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August 23, 2000

Tim Finchem


JAMES CRAMER: Good afternoon everyone. My name is James Cramer, and I am the Manager of Communications and Media Relations for the World Golf Championships. I'd like to welcome you to the 2000 World Golf Championships NEC Invitational. This afternoon we have PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem to update us on the World Golf Championships and the rest of this year, and looking forward to 2001. Ladies and gentlemen, PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem. (Applause.)

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Thank you very much. We'd certainly like to start by thanking, again, the Akron community for their tremendous hospitality and support for this event, and to announce that the World Golf Championships NEC Invitational is totally sold out this year. 30,000 tickets were sold, which is all that were printed. All of the hospitality has been sold, all of the sponsorships. So if you don't already have a ticket, you're not going to be out here at this tournament this week. We are delighted with the results of the sales effort and the support the community has shown to this fine championship. I would like to recognize some friends and dignitaries that are with us this week. From our sponsorship group and World of Golf and the International Federation of PGA Tours, first of all, Mr. Kato and Mr. Oyamada of NEC are with us. From the International Federation of PGA Tours representing each of the major tours: Mr. Shimada, representing the Japan Golf Tour. Mr. Louis Martin, the Chief Executive of the Southern Africa Tour. Seated to his left, Tony Morgan, representing the Asian Tour; and of course, our good friend, Ken Schofield, who is the long-time Executive Director of the European Tour. We also have with us the president of our host sponsor and supporter here in Akron, the Akron Golf Charities, Rick Burke. And a couple of other folks that I saw coming in. First of all, Jimmy Patino who is a great friend of golf around the world and will be our host at Valderrama in a few weeks for the American Express Championships. And I should note that Arthur Sandersen, who will be with us representing the Australasian Tour, has been delayed due to difficulty coming out of Dallas. We are delighted to have all of these folks with us as we enter this Championship week. I'd like to spend just a few minutes and cover where we have come and where we think we are with the World Golf Championships. First of all, when we introduced the concept of the World Golf Championships in 1997, we did it with the goal of better positioning professional golf and the organization of professional golf on a global basis, to reach more people, to excite more interest from fans worldwide, to alter our structures so that we could appeal to sponsors on a worldwide and global basis. And I think that after a year and a half of the World Golf Championships, that we are certainly moving toward achieving that mission. To give you some indication of the strength of the World Golf Championships and where we're headed, I'd just like to go through each of the years and give you an update on where we are. First of all, for the remainder of 2000, our defending champion will be Tiger Woods. He defends this week, he defends at the American Express Championships in Valderrama, and he defends at the EMC World Cup, which has just been added this year as a World Golf Championships event in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on December 4-10. That event will be certainly the biggest event in the history of golf in Argentina and perhaps South America. Right now, after the Andersen Consulting Match Play, Darren Clarke leads in the Andersen Consulting Medal standings. And one of the questions going forward in the next remaining three events will be whether his lead in the Andersen Consulting Medal standings holds up. As you know the Andersen Consulting Medal is given to the player who earns the most cumulative money playing in the four World Golf Championships events, which was won last year by Tiger Woods. The 2001 schedule, first of all, the Andersen Consulting Match Play Championship will be played at the Metropolitan Golf Club Championship in Melbourne, Australia. We certainly recognize that there has been some concern about some players not planning to attend and play the Andersen Consulting Match Play in Melbourne. On the other hand, we are absolutely delighted with the response in Melbourne and in Australia, much like we had with the response to the Presidents Cup in 1998. The Presidents Cup in 1998 was the biggest event in the history of golf in Australia; and clearly, this will be the strongest worldwide field this year ever assembled for a golf tournament in Australia. We are excited about the quality of the field and the depth of the field that we will have. And as we have said many times, we don't expect every player to play every World Golf Championships. And we have been delighted with the field quality so far. But we anticipate a very successful Match Play Championship in Australia in January. The NEC Invitational will return here to Firestone Country Club again next year. Obviously, we are very pleased with the success of the tournament here in its first two years, not just the sales effort and the support of the community from a marketing standpoint, but the golf course is as good or better than it has ever been. The staff here at Firestone has worked extremely hard each year, and they have gotten better and better. And actually, this year, I think it is just perfect. And the players