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March 15, 2000
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Just to give you an update, I'm not going to go through the
entire agenda. But the board approved moving the date of the American Express Championship
which we have worked out with in conjunction with the other tours in 2001 to the week of
September 10-16. We anticipate announcing the site here in 30 days. Obviously moving up to
that September date gives us access to a lot more sites than we would have had in
November. In 2002, we will be back in Europe, the same week, it would appear. And while we
don't have a site to announce now, our focus is in Ireland and Scotland. The board
approved the continuation of our plan to expand Tournament Players Clubs. We will be
announcing at the end of 1999 we had 21 tournament players clubs, we had four more in
development. This year in 2000, we will open three new clubs, Wakefield Plantation in
Raleigh, TPC Twin Cities and TPC at Deer Run, which will host the John Deere Classic. We
also received approval today for a new TPC in Boston, which is the -- the site is
equidistant between Providence and Boston proper, designed to be accomplished by Arnold
Palmer. Couple of comments about the World Golf Rankings which we think are important.
First of all, as I said earlier in my comments about the award, the rankings continue to
evolve. The rankings are not just an ivory tower look at comparative play. They are now
utilized as a eligibility criteria for some very important championships, and as a
consequence, they constantly need to be studied and reviewed and considered just like we
do in our TOUR and all the other tours do from the standpoint of making sure that any
eligibility criteria is appropriate. This year, two important changes go into effect with
the rankings. First we have a revised point scale which creates a situation where every
finish position in a tournament gets a different -- a point distribution. In the past
you've had brackets of point distribution where you would have four or five players get
the same point distribution even though they finished differently in the tournaments. Now
the points move all the way -- or are different in any finish position in the tournament.
Secondly there are more finish positions in tournaments that receive points now, up from
40 to 55. So if you finish in the 55 position you will receive a point distribution. The
most significant modification probably is the last couple of years will go into effect in
September, late September of 2001 and that is the graduated decline change. Rather than
have a situation where we reach these clips where points fall off the players, it will be
a more graduated decline. Also, we will be changing the minimum devisor to 40 over two
years versus 20 per year. Now what that means and the reason it goes into effect in
September 2001 is that if we did it today we would have to take something away from what a
player accomplished retroactively. And the -- our board, our players felt that everything
should be prospectively; so the World Golf Rankings board agreed to our recommendation
that we make it -- put it into effect two years hence from last fall. In the meantime, we
will be providing you from time to time with a comparison list or ranking so that you can
see as we go forward what the difference is in the ranking of players based on these
changes even though it's not into effect yet. We will also be sharing that with players so
that when we get to September of 2001 it's not going to be a total surprise as to what
these changes are. Those changes combined with the other changes we think will strengthen
the system. The other thing that we will share with you a littler later is each year in an
annual review we do of comparing in a lot of different ways the ranking of players in the
rankings with their performance in tournaments where they all play. And now with the World
Golf Championships, when you look at the Top 50 to Top 75 players, we have more
opportunity to measure. We now have the major championships, The PLAYERS Championship,
World Golf Championships where you can measure performance over a multiple number of years
and compare that with where a player ranks in the rankings and see as one test whether
it's a reasonable comparative. And we think that will be helpful. So far, the data we've
looked at last year, the rankings are working reasonably well from that perspective.
Lastly, the Casey Martin litigation. In a nutshell, the board has determined to defer a
decision of whether to seek Supreme Court review of the 9th circuit opinion. Just so there
is no question about the position of the board we have put together a statement that we
will circulate after this press conference in which we specifically state the current
situation and the thinking of the board on this matter. But in a nutshell, what we have is
a situation where we have two cases of identical facts under the Americans With
Disabilities Act. One which was heard by the 9th circuit court of appeals, that was the
Casey Martin case. Another that was heard by the 7th circuit, which was the Orlinger v.
