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October 27, 1999

Tim Finchem


JAMES CRAMER: I'd like to thank everyone for coming out this afternoon. We have PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem with us. I am just going to turn it over to him. He has got a few things to talk about. Then we will open it up for questions. Commissioner?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Thank you very much for being with us. Originally when we scheduled this get-together, we were going to, as we have in previous years at THE TOUR Championship, take the opportunity to talk about the year, how the year has gone; try to answer your questions about next year, etc., And sort of do a year review. What we'd like to do is postpone that discussion if we could until maybe the week after the World Golf Championship at Valderrama in two weeks, and we will organize a media conference call to take a look at the year. I know there is some questions about the World Golf Championships and other areas, and make ourselves fully available to discuss that and next year, and the years to come, things that are going on on the other two TOURS, as well. And we will do a comprehensive year-in-review and take all of your questions. Between that time and after Thanksgiving, I can be available to you. Those of you who are doing year-end reviews or things like that can go through Bob Combs and his staff. The reason that we'd like to postpone that today, I would just like to make a few comments about this week and the tragedy, and give some detail to what is going on this week, and then take any of your questions on those subjects. If there is something that you really feel like you really have to ask me about the normal course of business, I will be happy to try to answer that. But let me just start by reiterating the comments I have made on Monday with respect to the tragic loss of Payne Stewart. Actually, on Monday when I made those comments, we were struggling to organize our thoughts and say something coherent, but I think everybody was, and to some extent continues, to be in a state of shock. But the thing that occurs to me about this loss as we start to reflect on it over the last 48 hours is what a tremendous loss it really is to the game of golf that, I guess, in many ways we came over the years to take Payne Stewart for granted because you always knew that he was going to be a very special presence at PGA TOUR events. You always knew or pretty much knew that he was going to be playing on Sunday. He was very consistent over the years. So you always knew that he was going to have a real positive effect on the Pro-Am players on Wednesday; that he was going to sell tickets; that he was going to be a draw to the fans. Those of us who are in this business also recognize that he was having, and did have, a very positive effect on the younger players coming up, in terms of his devotion to the professionalism that he brought to the game. He was meticulous in the way that he presented himself as a PGA TOUR player. He felt so strongly about the importance to the presentation of our sport from the player's perspective in terms of working hard at that. In fact, one of the last conversations I had with him, during the Ryder Cup we talked at length about the importance of that and the importance of maintaining that tradition in the PGA TOUR. He is, in many ways, I think irreplaceable from that perspective. You think back in the history of the game and try to compare him to somebody. He was a very unique figure in sports and in golf. I kind of yesterday in an address, I kind of think that maybe Walter Hagen in a non-television era, a player who had this bigness, this presence about him, who dressed for the game, who brought an excitement to it. And who also is a winner, who could beat everybody out there from time to time. Maybe if Walter Hagen had played in a television era, we could have more comparatives. Obviously, everybody in the game is -- continues to be in shock, in sadness. Now what we have been faced with the last few days is trying to do what we can do as an organization in the short-term to assist in an appropriate recognition of Payne's passing. I will talk about the details of that in a second. Then begin, at least, to reflect on in the longer term what steps might be necessary to make sure that we perpetuate his memory and what he stood for and how important he was in the game. I did visit yesterday afternoon with Tracey Stewart in Orlando, and we did talk a little bit about her interest in that regard and some of the many different things that might be entertained down the road to deal with that issue. I think it is fair to say that right now it is premature to jump to any specific thing, but it will be something as we come out of this week that we will start to reflect on. As far as this week goes, I think all of you know that we have cancelled play on is the PGA TOUR events in both Jackson, Mississippi and in Houston on Friday. We will have, first of all, a ceremony here on Thursday morning at 7:45 on the first tee tomorrow morning. I have asked Tom Lehman -- we will have brief remarks, and I have asked Tom Lehman to lead us in a prayer. He has agreed to do so. There will be a brief ceremony at 7:45 tomorrow morning at the conclusion of which we will have the long bagpiper walk down the fairway. Tomorrow night at 7:30 in Mississippi, there will a public service at the Colonial Heights Baptist Church, which a number of our players will attend in Mississippi. On Friday at 11:00 A.M., the family has organized a memorial service at the First Baptist Church of Orlando. We will have a good number of players from Houston and from Mississippi flying to Orlando to attend the service. We have arranged a number of private aircraft to take players and spouses to Orlando. We would ask that you bear with us, that that transportation is for players and spouses to Orlando, early in the morning on Friday and then returning the players to Houston and Jackson late, late Friday afternoon. We do also anticipate and have had numerous calls from other players who are not in either the Houston or Mississippi tournaments, THE TOUR Championship or the Southern Farm Bureau Classic, who have indicated interest in coming to Orlando with their families. So we anticipate, and I would guesstimate, at this point that we will have in the range of 100 players from the PGA TOUR who will attend with families and friends, a number of staff who new Payne as well, and we have offered and supplied some staff people to the family working on the logistics of dealing with the large number of people who will be attending the service in Orlando. The media is invited to the service, and there will be a live pooled media signal from the Church available to any of you in the television side who want to pick up the signal. You can just talk to our staff, and they can arrange the logistics for your various organizations to pick up the signal should you have an interest. We will have media staff on site in Orlando. They are there now, and will be there through the ceremony on Friday to also help coordinate the various activities related to media access to the service. That is on Friday. In lieu of our programming on Friday, we understand ESPN will be telecasting a three-hour special tribute to Payne Stewart in lieu of THE TOUR Championship program, Inside the PGA TOUR this week, we will have a memorial presentation, as will ABC television, this weekend. I should go back to Friday for a second. On the SENIOR TOUR in Los Angeles this weekend, we will play golf on Friday. We didn't think it logistically made sense to the players be able to get to and from Los Angeles for the service. But there will be a public service at the 18th hole on Friday at conclusion of play in Los Angeles where a number of our players will participate. In any event, that is the schedule for this week, and then we will resume play on Saturday; complete 54 holes of play in Mississippi, and our champion will be determined after 54 holes. Here we, of course, will be playing 27 on Thursday, 27 on Saturday and 18 on Sunday. Obviously, we would love to be able to treat both tournaments exactly the same just for symmetry purposes. It is not possible with the size of the field, and given the fact that we have both a cut to have or eligibility of the World Golf Championship this weekend and Qualifying School starting early next week, we didn't think it was fair to the competitors; so we will follow that schedule. That is about all I have to say at this point. I will be happy to try to answer any of your questions.

