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August 25, 1999

Tim Finchem


LEE PATTERSON: We've got with us PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem. We appreciate you spending some time with us this afternoon. And I know you've got a few things you'd like to talk about, and we'll open it up for questions.

COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Thank you all for coming in. Is anybody else cold in here? We're delighted to be in Akron this week. I'd like to make a few comments about the World Golf Championships and a couple comments about a couple other matters and then take your questions. First of all, this is a good week for the PGA TOUR. We have a tremendous, strong field here at the World Golf Championship, the NEC Invitational, and also a very strong field in Reno, at the same time, with 156 players competing in Reno for $2.75 million. And consequently, we have a very strong payday for players in two very good events. An old favorite place here at Firestone, and a new place at Reno. So, I'll be headed to Reno tomorrow and be in Reno for a couple days, and be back with you here on the weekend. Let me just say generally we're now at the outset of the second World Golf Championships event. We were pleased with the results of the first event at La Costa, the Match Play Championship, the Andersen Consulting, went very, very well. In hindsight, we think the structure of that event is sound. We think there is a place for match play in professional golf going forward. We think the fans reacted positively and told us that that week. The actual structure of the competition, we've had a lot of suggestions about it; but frankly, we think it's pretty good. We may alter a little bit the sequence on the weekend of matches. We're reevaluating that now, but other than that, we're comfortable with staying the course for next year. This week, we're delighted that every player what has been eligible for the Presidents Cup, Ryder Cup the last couple of years is here, all 41 players. The combination of that field, with this golf course, the Akron Golf Charities, the work here in Akron, their tremendous effort for charity is going to make for a great week. We think the field deserves this kind of golf course and this kind of challenge. It is in immaculate condition. We want to thank the Firestone staff for getting it that way. It's in perfect condition, and all the players are making that kind of comment. We are also looking forward to the American Express at Valderrama at the end of the year. We are delighted that the event seems to be shaping up very well at Valderrama. As you know, we are excited about the two, from the two-week finale of the season, $10 million in prize money over two weeks. As we look now, halfway through, we are almost halfway through the year, the World Golf Championships were organized in the way they were, they primarily do two things: Meet the international marketplace, organize competitions at the PGA TOUR level to meet the international interest in the game, from a marketing standpoint. And to meet the interest in the fans from having the best players from all over the world play a reasonable number of times over the course of the year. Now, when you look at the major golf championships, the World Golf Championships, Presidents Cup, Ryder Cup, The PLAYERS Championship, there is a good sprinkling during the course of the year when every top player is in the field. That also translates -- and that works for the fans. But it also translates into now a good number of events that impact the world golf rankings and, we think, make the world golf rankings even more credible. Let me just reiterate on Tuesday of this week, the staging looks terrific. And this building is an indication of the success of the World Golf Championships. We were pleased to come here in June and dedicate it. And we are indebted to Akron Golf Charities and Firestone and ClubCorp for making it possible. We do have all the players from the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams here this week. And I would like to make a comment about the recent discussion revolving around the Ryder Cup. I had some brief participation in the press conference at the PGA Championship, but let me just elaborate for a minute my thoughts on that matter. And I do that now, because I, frankly, would like to not discuss it during the course of the championship this week. And I'm helping myself in that regard by being in Reno for two days; but beyond that, I would like to make my comments now and answer any questions you have, and let's focus on the World Golf Championships. First of all, I think that -- and the reason I want to comment on it is I think it has been really blown out of proportion in terms of what has really happened here. And I say that because, really, it's not news. The discussion about Ryder Cup finances has been going on for several years. And I say that because the questioning, if you will, of the motivation of players in this regard is disturbing to me. I even read something the other day where someone was questioning whether a charitable contribution, if directed by a player, would result in a financial gain to the player because of a tax deduction, which makes no sense to me. It's really gotten -- gone from the sublime to the ridiculous in terms of the discussion I've heard around this issue. And I think it's important that, because of that, we clarified several things, at least from my perspective. And let me just state them this way: First of all, first and foremost, I don't believe there's anything inappropriate at all in competitors in any event wanting to know the financial structure of that event. Where the money goes, that is generated because of the players competing. Not only do I not think it's inappropriate, but I think it's healthy. We encourage it on PGA TOUR. We work very hard to make sure the players understand that; why it is the Byron Nelson Classic is $5 million to charity, and how that happens, etc., etc. I