Although, it can be mandatory -- inaudible -- for whatever reason they have the authority to do that. But it would be voluntary. I don't know the details of where but it will be in a location that's convenient to the players.
Q. Is there a protocol for if Player A suspects Player B of having equipment that is non-conforming, what's the protocol for dealing with that?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Player A can go and discuss it with one of our officials, and they have in the past. It's nothing -- I just want to stress, there's nothing new here in any of this. This whole equation has been part of the PGA TOUR for years. If a player has a sand wedge that the grooves of which don't meet the specifications, needs to be checked out, the official goes and checks it out and determines whether it's conforming or not. It happens all the time.
Q. You mentioned the portable testing unit for clubs. Is there also something that will be portable for testing golf balls, as well?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Yeah, a little bit more difficult. What we do with those is we send them to -- typically if we want to test golf balls, we give them to the USGA, and they do the test and they report the findings.
Q. Will this equipment be at every stop on the PGA TOUR next year, and do you anticipate the rules committee to be a little more aggressive in their vigilance of equipment?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I think the rules committee is reasonably aggressive and appropriately aggressive with the Rules of Golf generally, so I see no need for them to be more aggressive.
The machine will be actually on-site at all of our tours, Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour and PGA TOUR, for at least a period of time, maybe always. But we'll see how that works out.
The first few weeks, we will have USGA staff on site with us during the initial period when we probably have a fair amount of equipment being tested. We'll decide what the staff complement necessary is after that.
We would anticipate that the testing device would be made available, certainly at USGA events. The PGA of America and Augusta National have to make a determination on that themselves.
Q. We talked about the rumors going around, what was your reaction to having Tiger Woods, No. 1 player in the world, infer that he thinks there are clubs out there that are non-conforming and the impact of those statements?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, he isn't the first, so, my reaction as it was in other cases. I think there are a good number of players who hear rumors about or see things that lead them to believe, or something happens with respect to a club that results in an impression that there a non-conforming drivers. We've seen it with golf balls for the last ten years. There is no reason for us to believe at this point in time, nor do we have any evidence to indicate that there is any player on the PGA TOUR that's using a driver that's non-conforming.
On COR, the reality is, is that if COR is at .830, right at the limit, and the next driver is at .850, which is significantly higher than the limit, it's not going to result in a huge amount distance increase. It's a few yards. But, that aside, a good number of players question, because of things they hear, representations that are made to them and things they see on the golf course about whether that is necessarily the case.
So, to take the mystery out of it, we need to test, just like we test golf balls, just like we check -- we have measurement equipment on site that checks groove configuration. We check grooves a lot. It's just another area of equipment that needs to be tested. And Tiger is just one of a number of players that have brought it to my attention.
We shared the actual machine with our player advisory council back in May at the Byron Nelson before Tiger said anything. So, I don't think he should be singled out just because he is the No. 1 player in the world as the driving force. I think the players are fairly uniform in wanting to make sure that the equipment that they are using individually is conforming.
Q. How much, if at all, have the equipment companies been consulted with regards to the efficacy of the so-called pendulum tester, and if they have not been, will they be at some point?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: They are. They just went through a three-month -- it was a three-month comment period that the USGA provided them an opportunity to comment. A number of them have commented. A number of them have raised some questions that do need to be evaluated and answered; that the USGA is working on and we are working on in collaboration with the USGA. But thus far, we don't see anything that would be a barrier to moving ahead in this direction, and also, in their comments, even from time to time they have raised questions.
My sense is that a number of them see and agree with the efficacy of the machine.
Q. Did the board consider toughening the penalties for someone who is found to be using illegal equipment, and if not, what is the current penalty, besides perhaps being disqualified from that event?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Disqualification in our judgment has been a significant enough penalty to discourage the use of non-conforming equipment. No player out here wants to be disqualified. There's no reason to toughen the penalties.