Q. Do you anticipate having 100% participation from the players here in the ceremony? Will they all go?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I am not sure of that. Some of the players haven't even arrived yet, Jerry. I would be speculating. I don't know at this juncture. I assume most of the players will attend, but there may be some of these players that knew Payne more than others. Certainly, it is a personal decision. I would say also that attendance at any kind of services, everybody differs in terms of their attitude toward attendance. We are not making a checklist. We are just making sure we can accommodate everybody that wants to go.

Q. Was there any consideration to not playing this event? Several players have said their hearts are not in it; that if you called it off, it would be fine by them?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: In a short period of time, we looked at, I think, every conceivable alternative. We concluded that given all of the various factors; perhaps even the factor of what Payne Stewart would have liked to see happen, but given all the potential factors that we could determine, we determined this course of action. I suspect it could be second-guessed, but it doesn't really matter at this point. It is our course of action, and frankly, we are very comfortable with it.

Q. Was there any conversation with Tracey about whether this tournament should go on? Did she have any input on that?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: We did have a conversation about that. She, I would -- she was very pleased that we were creating a situation where the players had an opportunity to attend the service, I guess that is the best way to putt it.

Q. Two questions, if I may. Last place money here is 80,000. Has there been consideration to what will happen with that? Will it go to charity, to family?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: In this particular event, it is already -- there have been some precedence in THE TOUR Championship short-field situation. Last place money would be awarded -- it would be conveyed to the estate, in this case, I assume, Tracey. Her disposition of the funds is totally up to her.

Q. But that 80,000 will go to Tracey?


Q. The Hall of Fame, Payne is already eligible for that. Was there any thought of stepping up the process there at all?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No. I think, you know, he is on the ballot and he will remain on the ballot. And he just had a phenomenal year winning the United States Open and having just a fantastic year. I think that will have its impact on the ballot process. We have a procedure at the Hall of Fame that relates to special consideration, but it is for -- it is not intended, at least at this juncture, to impact players who aren't on the ballot. At this juncture, I think we would let things take its course.

Q. That happens this --?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: The ballot goes out this fall, I believe, two weeks after the season is over, about the first week of November, second week of November.

Q. Why was it important for the TOUR to make these arrangements to get the players to Orlando? I know a lot of the players had expressed interest in going there. Was that a factor in why it was important for the TOUR to make those arrangements possible?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I think our interest at the time was to give the players an opportunity to attend the service; also to make a statement by taking the day off and facilitating their travel is just something we were in a position to do. We facilitate their travel all the time. It might not be through private aircraft, but on movement. Our staff went right to work and we went into position to pull together the requisite number of private aircraft to get the job done and make it available and facilitate the players' ability to get there. It is just what we do.

Q. Can you walk us through where you were on Monday and how you found out about what was transpiring and what you did as a result of the news that you were receiving?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Are you really interested in that? I was on a conference call with many of your peers discussing the Buy.Com sponsorship of the Nike Tour. I completed that. In hindsight, I thought about this yesterday. Nobody asked about this situation on that call. So none of the people -- I think we had eight or nine members of the media, Bob, that it was immediately after that call -- literally, I hung up; Bob came into my office and Bob had heard a rumor or picked up something on the Internet. We then turned on the newscast, and for the next two and a half hours watched it unfold. That was approximately 12:30 on Monday. And during the first chunk of that, there was -- we were getting calls and some information that the FAA was indicating it was Payne. And I knew that you don't file the flight roster with the FAA. So I knew that the FAA -- if the FAA had the information, it was secondhand information from some place. So I kept telling our people, "I don't believe this until we get some sort of confirmation." Unfortunately, that is what the family was going through about the same time, too, and everybody knows. It is the most bizarre set of circumstances. Then after the crash, in my conversation with Tracey, she was focused on what was going to happen next. And I got in touch with the governor of South Dakota. He happened to be at the site, and we talked through steps and then we got transferred to the National Transportation Safety Board, who we have been communicating with over the last two days. That is one of the reasons I went down to talk to Tracey yesterday. So it is just -- I guess we went to sort of the same thing everybody else did.