feel that way. It is hard to imagine it could be any better. Of course, when we have this golf course in this kind of condition, it results in great finishes; and that's certainly what we've had in the past. That's what we had last year, and look forward to that this year. The American Express Championship in 2001 will move to September. And as we have said in the past, we think that is a beneficial move from a player's scheduling standpoint. It also increases the number of options we have both in the United States and Europe, when it is played in the United States and Europe, from the standpoint of where geographically we can play. It brings into play significantly a number of golf venues that are available for us to schedule the tournament. In 2001, we will be playing at Bellerive Country Club, the site of the very successful 1998 PGA Championship. Our ticket sales in St. Louis will begin in November, and it's already quite clear that from the standpoint of the community support, the American Express Championship at Bellerive will be a tremendous success. The EMC World Cup in 2001 will be played at Taiheiyo Club in Japan, one of Japan's finest golf courses. We are indebted to the Japan Golf Tour and the Taiheiyo club for graciously agreeing to adjust their schedules to allow for the EMC World Cup to be played on the same date, and in lieu of the Taiheiyo Masters, one of the prestige events on the Japanese Tour. Coincidentally, 2001 will mark the 100th anniversary of golf in Japan, and bringing the best players in the world together in Japan at one of the best golf courses at the site of Mt. Fuji; that will be something that will be very, very positive for golf and Japan. One indication was when I went to Tokyo to officially announce the EMC World Cup in June a couple months ago, we had actually well over 100 representatives of the media from around Japan at the function in Tokyo. We had a very successful reception at the American Ambassador's residence, well attended by the corporate leadership of Japan, and we are just off to a tremendous start in preparing for the EMC World Cup to come to Japan next year. Some additional announcements for upcoming events, the Andersen Consulting Match Play Championship will return to La Costa in 2002, and will come back to the date it had in the first two years of the World Golf Championships; that being the last week of the West Coast Swing. In 2002, the NEC Invitational will be held at Sahalee Country Club just outside Seattle, Washington. And the General Manager of Sahalee is with us today, Bob Hollister, and I'd like to recognize him, sitting right down in front, who is with us in attendance with his wife, Jenny. And we are delighted to have Bob here to observe the NEC Invitational this week and to prepare for Sahalee in 2002. One of our objectives from the standpoint of looking at major markets around the world and around the United States certainly is to try to play in Seattle from time to time. The PGA Championship enjoyed a tremendous success there in 1998. We'd like to try to get to Seattle from time to time, and we are delighted that NEC is cooperating with us in playing there the one year. And, of course, Vijay won his first major championship there, and he may be looking forward to getting back. And I guess most of you know, Vijay withdrew, from a small boating accident that occurred last weekend, which is just another activity that we are going to put on the list that we do not allow our players to do. The 2002 American Express Championship and EMC World Cup sites will be announced in the near future. I would anticipate the American Express Championship being announced here in the next 30 days. Of course, that is being played in Europe, and Ken Schofield and his staff will be taking the lead on that announcement. But we anticipate that that will be finished up here in the next 30 days. Then we will turn our attention to the long-term scheduling of these events after 2002 as part of our -- as the Federation works through the post-2002 schedule. And of course, the PGA TOUR and the United States are doing the same thing in the same time frame, since all of our arrangements are set through 2002. Just a word about charity. We are delighted the World Golf Championships are having a significant impact on The First Tee, creating interest in The First Tee worldwide. Mr. Patino is taking the lead with support of the World Golf Championships in Valderrama to create a First Tee facility in Spain to get the program moving there; and we anticipate similar types of announcements over the next year. On Sunday of this week here, I think at 11 o'clock, we will have a major announcement, or a significant announcement on the status of the First Tee. Joe Louis Barrow, the Executive Director, will be with me along with Ty Votaw, the Executive Director of the LPGA. Just to summarize, and I'd be happy to take any of your questions. I think that, again, the purpose of the World Golf Championships and the objective of the World Golf Championships is to reorient professional golf, tie the Federation to competitions -- along with the major championships, along with the Volvo Championship, PGA Volvo Championship and other events. We can have a meaningful series of events through the course of the year where all of the best players in the world play, including the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup. And we think the mix that we have put together here is working to that end. It is manifesting itself in international television distribution, in sponsorship, and in benefits back to the players and the fans; and we think we are on the right course.

