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January 9, 2000

Tim Finchem


Q. How long are you going to be at the Sony?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Through tomorrow night. I've got a dinner with the rookies tonight, meeting with the Sony brass tomorrow. I'll do the Sony dinner tomorrow night, check out the golf course during the ProAm tomorrow, then head out late tomorrow night probably.

Q. A year ago we sat here and were curious how this new world of golf was going to shake out with the money, whether the players would play as much, how the World Golf Championship series was going to come about. What's your take on it looking back?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, I thought '99 went very, very well; the first year of kind of a different approach in lots of different ways. We had a good meeting at the end of the year with all of our tournaments in Las Vegas, the annual sort of convention that they have. Previously, one of the things we talked about was field quality. The numbers look very good in terms of the number of events players are playing. The trend over the last three years is good, particularly good in 1999. So I think the combination of the enhanced retirement plan, enhanced prize money is helping us compete with our own members, for the attention of our own members, versus all of the other things that they have available to them. That strategy seems to be working. The World Golf Championships I thought got off to a real good start. We're going to be tweaking some of those, I think we said already. I don't know if we've said it publicly, but we'll be moving up the American Express Championships, up into the early fall, starting in '01.

Q. (Inaudible)?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: It will be moved up into September. What that will do, there's a couple of advantages to it, actually, I can think of three: One, it allows us to play golf courses in the United States and Europe. That's the event that goes back and forth between the United States and Europe. But in the United States, it gives us access to virtually every place to play. In Europe it means that even though Valderrama is a great test, we're looking forward to going back there in 2000. When we go back in '02, it will allow us to look at Scotland and Ireland, which is where we'd kind of like to be the next time, so better golf courses. Secondly, it allows us to bring an end to sort of the World Golf Championship series in a more definable way. We had thought when we structured the schedule for this four years, that combining it with THE TOUR Championship, made sense to sort of bring the season to a culmination. But I think the public, the players, a lot of you all over the course of the year have indicated, and I think it was borne out that week, that it probably makes sense to leave the season finale to THE TOUR Championship, which seems to have, as far as our Tour goes, got more and more strength to it over the years, especially in the last couple years, and bring the World Golf Championship Series from an official money standpoint to an end earlier in the year. All in all, we think that those are adjustments that will be helpful in '01 and '02. We made a lot of other changes that aren't worth going into, but the one thing this year at the Andersen Consulting Matchplay, we'll be playing the octa-finals - excuse me, what am I thinking about - the quarterfinals, excuse me, on Saturday morning. That will do a couple of things: One, it will give us a bigger day of golf on a weekend day, so it helps us on-site with giving the spectators a better show.

Q. Quarters and semis on Saturday?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Yes, full day of golf. Second thing is, it means when everybody wakes up on Saturday morning across the country and picks up their newspaper, there's just more players in the hunt for the weekend. The third advantage is, it gives us just more golf to show on television that afternoon because we'll be recapping the quarters and broadcasting the semis. But other than that, you know, the flipside of it is, it puts more pressure on us from a weather standpoint. With a day that time of year, it's going to be tougher to get it done. We may not stick with it long-term, but we want to try it because we think it's a more exciting (inaudible). Other than that, we thought Andersen Consulting Matchplay went on very, very well. We were really delighted with it. Really looking forward next month to getting back to it. Then the other change is, of course, we pick up the management and structure of the World Cup, which we'll kick off in Argentina in December. Is it 22 teams or 24 teams?

Q. 24.

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: 24 two-man teams just playing, no individual competition. They play two days of foursomes and two days of four-ball, which we think is a true team competition. It's unofficial money, but we look forward to playing there in 2000 in Buenos Aires, Roberto De Vicenzo was at the announcement we did last month, and then going to Japan in '01. In Japan, the way the schedule works in Japan is that the week that is traditionally the Taiheiyo Masters, the Japanese feel so strongly about this event that they have allowed us to reconfigure their schedule so that the Taiheiyo Masters will take the year off and we'll play the World Cup at Taiheiyo in place of the Taiheiyo Masters. It will be a big event in Japan and our television partners, NHK, everybody, are very excited about it.