USGA case. The two courts came out on diametrically opposed sides of the issue. In the 7th
circuit, they said that if you require a golf governing body to provide a cart, you are
fundamentally changing the nature of the competition. And the extent to which there is a
decision to be made about what is fundamental in a competition should be left to the
governing bodies of the game. That's basically what the 7th circuit said. The 9th circuit
they took the opposite view and said you're not changing the game fundamentally because it
is the shot, that is what golf is all about, and all a cart does is move you from one
position to another and execute the shot. And they went beyond that and said that there
ought to be a standard employed in situations like this where the governing body should
make a determination as to whether or not an individual with a disability expends as much
energy in a cart as the average -- typical, average player expends walking. A couple of
things here. One, we have two circuit courts with different positions on the law. So what
is the law in the 7th circuit is not the law in the 9th circuit, and who knows what the
other circuits will follow, that will obviously argue to increase -- to think that the
Supreme Court should perhaps to review and perhaps decide what the law of the land is. The
second problem is that in the 9th circuit, you have a standard which is administratively
impossible and unworkable to utilize. There is no way we administratively can determine
whether the energy expended by a player with a disability is more or less with that player
riding in a cart than the energy expended by a player walking. Nor do we think it's
particularly relevant, but that's the standard the 9th circuit utilized. So if that
continues to be the law, if we are faced with an unworkable situation where other players
who have various asundry disabilities who would seek relief from the 9th circuit, we would
have to employ a test, which frankly, we don't a think makes much sense. So all of those
things argue for asking the Supreme Court to review this, to clear it up, to determine
what, in fact, is the law or should the law of the land be and what standards should be
applied. On the other hand, we recognize in our initial review of talking to the lawyers
that asking the Supreme Court to hear a case does not mean it will be heard. In fact, in
only a minority of cases that are submitted writ of certiorari are ever heard going
through a multi-year process, waiting another year to determine to know whether it case is
even going to be heard. If we are going to go that course, we want to make absolutely
certain it's the right thing to do, whether we have the right legal arguments, etc. In
addition to that, the plaintiff in the 7th circuit case, Mr. Orlinger, is going to request
a re-hearing of the 7th circuit and we would like the ability to watch the process of that
request for a re-hearing before we make a decision on whether or not we should seek
Supreme Court review. Let me answer some of your questions in advance. When do we have to
make the decision? Somewhere in the four- to five-month time frame. Almost always they
give you an extension, but sometime this summer we would have to make a final decision if
we were going to seek review by the Supreme Court. How long does it take? If the Supreme
Court determines that they are not going to hear it, we would know that in under a year.
In the Supreme Court says they will hear it, we probably would be looking at, at least two
years, conceivably even a third year before there's a final disposition. What happens to
Casey Martin in the meantime? This case has less and less to do with Casey Martin. Casey
Martin is going to get a cart in the foreseeable future under any set of circumstances. If
the court doesn't hear the case and overturn the 9th circuit, he will receive a cart
pursuant to the 9th circuit case as long as he is eligible to play in our events. If the
Supreme Court were to overturn the 9th circuit that would be two or three years away at
the earliest; so there's no immediate impact on Casey Martin. On the other hand, aside
from Casey, we have these other issues that need to be resolved. What is the standard,
what is the law, not to mention the basic question of who should make these kind of
determinations. Should courts be arguing about what the law says and how they impact
sports, or should the sports governing bodies be allowed to write the rules? Those are
issues that sooner or later need to be cleared up. Whether the appeal or the request, I
should say, for a Supreme Court review is the appropriate next step, I'm not certain at
this point. Neither is the board and we want to review this with our players. We want to
talk to outside Supreme Court litigant experts. We want to be careful to understand what
the world would be like if we -- if these two circuit court opinions sit there in terms of
administering the rules of our sport. So we have our work to do over the next weeks and
months to consider those things, and we'll make a decision some time this summer. That's
basically what we talked about at the board.
Q. At other times you have intimated that if the TOUR doesn't prevail, you would
probably not proceed to the Supreme Court because of the time and expense. Was it solely
the Orlinger decision of the 7th circuit that made you think this was a possibility?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No. It's a combination of two things. One is the Orlinger case.
And the opinion in the Orlinger case was very direct, very well written, right on point,
made sense. It was also the opinion in the Casey Martin case which didn't make a lot of
sense. We didn't think was well written. Applies a standard that we don't think is
workable -- all of this is new information since I commented last. And with no undue
disrespect to the 9th circuit, I can just throw out that this circuit has been reversed by
the Supreme Court more often than any other circuit in the country, and I think they made
a mistake again. I think it's bad law, but that's what it is. We have to deal with it. And
based on the complications that arise out of how they decided this case, and also the
Orlinger case being so direct and on point the other way, it makes us stop and think that
maybe this should receive review. Now, I will reiterate what I've said before, I think
from the perspective of the policy board that if there was a way that you could opt out
Casey Martin who has earned his card under court order, but he's earned his card. If you
could create an exception for Casey Martin and go down the road with the comfort that you
could maintain walking uninterrupted as a critical element of our sport, I think there's a
lot of sympathy for that. Thus far, we haven't been able to sort of figure out how that
happens because we're faced with the realities of what's happened here in the courts.
Q. You know, the 7th circuit is based in Chicago. Even a simple re-hearing can take a
long time. Will you be able to make your decision on the Supreme Court question if the
Orlinger re-hearing happens after your writ of certiorari deadline?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: It's possible our intelligence is that Orlinger is going to seek
a writ under any circumstances if he's unsuccessful in the re-hearing. Re-hearings are
only successful to the petitioner in a very small percentage of cases. The court en banc
that would hear the re-hearing is going to include two of the three judges that issued
that unanimous opinion. If you read the opinion, you know how strong the judges were on
this issue. We don't see it being overturned, but I think it's important that we watch the
process. If they did open it up and say we're going to have a re-hearing and they agree to
have a re-hearing, then that's something we need to consider. I just think that this -- we
just need to look all of the factors, all of the implications, fully understand what life
would be like. We are told that if Orlinger seeks Supreme Court review and we also seek
Supreme Court review, the chances of the Supreme Court hearing it are enhanced somewhat
and I'd like to know -- I think the board would like to know exactly about what that
means. Does that mean -- we don't want to be spinning our wheels here. We just have to
think through all the possibilities. I want to stress that in the meantime, there's no
immediate impact on Casey playing, and all of our staff, Casey's situation will be
handled. Casey's playing this week, I believe.