Q. I was just wondering if you had any preliminary negotiations or anything in mind for this course in 2003?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Not quite there yet. We will be doing -- we will probably get into intensive 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 plans next year. We are having preliminary conversations with members of the Federation now, but it will be toward the end of the year before we start to nail things down. A lot of different considerations. But certainly, this golf course supported by the Akron Golf Charities is where we want to play golf in the future of that, there is no question. It is just a question of how, and what is the mix in terms of the schedule, and the events and which events and things of that nature.

Q. Would there need to be an increase in the purse for that to happen?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, that's a different subject. We always like to see an increase in the purses. And as the market for golf grows, which it is, participation in golf grows, which it is, golf becoming more of a global sport, golf challenging in the United States, starting to challenge the major team sports, I think one has to conclude from all of that, that purses will continue to increase.

Q. There appear to be some changes due for Andersen Consulting in its own corporate world. I wonder if that will affect their participation in the World Golf Championships?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: You know, I cannot speak for them. Gary is here and I'm sure he would be happy to chat with you afterwards. We, however, in conversations with -- specific to your point, there seems to be at least from our perspective no change in the enthusiasm within Andersen Consulting for their involvement in golf, their involvement with the World Golf Championships. And my read of the changes that you refer to are they came out very beneficial to Andersen Consulting, and, of course, Andersen Consulting, having been a major supporter of the internationalization of the game over the last five or six years, we were delighted with the outcome. And from where I sit, I just assume we're going to have a continuing long-term relationship, and I don't see any change in the enthusiasm with their executive leadership in that regard.

Q. Given the fact that so many players from the Australasian Tour qualify from the Andersen Consulting, was it a mistake to go to Australia and, can you envision that tournament being played in anywhere but America or Europe in years to come?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, I don't think it was a mistake to go to Australia for that reason. I don't think it was a mistake to go to Australia at all. I think it might have been a mistake to go to Australia when we go to Australia. Players have so many different options these days, and when we take -- when we start to take away the very limited holiday that they have, it creates -- it creates difficulty. But I think that the World Golf Championships have to have international venues, and I think that -- I think it is fair to say that in the remaining World Golf Championships, they will be played on five different continents, between now and 2002. So, we have had a good international flavor. I think that needs to continue. I do think that asking European players to travel the distance that they have to travel on a holiday, and asking the American players, might not have been the smartest thing. Might not have been the smartest thing is probably the political way to put it. A better way to put it might be to say that: What's the point of being Irish if you cannot do things stupid now and then. It could have been scheduled better and I think those are some of the things we have to look back when we look at 2003 to 2006; do things the best we can. I think it's important to remember that the scheduling for these events, we are also trying to not do things to detract overly from the strength of the individual tours. And that's a very difficult thing to accomplish. We want to have a good mix of international events during the course of the year, but at the same time, we want to take steps that help the individual tours remain strong, because it is those tours that are leading the way to grow the game in those parts of the world; so it is not just a one-way situation from a scheduling standpoint.

Q. Do you have an indication of how many of the top players have not intended to go to Melbourne?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Not at this point. I am encouraged that we have an awful lot of top players who are going to Melbourne, and it seems to be a growing number of players who are going to Melbourne, and I'm quite confident we'll have a very, very good field. I think six months ago, I had more concern than I do now. I'm feeling like -- my sense is that we're going to have a very, very strong field in Australia and we will have a very, very successful beginning to the 2001 season.