Q. What week is that?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: It's the week after -- it's the second week after THE TOUR Championship, I believe. We can check that.

Q. How many American teams will be there?


Q. Based on the highest world ranking and the player of his choice?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: The highest ranking player from the country in the world ranking gets to say, "I'll play and I'll choose a partner." If he doesn't play, the next highest player has that option. So right now it would be Tiger Woods would decide if he's going to play or no. If he plays, he'll pick his own partner. If he doesn't play, then we go to No. 2, 3, 4. That's the way it works within each designated country. In addition to that, we have world qualifying for countries not in the major golf countries who can get some access.

Q. You announced (inaudible) when they were first brought up. It looked like there was some uncertainty.


Q. About Firestone. Did you feel any pressure, outside pressure, to go forward with this fourth event taking on the World Cup?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I'm not sure what you mean by "uncertainty about Firestone."

Q. I'm sorry, Firestone is where you first brought it up.


Q. Looked like it was going to stay three and you jumped up to four.

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: It was just a question of working out the details and making sure that if we took the responsibility for it, we could manage it effectively and stage it effectively. That required bringing in the kind of sponsorship we needed. EMC finally agreed to do it the way we needed to do it. We weren't going to make it a World Golf Championship unless we could stage it at the same quality, same quality of television. Given the fact that that event will really rotate lots of different places in the world, production costs, et cetera, are a little extra. We just had to work through the details, but we're delighted the way it came out.

Q. The Matchplay in Australia next year, do you have any answer as to how you're going to get all the top players down there?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No. I think the relationship between that tournament and this week, it works quite well for the player who is eligible for Melbourne and also eligible for here, i.e., somebody wins this year, it works pretty well. It's very difficult on the Europeans. There may be a better way to do it in the future. We'll look at that. But right now, we have to rely on the players understanding the importance of these events in the long-term, remembering the kind of great job that the people in Melbourne did in staging The Presidents Cup two years ago, and what a great show it will be. Hopefully they will come and play. We'll see what happens. I don't think as we entered into this we ever suggested that all the players are going to play in all the World Golf Championships. I mean, every eligible player who could play played in two of the three last year, we lost seven or eight, although half of those were fairly unique circumstances, frankly. So we were delighted with the first year, and it going forward. Some players just don't want to get on the plane and fly a long way to play golf these days. Even though the world has shrunk in a lot of ways, it's gotten bigger given the alternatives. But I think we'll be fine. I think we'll have a great field down there, a real exciting event.

Q. Is Tiger winning the way he's winning, the regularity, is that good or bad for the Tour?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, it depends on how you look at it. The media has been clammering for somebody to dominate this Tour for 15 years as though something were wrong with what we've had the last 15 years. During those 15 years, we've grown in every area. The fans don't buy it. The fans like to watch good golf. On the other hand, they also like, I think, to either root for the big favorite or root against the big favorite. It's true in any sport. If Dallas is winning every week, a lot of people gravitate and want to support Dallas, other people want to root against Dallas just because they're the big guy. It's just a little different. I don't think it's a plus or a minus. I do think that his - I've been saying this since he came out - the better he plays, the more tournaments he wins, brings more focus on the question of whether he will challenge the big long-term records in golf. I think that's a plus because it's really something for the fans to focus on. I've noticed in the last six months that he publicly has commented in a way that his focus has shifted from early on where he wanted to win and demonstrate that he could beat the best players in the world, and now it's shifted to, "I want to challenge for the long-term records." Two weeks ago, he was even talking about the SENIOR TOUR, which is interesting. It demonstrates, again, the level of his absolute commitment to the game and the recognition that it is, for him, a lifelong quest. Whereas other players, they sometimes say, "I don't know if I want to play the SENIOR TOUR." They get to 50, that's the best competition for them, and they need to compete. He already recognizes that. He recognizes that he wants to compete at the highest level for the rest of his life. That's great. That's all good news from the standpoint of putting together the entertainment support that this is.