Q. Payne wasn't shy about expressing opinions. I am wondering if your dealings with him, any particular memory, about Payne that you hold?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I have a number. (Laughs). No, Payne was very direct with me. He wasn't always happy with everything -- interestingly enough, I have lots of memories like that. One of them is that Payne was the first player I talked to about The Presidents Cup in 1994. We had just made a tentative decision to try to do it. And if you recall, we did it that year. And it was at AT&T, and we went to dinner at and a little Italian place in Carmel, and then we went and ate all this ice cream, then we talked about The Presidents Cup. And that was the kind of player he was. You always wanted to know what he was thinking. He didn't really engage a lot in issues related to the business side of the TOUR, but he was always -- he was very opinionated and he was highly respected. So he was always a player that you want to talk to about stuff. But, no, he would -- Payne was a player -- he always wanted votes on everything. If there would be a rain delay, he'd come in the locker room and say, "Let's have a vote on this, should we be playing or not playing?" That would be very simple. But the last -- he understood marketing. He understood brand building. He understand all those things. He was so excited when he came out with his own brand for his clothing line, and so it was always easy to talk to Payne about things that related to marketing the TOUR and improve it. One of -- the last conversation I had with Payne was after the Ryder Cup when I asked him if would he help me pull together a group of players and do something special for all our title sponsors next spring. He was really into that. He spent 30 minutes trying to talk about how we would do it. He was excited about doing it. He went to Washington for us last spring to do the things for the Links and Literacy fund-raiser where we have all these senators and congressmen come and raise a bunch of money for that program. He loved it. He said, "Sign me up; I really enjoy this. It is a good cause, but I like the people and I will do it. I will do it every year if you want me to." In talking to the people around the family yesterday, that is how a lot of them remember him, someone who is so giving with everything. He was opinionated. He would let me know when he didn't agree with me about something.

Q. Did he not agree on The Presidents Cup?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No, he agreed. He was concerned about -- you got to remember when that was. That was just -- nothing had happened. He was concerned that how long it would take to develop stature. I remember him musing, "How long does it take to really build an event like this up?" I said, "Well, it depends on the extent to which you want to build it up." But he was positive.

Q. Has there been any consideration to organize some type of display at the World Golf Village, some type of tribute maybe with Payne Stewart's clothing over the next few days?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No. I think that in the next few days this week, we have got our hands full, focused on supporting what the family wants to do in terms of services. I think we need to let that take its course. And then, you know, there isn't any rush to get people to focus on Payne. Everybody is focused on Payne: The question is, can we do some things in a tasteful way down the road that perpetuates what was best about Payne. I think we just need to take our time on that and think about that and try to do what is appropriate.

Q. You don't have to answer this question, but in your mind, how was Tracey holding up, and did you also see the kids and how do they seem to be fairing?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I have been asked that question several times. I don't particularly want to talk about that. I will just say as you might suspect, she is very strong. And I was very impressed with -- she is so positive in her love for him, that in some ways that seems to be giving her strength to deal with it all from my perspective. I gather -- I was not intimately involved with Payne and Tracey to know enough about their relationship; so I shouldn't comment about all that. But what other people have told me is that on the golf side of things, they were very much a team. They worked very closely together, and I can sort of see that yesterday that -- but we just wish her the very best.

Q. Did you get to see the children and know how they are fairing?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I did see the children and I talked to them briefly, but I don't think the perspective of a three-minute conversation can tell you how they are dealing with it. That is too soon.

Q. This fleet of planes you have assembled, can you give us some idea where that has come from? Have some of the players contributed some funds --?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I don't think we want to go into a lot of detail. But yes, planes there are planes owned by players, PGA TOUR, outside plane management companies, if you will, leasing companies, combination of things. Especially Southern Company has made two planes available. Southern Company has been great this week through everything. In fact, they have been fantastic.

Q. Was there any thought of chartering a bigger plane?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: We have one bigger plane chartered which we will probably use in Mississippi.

Q. How much consideration was given to say cancelling the tournaments this week, and specifically this one, what problems would that have created?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, I have already answered that question. I believe early on I got the question: Did I consider or did we consider cancellation. My response was, and I will just state it again, is that I think we were meticulous, or reasonably meticulous, given the time constraints of looking at all the possible options. We concluded that this set of options was the most, appropriate given all the factors involved, and we are comfortable with the set of decisions we made.

Q. Earlier, Hal Sutton said he heard players talking about maybe on Sunday everybody wearing knickers. Is that something you have heard about, and would you endorse that? Would you like to see that?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I did hear the suggestion. I think at this juncture our perception of that is it is not feasible.

End of FastScripts….

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