Q. As you know, Tiger three or four times in the last three weeks has said that he believes there are hot-faced drivers on the TOUR. If I heard you right, you said there's no reason to believe there are any players on the Tour using non-conforming; is that a way of saying you disagree with his allegation?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No. I have no reason to believe that there is no evidence that has come to me that any player on the PGA TOUR is using non-conforming equipment. It really doesn't matter, because as the rule is approved and we shift to CT, characteristic time, and with the pendulum tester, players will all have the comfort level of knowing that their equipment is conforming. So there's no sense in debating the semantics of who said what. The issue will be taken care of and the rumor mill will be put to bed.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Let me say we have had a tremendous start to our season this first half. We have eight players now who have won multiple times, seven players who have won multiple times, and Jim Furyk. We have a wide-open race for Player of the Year, and we are delighted with how the season has progressed as we come here to the Western Open and help celebrates it's one 100th year of competition.
We recognize the Western Golf Association, not only for 103 years of its efforts to grow the game, but also, the tremendous work its done with the Evans Scholar Program and foundation over the years. I don't think any tournament better represents the history of the PGA TOUR than this one. It has great champions, great tradition, a great cause in the Evans Scholar Foundation.
With that in mind, I'm pleased to offer some good news in regard to their Western Open's immediate future. As you know, we have partnered with Golf Digest this year as the on-site presenting sponsor for the Western Open.
In moving forward, however, the next few years, it's obviously been our goal to secure a title sponsor, and today we are pleased to be able to verify that Lilly ICOS has signed a multi-year he agreement to title the Western Open beginning in 2004.
As many of you know, Lilly ICOS has already been supportive of the Western Golf Association and Evans Scholar Foundation, but is significantly expanding its relationship with today's announcement. More details will be given at a later date, including the future name of the tournament. At this time, however, I'd like to turn the podium over to Paul Clark, the president and CEO who has some remarks to make. Paul?
PAUL CLARK: As an avid golfer myself and a prior long-term resident of Chicago, it's great to be part of such a long-standing tradition as the Western Open and to partner with the Western Golf Association.
I know how important developing strategic partnerships can be, to achieving long-term success. Selecting the right partner and being the right partner are both critical. ICOS is a biotechnology company in Seattle founded in 1990. Several years ago, we came up with Lilly ICOS, one of the most respected pharmaceutical companies in the world, to develop exciting new medications, medications that we are confident will improve the lives of those who take them.
Lilly ICOS chose to partner with the Western Golf Association because of its heritage, its prestige and commitment to excellence. We also share a common audience: Men and women who enjoy a certain quality of life, a life that's relaxing, invigorating and full of special moments.
Speaking of special moments, there have been many special golf moments for the Western Golf Association. The Western Golf Association's proud history dates back to its founding in 1899 and Lilly (ph) was a founding member. Chicago has hosted more U.S. Opens than any other city. On a personal note, one of our regional sales manager was an Evans scholar. Lilly (ph) is proud to be entering this new partnership with the Western Golf Association.
Tim, turn it back over to you.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Again, this is a very special week for the Western Open and I am asking Jerry Kelly to join me in a couple special presentations.
On behalf the PGA TOUR I would like to present a special Commissioner's Award to the Western Golf Association in recognition of their 100th year, and to receive that, I would like to ask Buffy, the president of the Western Golf Association, to come up and receive this award on behalf of the Association.
Let me read to you the inscription that appears on the base. "Presented to the Western Golf Association to commemorate a century of significant contributions to the growth of golf and the Evans Scholar Fund, from your friends at the PGA TOUR, July 1, 2003, Tim Finchem, Commissioner." (Applause).
R.E. MAYERSTEIN: It's the symbolism of it, is truly valuable to us. We appreciate the relationship with the PGA TOUR, this being our 100th tournament, the longest running one on the PGA TOUR. Today, also marks a milestone, hopefully starting our second one hundred years with our relationship with Lilly ICOS. We are looking forward to it being a long-term relationship in and one that's very enjoyable to all of us in the situation.