Q. Talking to some of the SENIOR TOUR players, there seems to be some disagreement on how the (inaudible) criteria should go forward, who should get to play on the SENIOR TOUR, who is exempt, who is not. With some of the older players no longer playing competitively, is there a movement inside the organization to maybe change that?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I think the discussion that's going on is the same that's gone on for the last 15 years. There's always been a question about should there be a system where players who have great name value and who help the SENIOR TOUR from a marketing standpoint, but aren't quite as competitive, should they continue to have the same level of access based on all-time money? That's nothing new. I mean, that's been discussed for the last 15 years. At least so far, after all the discussion, everybody looks at it and says, "This is a pretty good system we have; works really well." It's hard to find a player over 50 who can really play and can't make it on the SENIOR TOUR. If you look at any field on the SENIOR TOUR or the exempt list, it's riddled with players who aren't there because of all-time money. At the same time the financial structure of the SENIOR TOUR is based on the viability of the ProAm, the viability of name players playing. Our research continues to tell us that's what fans want to see on television. They don't really care whether the player is competitive. They want to see Arnold Palmer play, and they know when Arnold Palmer enters the event, he's not going to be competitive. If you change the rules and go to a cut, Arnold Palmer is not only not there on the weekend, he's not going to play if he's not going to be there on the weekend. You drive those players out of the competition, you hurt the marketability of the Tour. Thus far, I have yet to find anyone to come up with a system that can maintain both things better than the current system. When we find something that's better, I assume we might gravitate to it. Right now, I'm very comfortable with the way it is.

Q. Is your TV situation settled on the SENIOR TOUR?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No. As a matter of fact, we're in the middle of that right now. This is the last year of our television agreements, so we're negotiating '1, '2, '3, maybe '4, and we hope to complete that by maybe the end of the first quarter.

Q. If Tiger wins today, there's going to be more focus on the streak, maybe more focus on whether he should carry over from last year. The Tour record book is pretty clear. Tiger seems reluctant to embrace the streak. What is your feeling about it?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: The record is the record. Most official money events in a row is the most official money events in a row. I think Tiger has been very gracious in his comments about not creating a comparison between himself at 24 years old and somebody like Ben Hogan. That's understandable, and that's consistent with the level of his deference and respect for the great players of the game. But the fact of the matter is that I think it's relatively safe to say that the amount of competition today is significantly greater than it was 35 years ago. I hear what he's saying, but I think it's an incredible accomplishment to win this many in a row. If you'd have asked me three years ago, "Is anybody ever going to do it again," I'd say no. He's on the verge of winning this one. I'm done predicting what he might or might not do.

Q. Speaking of records, if he were to win today, according to the PGA TOUR records, this would be the longest streak since Ben Hogan won six Tour events in '48. In fact, Hogan won five straight in '53. You guys don't recognize the British Open because at the time it wasn't a sanctioned or whatever that word is event.

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Wasn't an official money event.

Q. Whatever, you know what I'm saying.

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: But it wasn't. It wasn't until a couple years ago.

Q. It's the oldest championship in golf, though.

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: When I became Commissioner, I said, "We should make it official money." We're on the same page. We just didn't go back and say, "Having made it official money, we'll change the record books in every respect going all the way back."

Q. Is there any thought toward that?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: There's nothing on the agenda right now. It's certainly something we can look at. Didn't we address it with regard to Greg Norman's record in some fashion?

Q. Adding two British Opens to his official PGA TOUR?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Did we footnote it or how did we handle it?

Q. We were just looking at Tom Watson's today, international victories.

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: When we published the history of the PGA TOUR in 1989, we had a panel we pulled together to review a lot of the idiosyncracies in the record where we had. You know, back in the days when the Tour was a division of the PGA, there might be an issue, an issue that came up that irritated the PGA with regard to I think was Hope or Pebble Beach. You've got players that go along with their official wins, and then all of a sudden it's official money, but it's not an official win for three years. You have a lot of that back in the '40s and '50s. We pulled this panel together to clean all that up. I think we made great strides in doing that, but there are still some of these little things. What we did with the British Open is an example. I think we should take another look at that.

