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November 7, 1999

Tim Finchem


COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: We thought we'd take the opportunity today just to make a few comments on The SENIOR TOUR, the kind of year we've had, where we are, where we're going. And I'm just going to throw out a few thoughts that we put together, and then I'll be happy to answer your questions about The SENIOR TOUR or anything else you'd like to talk about. First of all, let me just reiterate how happy we are with the relationship with Ingersoll-Rand. They are a great company to work with. We hope they are here for a long time. They obviously have a major presence with golf. They were particularly cooperative this year when we couldn't play the new TPC which was a disappointment, but it's never a disappointment to play The Dunes, either. We're looking forward to getting to the TPC next year and continuing our relationship with Ingersoll-Rand. We have just completed the -- or are about to complete here in a few hours, the 20th season of the The SENIOR TOUR. The SENIOR TOUR has grown every single year during those 20 years; it did so again this year. This was the first year in the history of The SENIOR TOUR that every tournament on the senior tournament had a purse of at least $1 million. We had 38 events totaling approximately $49 million in prize money. We expect prize money next year to $53.5 million, approximately a 10 percent increase. Again, next year we'll be making progress. We had a great competitive year, especially from the standpoint of the number of tournament winners. We had 19 different players win tournaments, and we had an all-time high of 11 first-time winners on the TOUR, which again is an indication that the new players definitely have access to this TOUR. If you can play at this level, there are a myriad of ways to get on this TOUR and to be able to win, and here we've seen that again this year with 11 first-time winners that kind of impact. We had a particularly strong qualifying school, perhaps the best ever with Bruce Fleisher and Allen Doyle's performance this year. Nothing short of incredible with Fleisher out there today, shooting for his 8th win. We had five rookies win events this year, and we had Tom Watson get going in grand style by winning quickly in Dallas at the Bank One Championship. So, from a competitive standpoint, I think The SENIOR TOUR, the history of The SENIOR TOUR, as it has gotten better and better every year, the competition has gotten stronger. It has functioned-- really in my judgment, as the stronger The SENIOR TOUR gets, the more good players there are, whether they are PGA TOUR players, club professionals, good amateur players in their mid-40s start thinking about The SENIOR TOUR, and the product is, more good players playing on the Senior TOUR level. Charity continued to grow on The SENIOR TOUR. In fact, this will be first year that we'll top the $10 million mark in charitable contributions, which in and of itself, is a great, great threshold to hit. We continue to enjoy the support of good sponsors with Cadillac, being our ESPN series sponsor for the 9th year in a row. Very pleased with our continued relationship with Cadillac and of course our new relationship for the Super Seniors with Georgia-Pacific, as well. Georgia-Pacific is a good strong company. They are golf savvy and we are delighted with the Super Senior program. Next year, there will be 17 events for Super Seniors, with weekly prize of $200,000 and $34,000 to the winner. At the season-ending event here in Myrtle Beach for the Super Seniors, the prize money will be $650,000 with $138,000 to the winner. Now, we look at this year, and we grew, we see success, we see continued improvement in the quality of our tournaments. Going forward, in terms of where we're going in the Millennium with The Senior TOUR, the first thing is to set the stage for the first few years of the next century with our television agreements. We are in the process with those now. We hope to be able to announce something in the first quarter. I probably can conclude something hopefully by the end of March. But we are pleased with the progress we are making in organizing The SENIOR TOUR for after 2000. Our current agreements go through 2000 and these agreements would be from 2001 and would probably be three- or four-year agreements. In addition to Tom Watson, we have Wadkins and Kite coming out next year. We expect a very strong field next year at the Legends Tournament at the World Golf Village. And beyond that, we have players, Lietzke, McCumber in 2001, and then Zoeller and Crenshaw in 2002 coming out. And then after that, through 2007, it's very, very strong string of top players coming off the PGA TOUR to play The SENIOR TOUR. The ratings on The SENIOR TOUR are off the last couple of years. And that's not inconsistent with just about everything in sports with the exception of the PGA TOUR and Nascar, which are the only two sports of significance which haven't suffered ratings setbacks. But on the other happened, golf is not a ratings-generated sport, ratings-driven sport from a marketing standpoint; it doesn't seem to effect our success. On the other hand, we also think that the new influx of players may have the impact to turn the ratings around. But The SENIOR TOUR is going to continue to grow, and it's best to look forward to the years ahead of us. This week, we are real happy with the competition. We have had great weather as you know. The golf course, even though we made a late decision to play here, the staff here at The Dunes did a good job of getting the golf course ready, in tournament condition, and the players have reacted very positively to that. At the same time we are very excited about getting over to the TPC next year, we know we have an excellent venue that Tom Fazzio built down there for us. I can't think of anything else off the top of my head, but I'll be happy to try to answer any questions that you have.