Q. Are you worried that the 9th circuit ruling will open the flood gates that more
players would want a card, who were waiting for this decision to come down?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I think that the general question of fairness in competition and
what happens when any individual is afforded special assistance is going to trigger some
reaction at some point. Our message to the players will be that until we understand the
full -- fully how this thing can be -- come out in the final analysis we just ask the
players to support us in that. But the possibility of that is real, yes.
Q. Have you had any players or agents inquire about what policy you're taking going
forward for players that feel they have a disability?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: We had a rash of requested inquiries back when this started as to
what is a disability, which is by the a another problem. Because the Americans With
Disabilities Act is not real specific on what qualifies as a disability under the act.
There is some general language, but here again, we are dealing with defining what is and
what isn't. But yes we've had a number of inquiries. We continue to have inquiries. I
suspect that will continue. I think that any time you get into the business in an athletic
sporting competition of changing rules for a subset of the competitors, those are the kind
of things that are going to happen. And again, we continue to feel very strongly, contrary
to what the 9th circuit may think about this game that walking and the strain of walking,
the strenuousness of walking, the athleticism of walking is a key ingredient along with
all the other ingredients to create the challenge that is necessary for these players that
is necessary at this level of play whether it's the speed of the greens or the length of
the rough or the length of the golf courses or the athletic -- athleticism today necessary
to walk 72 holes in four days under a great amount of pressure. All of it comes together
to form what we considered to be championship professional golf at this level, and we
think taking the element of walking out of that is a fundamental change and a negative
change for our sport.
Q. There's some players that are concerned about maybe the value of winning on tour
being diminished with wins not getting them into the Masters or not getting them into the
World Series anymore. Are you concerned about that and the perception that maybe winning
on tour is not as important as it once was?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, I think that there are enormous benefits that come with
winning. I think Tiger just alluded to that. If you win, you will move up in the rankings.
You will have a multi-year exception. You will earn significant dollars. Access to a
couple of tournaments has changed, that's right. But I don't think that's any kind of
trend. I think that's a unique set of circumstances that occurred around the way we
structured the World Golf Championships on the one hand. And the fact that from the
standpoint of Augusta National, we have 49 official money events. And Augusta has a
certain attitude about their field, and I think that was probably coming anyway. I don't
think the two are interrelated, but I don't think it's any kind of trend. And I think that
winning -- winning on our TOUR has enormous benefits. But yes, you could argue that there
is a couple of things that used to come with winning that don't come with it, but I don't
see us moving down that road any farther.
Q. Did Augusta National consult with you before they made that change?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, "consult" might be a strong word. They have --
each year we have very positive conversations in terms of what they are thinking about
with their eligibility, very positive. But they make those decisions and they invite us to
comment and we do. But they feel very strongly about the field size, and they feel very
strongly about having all of their past champions being able to play and that impacts the
nature of their field. But I certainly wouldn't want to be one to argue that it detracts
from the quality of the impact of the Masters.
Q. If you guys decide not to pursue this to the Supreme Court or if they don't hear it,
would you be forced to set some type of policy for who is allowed to have a cart or if
somebody else came to you would you just have them sue you? What would be the next step?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I don't want to speculate on that at this point. I think the
important thing is in the current environment. We are maintaining our rules as it relates
to walking, notwithstanding -- well we are going to maintain our rules and we do not have
any special rule at this time to accommodate a situation. So whether we might in the
future would be highly speculative and I wouldn't even want to get into that.
Q. Without speculation if -- does the 9th circuit decision have any bearing on any
other players? Does it carry any precedence?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: It has a bearing on any -- it has a bearing -- it has a direct
bearing on any player who goes into the 9th circuit and seeks court action for access,
because the court in that circuit will almost invariably will follow the precedent that
the 9th circuit has set forth for that circuit. It conceivably could have an impact in
another circuit -- let's say a player went into a court in the 5th circuit. The court
would hear the testimony. They might be advised of and look at the precedent set by the
9th circuit. They might look at the 7th circuit. They might decide to follow the 9th. They
might decide to follow the 7th or they might decide to do something different altogether.
They might say well here's another standard and rule for defendant instead of plaintiff.
But in the 9th circuit, it's reasonable to assume that a district court in the 9th circuit
will follow this opinion and adjudicating a matter of similar facts. The opinion itself
only applies to Casey Martin, but the law as set down by the circuit can almost invariably
be followed by district court in that circuit hearing a similar case.
Q. What about the option of a retrial in the 9th circuit?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: A re-hearing of the case? As I said with respect to the
re-hearing request in the 7th circuit, re-hearings are only granted in an extremely small
percentage of cases. And based on what we've seen and what comes out of the 9th circuit,
we're not excited about asking them for another opinion, to be honest.
End of FastScripts