think the PGA of America -- I know the PGA of America agrees that it's appropriate and has been very forthcoming in these discussions. There's just nothing inappropriate about it. Secondly, I don't think there's anything inappropriate at all about competitors wishing to be part of the charitable exercise in a tournament. They are not part of it, frankly, on most of the events on the PGA TOUR. The charitable proceeds are based on what the foundation or the committee that week wants to do with the charitable proceeds. But the players endorse and support strongly the notion that 100% of the net proceeds of all of our tournaments are given to charity. They endorse the idea that $50 million this year is going to be left behind in the communities where we play. They don't worry about that money. They won't suggest that it should be put in purses. They endorse that. They have always endorsed that. They endorse it today. But to have the players want to be able to say: We think that this should happen or that should happen, whether it is or not, is not inappropriate. I don't think so. The PGA of America doesn't think so. The third thing is that the players have indicated in this instance, an interest, not a demand, but an interest in participating in the charitable distributions of the Ryder Cup. The PGA of America has said that's fine with them. And I am working closely with the PGA of America now to determine a way, a mechanism in which that will work. And there's no question in my mind that that will be a programmatic change going forward. And going toward, not that it hasn't happened in the past, but the players will be informed of the financial realities of the Ryder Cup. They will be asked their opinion about the financial direction of the Ryder Cup, and they will be involved in the charitable distribution of the Ryder Cup. As far as I know, the players all the players involved in this matter, agree with that direction; support it. The PGA of America agrees with it. I agree with it. And I am working with the PGA of America to effectuate it. And so that's where it is. To go back and pick at who asked what, who said what in what meeting, who asked what question, it seems to me is irrelevant. The players did have an interest, and justifiably. On the other hand, to suggest that the PGA of America, somehow is at fault in the development of the Ryder Cup is also ludicrous. The PGA of America has worked hard to build the commercial viability of the Ryder Cup, just as we do with every championship or tournament that we manage, just as the USGA does with the U.S. Open, etc. There's nothing wrong with that. The PGA of America managed the Ryder Cup for 60 years before it turned a profit. Nobody was calling up the PGA of America and saying: Gee whiz, we heard you were losing money on the Ryder Cup. Can we send you a contribution? It's only in the recent years that the Ryder Cup has become profitable, and only in the last few years has it become significantly profitable. We do not challenge, as players and the organization of the players, going back to the 1968 agreement with the PGA, their right to use the Ryder Cup to support their organization. We think that's totally appropriate. Just as the United States Golf Association uses the U.S. Open to support their organization, and the Royal and Ancient uses its Open Championship to support the Royal and Ancient, and Augusta uses it's golf tournament to support the Masters. What we ask of these organizations however, is to be reasonable overall, based on the financial structure of the event in generating benefits to the players. And in this case, the only alteration in the course is to say: Yes, there is significant charitable giving on the part of the Ryder Cup. $6 million during this first three-year period to the first tee alone. But now there will also be a mechanism involving the players in the decision-making process. That is a step that seems to be agreed to by everybody. I would just hope that we could keep this matter in perspective and allow the players to move ahead and play the Ryder Cup. This matter is conceptually, at this point, resolved. It is only a matter of the detail to be worked out in the coming weeks and months, and it will be worked out in the detail between ourselves and the PGA of America. The players that I have talked to are focused on preparing for this competition, and preparing to attempt to win this competition. And I would hope that they would be allowed to do that without significant additional distraction. In any event, we're delighted that those players who are involved in those events are here with us this week. When you compete to achieve the status of serving on the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team, you do so over a two-year period. It is a focal point for virtually every player to make one of those teams. They have to work very hard to do that. And we're delighted to be able to establish an event this week that recognizes that performance. And I would just make one final comment about PGA TOUR players. I haven't seen a lot written about it in the last few weeks, and that is whether it's the ability to give charitable dollars at the Presidents Cup or the Ryder Cup, or whether it's the ability to participate in a purse structure, for the PGA TOUR, that ability is based solely and entirely on an individual's performance. No one determines whether a player is good enough to be here this week. No one makes the decision through a draft or a contract that a player will play at this level and is worth this much money. A player receives prize money based on how well he plays. There is no guarantee. A player who plays two years to get on the Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup and is here this week may not be able to play at all next week. There are no contracts. There are no guarantees. That is unique in sport. And I think when any of these references are made, that uniqueness needs to be referenced as well. I'd be happy to entertain your questions.