This year is especially important to us, also, because the tournament has generated a tremendous amount of funds to our principle beneficiary, the Evans Scholar Program, which has enabled over 8,600 people to go to school, and there are 820 of them in school right now. I believe we are going to have Mr. Finchem have a special presentation to them now.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: The Evans Scholar Foundation dates back to 1930, and over 8,000 people, as Buffy mentioned have gone through the program. I would like to ask Kyle Healey who is an Evans scholar from Miami University and the National Committee president to come up and join us.
Kyle on behalf of the PGA TOUR, it is my pleasure to ask Jerry to present you a check for $100,000 to the Evans Scholar Foundation to help kick-start the next 100 years of Western Open support for the program. Congratulations to you and the scholars.
KYLE HEALEY: It's an honor to accept this check on behalf the Evans School Foundation. I'd like to thank Commissioner Finchem, the PGA TOUR and all of their sponsors for their continued support of the Evans scholars. The Western Open has long been a large source of funding, and throughout this week, the scholars are volunteering their time to give back what they have been given from the foundation.
I have come to realize I could never give back what this organization has given me. With some of the financial stress of college lifted off my shoulders I was able to go to Luxemburg and study for a semester. An alumni put me in a position in Brussels, Belgium. But above all that I made some lifetime friends. Towards the end of the last school year I had an interesting encounter with an alumni, and he was explaining to me what was most impressive to him about our organization. He said, "Evans scholars are caddies, but most impressive thing about that is they show up to the office every day an hour early, not knowing whether or not they are going to be able to work that day." He said, "If my business was full of those people, it would be twice as successful." Well, I'm lucky enough to live in a house with such young men and women of high character.
And I want to thank, again, the PGA TOUR and all of it's sponsors for their support and I really look forward to caddying for Tiger Woods tomorrow. Thank you.
JERRY KELLY: One question I wanted to answer about all of the new testing going on. I guarantee you, there is not one single player that knowingly is using any equipment that is non-conforming. Our job is to trust the men and women who make the clubs, test the clubs, send it to the USGA and they give it to us with our knowledge completely thinking that everything we use is conforming.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: And if I could also, to your earlier question, if I could maybe clarify a little bit. The danger here is to, if you said there are some drivers out there that exceed current COR level, the implication is that a player is knowingly using a piece of non-conforming equipment.
So, in my response to your question, to make sure that we are clear, I have no reason to believe that any player is knowingly using any piece of non-conforming equipment. Having said that, we have, with golf balls, grooves, putters, instances where a player receives a club or a piece of equipment, thinks it's conforming, uses it and there's a problem. The difficulty with COR is you can't look at the club and tell whether it's conforming. So, the possibilities of that happening going undetected are greater with that particular limitation than other things.
This new technology and testing equipment allows us to make sure on site that that doesn't happen. And that's the one of the reasons we want to do that.
So, I hope that everybody understands that point.
Q. Will you have all of your drivers tested and do you anticipate that all of the other players will as well?
JERRY KELLY: Absolutely. If anybody wants to test any of my equipment at any time I would be happy to give it up. And I would be happy to give up the check that I had won with an illegal driver if somebody came up to me after the tournament and said, I think the driver -- that's not a position anybody wants to be in. Everybody will do whatever Tim and the rest of the USGA, whatever they deem the equipment standards are going to be, we want to follow them a thousand percent. That's what we are here to do, play by the rules and win golf tournaments within the rules.
Q. What will the name fully be and how long is the sponsorship for?
PAUL CLARK: We are not prepared today to announce the name. We are announcing the sponsorship of the tournament, which we are very excited to do, we are very much looking forward to working with the Western Golf association. With regard to the term, it's 2004 through 2006, so it is a longer-term relationship, which we are thrilled to be here.
End of FastScripts....