Q. You've talked about TV. Are we going to see some new ways to present this TOUR?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Maybe. I think that -- what we've looked at, and what we will be looking at with the PGA TOUR in 2001, is really a function of wiping the slate clean a little bit and asking yourself: What is the best way to present it, present golf generally. And then within that, Senior TOUR golf and PGA TOUR golf. We're working on a totally redone scoring system for the 2001 -- sort of 2001-2002 time period which will revolutionize the way -- the amount of, and the way in which we can present a whole range of data to the viewer about what's happening on the golf course with electronically mapping every golf course and being able to put up a whole range of data that is going to be of great interest to the fans. And I suspect the players will be interested in it, too because it gives them an opportunity to measure themselves versus the golf course. It will probably challenge some ideas of how you play different holes successfully. It will help from a television standpoint; it will really help. The other thing is, I think we're making progress in determining what the inner relationship should be between television and the Internet from the standpoint of communicating our sport. Clearly, in watching the growth of the use of online service, there's no question that, at least the consensus seems to be, that we're moving toward an environment where the online user is going to want to use -- to be online at the same time he or she is watching television. So, the key is -- which is different than four or five years ago which everybody was talking about, well, you're going to have one screen and everything is going to be on the same screen. You might have multiple screens from multiple television aspects tied in with the Internet. And how those two techniques interface in the sports is a very top priority for us in the next two or three years; we'll start to have evidence of using our new scoring system. It also is doing some other things so that you can be watching the telecast over here and doing some things with the Internet that supports that, or even be able to interrelate to it from an interactive standpoint. And there's a variety of applications we are looking at. That's a long answer to your question. But I think fundamentally where we are is we know that we have to maintain our competition, we've got to stay ahead of technology. And to be competitive, we've got to keep our product fresh and vibrant and interesting. You just don't continue to do everything the same way every year for 20 years and expect to do that. So, we are looking at some different ways to approach The SENIOR TOUR, but it's really in the context of everything we do.

Q. So a person could be watching the TOUR on TV, have the computer fired up, and if, for example, they wanted to know about George Archer, they could punch in George Archer and it would bring up their overall stats?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Bring up his golf stats. They could find out what's happened to this particular hole the last two days. With the new scoring system, they might want to find out if somebody is not telling them, that -- see with this system, unlike saying: "Well, Johnny, it looks like he's got about a 9-footer." It will say, "He's got a putt of 9 feet, three inches." And, "Nobody or 20 percent of the field has made a putt from this side of the hole today that's between 9 and 11 feet." So, that kind of detail is available, either because it's part of the telecast maybe or you can pull it up. But you can probably play. You can probably play Bruce Fleisher today in realtime on the same golf course with electronic golf, if you wanted to. If you tie it to a satellite compatibility, it might be conceivable that you're a Jim Colbert fan and you just want to watch Jim Colbert all day. So wherever those camera angles, maybe you watch Jim Colbert for the last six holes. Or maybe, if you're watching the players championship you just want to see the guys play 17 all day; so you pull up 17. Part of that is an interface between video on the Internet or satellite transmission, the support the main -- and you'll see NBC and the Olympics start to do some of this stuff next year. We're just trying to position ourselves so as the techniques come together, we're in a position to take advantage of it and apply it to the best possible way to our sport. I'm not saying any one of these things will necessarily happen, but I'm just giving you examples of the kind of things that could happen in the next several years.

Q. Is there any thought to the dynamic that the superstars make so much money with the increased purses, and as much as they make off the course, that they will never make it to the Senior TOUR; that it's just not an appealing -- a lot of people go now because of the chance to cash in late, but so many of them will be so rich early --?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Yeah, I get asked that question a lot; so I think it's on people's minds. But I've watched Tiger Woods talking yesterday. Arguably, Tiger Woods is in that position now. He's 23 years old. He has five-year contracts. He could finish out these contracts, and he wouldn't have to play anymore. He could go to law school when he's 29. But, he's not looking at it this way. He's looking at the standpoint in the next 20 years, his career can challenge the great records in the sport of golf. Similarly, if Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, some of the players who have played The SENIOR TOUR were playing golf or not playing golf based on whether or not they needed to financially, they would not have played a lot. The fact is, two things: One, I think that they love the game. And they love -- certainly, if they can be competitive, they love being in that position in the game rather than just playing off their home course. And two, being visible in the sport ties into other things that they are doing. I don't see that dynamic changing. Now, to my knowledge, we haven't had many people since Bobby Jones -- in the last 20 years, walk away from the sport who were competitive, just to do something else. Bobby Jones didn't leave to go practice law school because he wanted to quit playing golf. He left because that was the only way to make a living for his family. If these kind of rewards were available to him, my guess is he would have been a Super Senior aside the fact from his illness. So, I don't share that philosophy. I think that in the short term, what greater financial benefits do, it allows us to retain more activity of the players on our TOURs, as opposed to them taking more time off to do other lucrative things on Mondays, Tuesdays, corporate outings, appearances, endorsements, foreign appearances for more money. And that creates a higher percentage of the players activity on our TOUR, which is what we're trying to achieve, one of the benefits of a higher purse.