Q. When you were developing the World Golf Championships, you could have gone a lot of different ways with those tournaments. What made you decide on this particular format, the way the field was comprised this week?

COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Well, let's start with Firestone and wanting to play here, and at that time a recognition of the World Series of Golf. We love the World Series of Golf. We thought there were weaknesses in the World Series of Golf, from the standpoint primarily of the fans understanding how a player got here. The tournaments that qualified a tournament player for the World Series of Golf changed over the last 20 years. There just wasn't a clear definition in the mind of the fan in: This player got here, as opposed to this player won the Muirfield; and how does it all come together. In the presentation of the competition, we thought that if we were going to convert the World Series of Golf to a World Golf Championships event, that that certainly needed to be rectified. The date of the event coming roughly a month before the Ryder Cup figured into the determination that we could promote effectively and significantly the Ryder Cup coming up or the Presidents Cup coming up, at the same time allow the fans to understand how the players got here, and be able to position the event in a much stronger way by doing that. That was pretty much the thinking that went into the development of this concept. And in addition to that, recognizing that if a player was successful in his quest for a two-year period, that that succession should be recognized in this kind of format.

Q. I think there's a lot of fans see this was a way to pay the players indirectly for their participation in the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup. Can you talk to that at all?

COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: It certainly did that, in a sense. It wasn't designed to do that, per se. It certainly is a recognition by virtue of eligibility, however, of those players. You can look at it different ways. The fact is that if you're going to make the Presidents Cup on the International Team, it means that you were in the Top-10, typically 15 international players, in the world U.S. rankings over a two-year period and you know the eligibility for the American team and the European team. So it's not a bad criteria to determine the best players in the world. And at the same time, it allows us to recognize that performance and promote what we think are two very special competitions in the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup. So we think it's all positive.

Q. How many different sites are you considering now for 2001 and where does Firestone rank on that list?

COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: I think you asked me that question in June, and there's really been no change. We're looking at four or five. Firestone is one of them. And we'll make a decision, I would think, by Thanksgiving.

Q. Are there factors this week that you're going to look at that could make the difference?

COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: The question was: How many different places are we looking at for the 2001 NEC Invitational and where does Firestone rank. Yes, we'll be evaluating the tournament very carefully. It's the first year of the World Golf Championships, and we're evaluating everything. Our assumption hasn't changed, basically, which is that, with regard to this championship and recognizing that there are very significant golf markets in North America which don't have PGA TOUR-level golf, we'd like to be able to bring them something once in awhile, and that's still our direction. But we're not absolutely convinced of that.

Q. Two years ago you announced that the year 2000, the World Cup would become the fourth World Golf Championships event. Is that still the plan?

COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: We certainly are moving forward with our planning regarding the future of World Cup, but we haven't finished that planning yet. Whether it actually should be positioned as part of a World Golf Championships series, I'm not sure at this point. It kind of depends on where we come out with the planning in the event. We are pretty excited about the future of the World Cup, and we're looking at some format changes and some interesting venues, but we are just not quite there yet. I should have said this earlier, generally as far as the World Golf Championships goes, we are very comfortable with the sequence we now have, and we see no reason to extend the number of those. The World Cup would be an exception to that, and we could go either way on that later in the year.

Q. What has changed in the last two years to make you sort of back off a bit?

COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Well, I wouldn't call it backing off. I think the history of the World Cup is a long one, and it's really a question of how the World Cup can be best positioned. And there are a lot of people involved in this process now that think that perhaps it's best positioned to remain the World Cup, period, not the World Golf Championships World Cup. Like I said, we have not made a final determination.

Q. I want to go back to something you said earlier. You were indebted to Firestone and Akron Golf Charities. Will there be something -- (inaudible)?

COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: If, in the event that we don't play here in '01, we will work with Akron Golf Charities to make sure that their charitable commitment would continue. What form that would take at this juncture, I'm not sure. But we will certainly take steps to make sure that the charitable side of the financial effort is in place. Whether that's a Pro-Am, a Monday-Tuesday event, something else -- we'll get you the first decision first. And if, in fact, we go somewhere else in '01 --

Q. Could you put a likelihood in returning here?

COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: The event will definitely run in '02. That would be speculative.

Q. At Medinah, Hale Irwin, one of your former Presidents Cup captains said that he thought the phrase "Cup burnout" was a legitimate phrase. The fact that the Americans have to play a Cup every year. I was wondering if you agree with that if there is such a thing as Cup burnout and he also suggested that the Presidents Cup out to change it's format and not be exactly the same as the Ryder Cup. I wonder if there has been any consideration given to that.

COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: First of all it is not exactly the same as the Ryder Cup. When Hale was captain or designated captain, he was involved in the original format discussions. My recollection is he had some additional specific differential, but I don't know what his specific recommendation is at this time. We are not we haded to any particular format, own than we like the format we had. If there is a case to be made that it can be made better, then we are certainly all areas to that, from players, public, media, we welcome suggestions. As far as the first part of your question goes, I think I've said a number of times that having a team event at this level is a significant additional burden on the part of the players, no question about that. When you add to that the fact that the Presidents Cup, by it's very nature requires very significant international travel, it's beyond just going to Europe where you're going to either Japan, Australia, South Africa, what have you, it's additionally difficult. And the primary reason and impetus for the Presidents Cup is that we felt strongly that the best players in the world who don't happen to be from Europe and the United States should have the opportunity to play in that very unique-type format. And, in fact, having created the Presidents Cup, we find that group of players is exceedingly good and has bonded together as a team incredibly. We felt that that outweighed the negatives from a burden standpoint. To have those players have the ability to compete, especially in light of the fact that some of them sort of represent the emerging markets, golf markets of the world. So nothing has changed in our attitude about that. It is difficult for the players. It is an additional sacrifice. It is a significant additional sacrifice. We are delighted that the players have committed themselves to it the way they have. But also we think that it has been exceedingly well received by the golf fans where we have played. Melbourne was a memorable experience, and clearly the biggest event in the history of golf in Australia. We think it did a lot for golf in Australia, and we think did it did a lot of golf world wild; so the general discretion in our attitude has not changed.

Q. Just to follow-up, in your mind, there is no real solution to the phenomena of Cup burnout itself?

COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: There's a different question. Is there a way to -- if it's an overriding burden, is there a way to somehow combine the event, which I've been asked that question before, or spread the events out or not play them as often. Those are all things that are generally being discussed. I think if you -- you have to recognize, I think the realities are that both in the case of the Ryder Cup, and in the case of the Presidents Cup, commitments extend pretty far out in terms of television venues and the rest. It would be very much a long-term solution to do anything in that regard. And I don't envision that. However, I'll hasten to say that I never say never to anything. And as I said about the format, if there's a better way, we're certainly always open to look looking at that.

Q. When the NEC World Series of Golf was first founded, there was thoughts that it would be the next major. And a lot of people felt it was heading that way, and a had a few people talked more in that vain. To some of us at the time seemed that way. The TOUR Championship in a lot of our minds is like the 5th major. Now, if you have all of the best players in the world come together with an enormous purse, can a major be built on the fact that you've got just a huge purse and all the best players in the world there?

COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: It goes back to what your definition of major is. I don't get hung up on that definition too much. We have -- we set out with some very specific objectives here to organize our competitive structure to meet the world marketplace and meet the interest of the fans worldwide to see these kind of international players play against each other, we think this mix meets that objective. How you or others want to rank these various events, compared to events that might have been there for four years longer, that's not up to us to determine. That's up to you to determine.

Q. Going back to when Mark O'Meara mentioned it, the discussion about being paid, or what seemed to be being paid for the Ryder Cup seems to have gone away. But some players still seem to have some interest in not only the charitable contribution, maybe not this group, but a group in the future; as well as they have other issues in regards to how the Ryder Cup is conducted, with regards to dinners they have to attend and everything else. Will you be discussing this as well as discussing the charitable contributions with the PGA of America going forward?

COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: I'm not anxious to talk about dinners, but and I don't think that it's necessary to talk about at this juncture any time the foreseeable future any question of players being paid, because to my knowledge, nobody is asking to move in that direction. To my knowledge, it is not a live issue. The players who have mentioned a financial reimbursement in that general area are extremely comfortable with moving in a direction of understanding the financial structure and having a role to play in charitable distribution. It's interesting to me, however, and I want to hasten to say that not on the table. And the answer to your question is no, I don't see discussing it, because I don't see it as something that's of a matter to discuss. But, conceptually, let's say you did pay the players. If you have those two teams playing against each other, the two teams in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, it still would be a good match. It would be professional golf for prize money. It's not evil to play for money. It's different. And I think a lot of people say, well, you know, we play for our country; so, playing for money would be different. It would be different. And I don't know of any significant group of people that want it to be different. I think everybody likes the way it is. The fans like it. The vast majority of players like it. You might find a player here or there that says: If I give a week I like to be paid. But they are hard to find. So the players like it. So it's really not an issue. But when somebody throws it out as an idea, it's not like my goodness, it's evil. It's professional sports. I happen to believe, personally that it's being different. Especially, I don't think it should be changed. But I do not believe that individuals who commit themselves to charity the way these players do, and individuals who have to earn based on their performance everything they get should be castigated for raising the issue, if they have. And when they say, plainly and directly and without equivocation, we are very comfortable with a situation that allows to direct charitable contributions to our favorite charities because we like that, I don't think that their worries should be turned on them by a headline writer that says: There's a massive movement to pay for play, because it's not factual; it's not right; and I don't see it as fair. I don't see us discussing that because I don't see it as an issue.

LEE PATTERSON: Thank you. We appreciate it.


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