Q. There was either talk or rumor, maybe a little of both, that there would be some type of satellite tournament type thing in Melbourne for those that get bounced in the first round?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I have been asked that question 10 times and the answer has always been the same. We have not been involved in organizing anything down there; and frankly, we might have been involved if we thought it would make a difference. But frankly, these players are not going to base their decision on whether or not -- if they lose in the first round, there's something else to do for a few days, unless you get into significant appearance fee money -- we're philosophically opposed to that; so we're not going to be involved in that.

Q. So much has grown in golf, and the Tour has grown so much under your guidance since you have been a commissioner, and this is not meant to be facetious, but do you ever sit up in the middle of the night and say, "Whoa, where are we, what is next." You've got to just feel great about what's happened over the last years since you've been commissioner?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: We have a great team. We have a good bunch of partners with the other Tours, and we've got the most exciting group of players we've ever had, led by the most exciting player probably in the history of the game. So, the game is growing, and you know, it's just a good time to be involved in golf. The economy has been strong. Like I've said a number of times, if the economy had not had the history it has had since I've been commissioner, I would probably be explaining all the time why things are not so good. The economy has a lot to do with our financial success. I just happened to be here during this period of time. If I leave tomorrow, things will be going just fine.

Q. This may be more for Ken. One of the goals for the World Golf Championships was to bring the top players together more regularly, but yet we have two players in the Top 20 not here who would dearly love to be here this week.

KEN SCHOFIELD: I guess you're making reference to the European Tour's request to the Federation to change the 12 European players who we play in Akron this year, taking account of the fact that the European Tour is not involved in the Presidents Cup and therefore does not have a second team. What I would say is that the European Tour, 22 months ago, were requested by a great majority of its players at a player meeting at the Volvo Masters to try to bring into place three things, to enable us to serve as partners within the Federation, for these Championships to be Official Money golf tournaments. The first was to remove the proposed cap; that to play in the American Express Championship, one had to be in the Top 20 of the Volvo Order of Merit and the Top-100 World Rankings. We made that application and that was granted. Second was purely internal to the Tour in that for these events, to count those Ryder Cup points events, eligibility would be capped at the existing level of the Open Golf Championship. The third point was that with the impact that a $5 million purse, such as we see here at the NEC, would have annually on the Volvo Order of Merit and the European Tour would receive 12 places maximum, that would qualify its players on an annual basis. That decision was ratified prior to Christmas 1998. And all players who were in the Top-30 on the Ryder Cup points table entering the U.S. PGA Championship at Medinah last year were informed that that would be, with the Federation's support, the European Tour's position on this golf tournament. And that statement, I think, was released earlier this year, and that is the European Tour's position. And that is the way it is.

Q. Do you think these World Golf Championships have helped or hurt the European Tour?

KEN SCHOFIELD: Oh, I think they are assisting the European Tour. And, indeed all of the Tours, as Commissioner Finchem has said, when we're at a time when golf on a worldwide basis is growing enormously, led by the tremendous moves here in terms of purses, in terms of virtually every facet of the men's tournament game. Whereas, our colleagues and the Commissioners from the other Tours would state their views, the European Tour in terms of its own progress, in terms of purses, the places that we visit, the condition of our golf courses, the competitiveness of our players, our own television and media arrangements have never been stronger. And I, too, would concur with Tim that a lot of this is to do with the economies. Not all of our markets are strong, from northern Europe through southern Europe, but certainly in the last three years, we have seen a marked improvement in ability for new sponsors and licensees who wish to involve themselves with us. Whereas, at the beginning of the 1990s, certainly in the aftermath of the Gulf War, that was not the case. And in terms of our players, I think we may have been off to a very slow start at the first of the Andersen Consulting Match Play when a lot of guys came over and made a very quick return to London in 1999. That happily was not the case this year with the success not only of Darren Clarke, but others, in going numerous rounds in the Andersen Consulting Match Play. I think we are very, very fortunate to see Miguel Jimenez play a wonderful tournament, and we are hopefully building on the more successful participation in the U.S. PGA Championship of the European Tour.