Q. Commissioner, the TOUR, the PGA TOUR has had a long history here in South Carolina. It's made a big investment in the TPC course. Does it concern you when a group like the NAACP calls for a boycott over the Confederate flag flying over the State House? Is that something you need to worry about?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I don't need to get into that one, do I? I don't know how to react to that. I honestly don't think that's an issue that affects our involvement here in the state.

Q. Has the NAACP tried to come to anybody in the PGA TOUR and try -- I know they talked about trying to get Tiger not to play the MCI when it comes around again, and this is just pie in the sky for them, but have they talked to anybody at the PGA about that issue?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No. But I would certainly think that that's a little bit of a leap between hurting the charities that are benefitted at the MCI and the volunteers that put their time, in terms of an action against the State. I mean, the State doesn't have anything to do with our tournament, the MCI. But no, to answer your question on that.

Q. Commissioner, can you talk about this year? You've had the World Golf Championships added, and you've had Tiger going for $6 million, but you've also had the situation with Payne Stewart. Just your emotions that you've gone through this year?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: First of all, from the standpoint of PGA TOUR, generally, it was a great year. Most of what we set out to do -- most of our objectives and goals for the year were accomplished. So, any time that happens, you're real pleased. The World Golf Championships I think got off to a great start. They were designed for a purpose, and I know some people will pick at this aspect or pick at that aspect, but it's not a perfect world. Every time you started out to do something and you couldn't do it until every single issue was resolved, you would never get anything done. We will continue to refine it and try to make it better, but we were off to a great start. We were well-received. They accomplished the major purpose they were established for, which is to orient this sport to take advantage of the global marketplace, the global communication system and present the sport to the media, the fans, television as a globally-organized endeavor, and we took a nice first step to get there. The situation with losing Payne is just a tragic situation. I think that he's going to be -- he is going to be really missed in the sport because as we got over the tragedy a little bit, the shock of the tragedy at least, you can't get over the tragedy. But it became more and more apparent what a hole Payne's departure has left in the TOUR. I honestly think we'd sort of maybe come to take Payne for granted a little bit, just because he was always there. He always played well. He was always there on the weekend; there was Payne. He was a part of the show, a great part of the show, and you just maybe appreciate him a lot more that he's gone. So that's was very sad. On the other hand, there were a lot of uplifting things about the aftermath of losing Payne: The strength of Tracey, the way the players came together, which was really moving; the outpouring of support to the family, and the recognition throughout golf that this guy was something very special. All that, I thought, was very uplifting. And it hit us all so hard that it makes you think about things differently. I know that that's had that effect on me. I know the players feel the same way. Now the question going forward is given some of the things Payne believed so fervently we need to take some steps to make sure his memory is part of the fabric of the sport going forward, and we are addressing that in the next few weeks.

Q. You mentioned a few of the things that the TOUR hopes to do in the future with regards to TV and things like that, is there any effort being made to maybe expand the scope of the TOURs to some of the other -- maybe LPGA or some other developmental tours, I guess?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: We announced the new sponsor of what has been the Nike TOUR, Buy.Com, the TOUR will be known going forward. We are delighted in that arrangement. It will allow us some additional arrangements to kick that TOUR up a couple notches. That TOUR will start to get points in the world golf rankings next year. It is probably time that that TOUR is not so much just a qualifier as it is a TOUR in and of itself. And if you play well enough, you happen to go to the PGA TOUR, but it is very much -- very strong competition in and of itself. And that's the direction we want to take. One of the questions there is: Should there be an interface somehow between that TOUR or access to that TOUR and some of the other mini TOURs, and it would be premature for me -- it's just something we're going to take a look at over the next year. In terms of the LPGA it has good, strong management. Ty Votaw is very good. He is very capable, and he is fully competent to maximize the market position of the LPGA TOUR. I know from time to time people suggest on the outside in, why don't you just put that under the umbrella and make it work. There are some problems with that. I think with Ty there now, they have good strong leadership going.

Q. What are the problems with that? You said problems with that?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, any time you -- we have -- we put a lot of strain on our organization at -- what do we have, 142 or 143 events that we're spread over, and we just added the World Golf Championships. We'd like to swallow all that and make sure it's working right over the next couple years. And we've got to make sure everything is -- we're hitting on 8 cylinders before we start thinking about anything else. We're in a mode where we want to consolidate, improve the staging of our tournaments across the board and get ready for the next phase of television. I guess the short answer is that is we've got a pretty full plate.

