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August 25, 1999
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
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
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
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
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.
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Thank you.
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