Q. The British Open is in a class by itself, a major championship, longer standing than any other. All the great players have played it.


Q. It was part of their schedules.

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: You say that, but there was a stretch there where all the great players weren't playing it. I mean, pre-Palmer, a lot of guys didn't go over. Snead went for a while, then didn't go for years.

Q. Hogan went in '53 and won it.

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Did he go back again?

Q. That was the only time he ever played.

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: There you go. I mean, my point is this: if we were having this conversation in 1959, we wouldn't feel compelled. Now that the British Open became something very special, now we even recognize it as official money on the Tour, things have changed. The question is, Do you go back and rewrite the record book because of that retroactively? Doing things retroactively is always tough. We'll take a look at that.

Q. Back to the TOUR Championship. Is there a sense among players or yourself that that tournament was going to become something less than it is if you didn't address the tournament after it?


Q. The scheduling, moving it so now you are ending the season officially with THE TOUR Championship. Was that the concern there?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: It was one of the questions. We had concluded in 1997 that having a two-week end of the season was an enhancement. After one year, you don't really know. You've got to build on these things. It's taken THE TOUR Championship years to build. There are significant other advantages here, as well, to moving the Championship up. Having access to different golf courses and being able to move it around with some of the older golf courses is very appealing. We have a known factor here of allowing THE TOUR Championship to end the season by itself. Having tried it for a year, we think we'll do it again this year, but it was probably the best thing in the long run. Three or four different years.

Q. Where is it in 2001 and 2002?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: We haven't set a venue net.

Q. What about the NEC?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: NEC, we've already announced, stays in Akron in '01. We haven't decided about '02 yet.

Q. How do you feel about Europeans changing the qualification for the NEC?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: They're in a different situation than we are because we have two teams. They felt strongly that currency was more important than the team. I understand that. But given the fact that we have a rotating system that recognizes Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup teams, it's not as important an issue for us to begin with. I think we sort of chose -- I wouldn't have done it, but I think I understand the reasoning, and their players felt strongly about it. It's fine.

Q. When the American Express moves to September, does that affect the TV deal for that? Also, is there a TV deal for the World Cup?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: The TV deal for the World Cup is virtually done, will be done and announced shortly. We haven't announced yet, have we? It's virtually done. The television deal for the American Express will remain the same in all aspects. It's just changing the date.

Q. Do you know if the American Express next year will be two weeks before The Ryder Cup, a week, three weeks?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: We're not sure. I do know, but we haven't announced yet, for protocol and notification reasons, so I'd like to not get into that today.

Q. When you mentioned the movement in September on the American Express, the possibility of going to Scotland or Ireland in September, most of these events don't take place on Links courses. Would that be something that the World Championships would be looking at?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I think the main thing is, we have a wide variety of golf courses to look at in the Scotland/Ireland mix. It depends on a lot of different issues. I wouldn't want to speculate as to whether it's a new golf course or one that's been there 250 years. That would be speculation on my part. I can't say at this point.

Q. Wasn't the TPC being built for, among other reasons, for when the World Cup came to America?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No, not necessarily. It was built -- the original understanding was that we were going to try to build something there to be a special place for golf, that if it could be constructed in a way that provided an appropriate venue for anything. That time of year, Orlando lends itself to a number of things. Could be a TOUR Championship, could be a World Cup, could be American Express. I mean, no specific plan was ever in place for any particular tournament.

Q. At Phoenix this year, they're doing some, I guess, enhanced security after what happened last year. They're going to be searching all the bags that come in. I understand the PGA TOUR as well as the Scottsdale police, the Thunderbirds, got together and talked about strengthening the security at the Phoenix Open. Have you done this with other events? Are you talking to other events about that kind of stuff?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: We have gradually and consistently upgraded security across the board for the last three and a half years. We're continuing to do so. Obviously at tournaments where we have huge crowds, there is a special focus. But this is an across-the-board effort to work with our tournaments and staffs to try to enhance security. We have done stuff differently every year just about every place, and continue to do so. We have more and more people. We see what's going on in society generally with violence. We're blessed that we haven't had any major problems in our sport. We don't want to wake up one day and think that maybe if we'd have done something, we could have avoided a problem. Security is a major priority for us generally. I wouldn't want to go into any more detail than that.