Q. Some of the guys that have come in here this week -- Hale has talked about it's been a long season and he comes to this he's feeling a little down. Bruce Fleisher has talked about that as well, and possibly the season being too long. Is there any look at possibly shortening the season or doing anything with this TOUR?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: You might have a couple players say that, but I've talked to every player on the tee this morning, and probably 25 or 27 of them, I asked them what they were doing after this tournament. "Well, I'm going to play the Match Play; then I'm going to play the Father/Son; and I'm going to play in the Diners Club; and I might play over here". Let me tell you what happens. If you shorten the tournaments, they just won't be Senior TOUR events. They will be some other collage of events. In the process of getting that done, you're going to reduce the overall financial wherewithal for the players because they are not going to be in events organized by the players organization, which generates the highest percentage back to the players. I sympathize with those players. And you know, if Bruce is complaining he ought to play a few less, because if you're winning 8, you can win 6 and you'd be doing just fine. (Laughter.) This is not a new issue and it's one we do look at from time to time. And frankly, there are some real advantages being able to play a shorter season, but those are the trade-offs that we face. And if you're trying to look at the scope of the endeavor in generating the biggest set of gains back to the membership, you have to look at that aspect of it, too, and not get dissuaded because of the attitude about the schedule by a few players.

Q. It looks like the Philadelphia is going to lose it's event. Does it on concern the TOUR that Philadelphia might go without a senior event, a market that size?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: If it were to go to Princeton, and I don't think we've made that financial determination, but if it were to go to Princeton, it wouldn't be like it's all that far away. But I don't know how you look at that. That's an independent decision that's made about what's best for that tournament. We are going to start playing a PGA tournament there about every other year that's going to alternate with Pittsburgh, and we're delighted to be able to get some PGA TOUR golf back into two of the best golf markets in the country. But the senior event is a whole other set of issues, and we figure that Jasna Polana could be an excellent venue for the Senior TOUR. Now, we get there and we'll learn more. But that's probably the direction we'll head.

Q. Has it been easier to if the decision occurs this year if the U.S. Senior Open is going to (inaudible)?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Maybe. But honestly, we have over the years now, what we say early, 20 years of senior TOUR golfer. And The SENIOR TOUR has it has matured to a full schedule, there are a myriad of markets where we have added Senior TOUR golf to a market that already has a PGA event. And then you have the Senior Open, and the Open, PGA Championship and now the senior PGA Championship moving around; you just have to deal with that. It's going to happen. And it's an impact on the market. We also move the TOUR Championship around. We played the TOUR Championship the last three years in places where we have Senior TOUR and/or regular TOUR golf. You just have to work through that. You just can't -- I would say one of the things I should have mentioned earlier is that we are pleased that we are moving towards a better schedule of major championships on The SENIOR TOUR, which we think is a real important thing to have some real separation between those major championships so that they can be presented better and as a consequence, better promote the entire senior TOUR.

Q. Are there any plans for another TPC course in South Carolina, specifically in the Hilton Head area?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Not at the moment. In fact, at this juncture, I don't think we're having any conversations about that. We're always interested in talking to folks, but not at the moment.

Q. Where does the Casey Martin situation stand right now?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: His case is on appeal in the 8th circuit. Oral argument was heard back in -- I would say early to mid-May. We actually had expected the decision by the end of the summer. It didn't come. There were two other cases on the docket, and both of those cases have been decided. So we don't know what's taking them so long. The lawyers speculate they are having a tough time on the case or one of the judges is writing a descending opinion. That's where that stands. If he prevails, we will do as we've been doing, which is to provide him a cart. At this juncture our policy poured has taken a position -- our rule is still in place. And if we prevail in the lawsuit, we will have our rule, which means that he would not get a cart on the PGA TOUR next year. It's just a matter of waiting and seeing what the Court does, and it's out of our hands. In the meantime, he obviously has been a very impressive figure in terms of being able to get his card through the Q school, given his physical disability, and our hats are off to him.

Q. Can you talk about the World Cup? Is that going to be part of the World Championship of Golf next year?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: We're not sure that's going to be. It's a matter that's under discussion. And you know, I just don't know. We obviously have the World Cup coming up in a couple of weeks, but in its existing situation, we'd like to be able to talk by then about the future of the World Cup. That's our objective. We hope to have something to say, but at this point in time, we have to be certain that the World Cup can be staged at a World Golf Championship type level, and that involves a number of things coming together. And at this point they are not together, but we are making the effort.

Q. Have you been down lately to the TPC course?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I haven't been there since we opened. I was there when we opened. That's the last time I was there.

Q. Do you plan an going there?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I won't make it this trip. I just came in from Spain last night, and I'm going home when we get done. But I'll be back up, probably in the spring. All right. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

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