Q. It just seems as though players now that these three events count toward Official Money, plus the four majors, would only need to play the odd four or five tournaments in Europe to keep their membership and give them the opportunity to play for larger purses over here.

KEN SCHOFIELD: But I think that has been consistent of the European Tour in the 29 seasons that we have been operating. Our position is quite clear. The fellas are independent businessmen. They rightly, zealously guard their trade, their expertise in the mainstream, wherever that would be. Now, our business in running the European Tour is to try to bring an elite golf tournament forward, to make any additional events over and above the 11 that we require for their inclusion in the money list, to be an attractive proposition, and I think by any yardstick, those figures are very, very healthy.

Q. Has that decision been taken on who qualifies for this event next year, which I think falls before the end of the Ryder Cup qualifying?

KEN SCHOFIELD: Yes. I think next year the tournament is within the one-year qualification period for the European Ryder Cup Team, and the 12 players who will be leading that list at that time will be qualified to enter this golf tournament if they so choose.

Q. And how many tournaments follow this in the Ryder Cup qualifying?

KEN SCHOFIELD: We will play concurrent in Europe. So those who are not here will have an opportunity also to play for Ryder Cup points, and I think we then play either one or two golf tournaments thereafter. So, it would be the pinnacle tournament.

Q. You mentioned Sahalee in 2002 and Bellerive next year. Is there any movement towards looking at markets that don't see a lot of golf?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I think I said earlier one of our objectives is to play in Seattle. But once we decide that an event would be played in the United States, period, then we do look to markets that have not had an opportunity to support PGA TOUR golf in a while; and that would include: Boston, Twin Cities, St. Louis, Seattle and Portland would be the top markets on the list. That does not mean there are not other considerations that out weigh that. That just happens to be one consideration that in this particular case was met by St. Louis and Seattle. But I would not leap to the conclusion that because that is a consideration we necessarily would go to any of the other three markets in the next four years.

Q. Just in the same thing that Mr. Schofield was talking about, Jesper Parnevik was also critical of you in that regard; that you did not stand up for the people playing on the PGA TOUR that were excluded from this event. He said he was disappointed that you did not stand up for guys like him and Sergio Garcia that are playing on the PGA TOUR. I was wondering if you had any input in the process, the qualifying for this?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, we reached an agreement about the changes for the qualification of this event. And having reached the agreement, I support the agreement. I think it would be, you know, untoward to go back and debate the issues now. The fact is we all agreed to it for various reasons and that's where we are.

Q. Regardless of the rights and wrongs on that, wouldn't it be safe to have a safety net, so you have, say, the world's Top 50 if they do not qualify?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Possibly. We have had an awful lot of suggestions about the eligibility for this event. If you're a player who is in the Top 25, 35, 50, 64, and you didn't, for whatever reason, finish in on the Ryder Cup Presidents Cup team, you're not playing, you probably would like to see a change in the eligibility. If you're a fan and you have a player in the Top 50, Top 64, Top 100 who is not here who you want to see here, you might want to see a change in eligibility. We have different eligibilities, we have different quotas. That particular one was structured to recognize players who have made the commitment or had played in Presidents Cup, Ryder Cup competition. This eligibility, along with the schedule, the venue of the World Golf Championships, those are things that we will be discussing in the Federation as we approach the end of this four-year cycle. And if it make sense to adjust some of these things, we will attempt our best to adjust them. I just don't want to presuppose any course of action, but I would not suggest in the world that we live in that anything is in stone.

JAMES CRAMER: I'd like to thank everyone for coming out, and we will have a press release detailing the Sahalee announcement and the remainder of the schedule through 2001. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I would like to just recognize that during the course of the press conference, Mr. Kato and Mr. Oyamada came in, and we'd like to recognize them from NEC.

End of FastScripts....

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