Q. Anything new on the Casey Martin situation?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No. Not going to be anything new into until the court decides something.

Q. Any hints when that could be?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: They don't give you hints. The clerk calls and says, "Here it is." I'd like to see it happen in this century, though.

Q. Has moving the Mercedes to Hawaii (inaudible)?


Q. Yes.

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I think it's worked out quite well. The ambience here has worked out extremely well for Mercedes and their guests. Television package has worked out particularly well. I think it's working out even better this year. Our fans are starting to get used to the new time frames. David just played outstanding last year, but this year, how could you ask for a better finish going into Sunday? Competitively it's worked out well. Given the wind conditions here and the way the golf course had to be designed to accommodate wind, it's a little different shot value situation for players, but it's a lot of fun and exciting to watch. I think on balance, most of the players find it that way. We're very pleased.

Q. Has anybody approached you or how many people have approached you about renaming a tournament or whatever it might be for Payne?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: We've had 500 suggestions about ways to commemorate Payne, and with good reason. I think the steps that we've taken we're comfortable with, in particular the Payne Stewart Award, which I think is going to be an impactful award, impact people. It will be a good way to maintain his memory. We're also doing some other things. There will be a First Tee facility built, a camp in Missouri in his name, some other things going on. I think the Payne Stewart Trophy and the Payne Stewart Award will be our focus forever. It carries a great message with it about what he stood for and recognizes in a very special way, and a player receiving that award will I think help perpetuate the person he was and what he stood for. We unveiled last night kind of a caricature of it, but we'll be doing that each year during THE TOUR Championships, because that's the week we lost him, as opposed to whenever we do our award.

Q. Did you happen to see the Leonard Shapiro article on (inaudible)?


Q. There was a point in there talking about a father taking a son to play golf. Just mentioned the high prices of golf courses. Also mentioned First Tee and what it's doing. He raised a point, what happens when a young kid graduates the First Tee, then he goes out there and it's $80 or $100, can he still play?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: First Tee is only one piece of the pie. Getting kids interfaced with golf at a young page age and getting kids who historically have had no chance to interface with golf, by creating affordable, accessible learning facilities, is the focus of First Tee at this moment. It really does raise a variety of other questions about what should be the comprehensive strategic effort of golf in this new century to grow the game? You have that issue, affordable golf, how can you stimulate low-cost municipal golf facilities, how can you stimulate the market to create more low-cost facilities generally, public facilities? On the one hand, if you didn't do anything and you just stimulated growth of the young people in the game, the market is going to adjust to that over time to some extent. But there are those issues and there are other issues. Have we announced our conference yet? That's why we pulled together a conference in November at the World Golf Village to, number one, determine what the long-term plan for First Tee should be. This conference will come on the heels of the third annual First Tee national meeting. To address other issues. Retention, municipal golf, low-cost facilities, and how those can be -- those issues can be impacted by the golf industry working closely together. We are very hopeful that we will come out of this year with a reasonable, workable, easy to understand strategic plan that says to everybody involved in golf, "Here is the plan and here is how you can plug into it. If you're a CEO of a company that invests in golf, if you're just a golfer, if you're a teacher, or if you're somebody in the golf organization, if you're somebody in the media, here is how you can plug into taking us from here to there in five years, ten years, 15 years, 20 years." Maybe all of that plan falls under the First Tee, maybe not. I don't know. We've asked all the golf organizations to come together and help us in wrestling with these kinds of issues leading up to and concluding with this conference. Hopefully we can have some answers. We invite all of you to come that week. We will have a two-day annual meeting of the First Tee, then we'll have a two-day national conference. Then on the fifth day, that's the annual induction to the World Golf Hall of Fame. It will be a great weekend for golf in November. We invite all of you to come down and spend some time listening to some of these debates, then attending the induction ceremony.

End of FastScripts….

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