By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
Monday finishes, golf's youth movement and the popularity of the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup were among the topics of conversation earlier this week as PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem joined Gary Williams and Erik Kuselias on Golf Channel's "Morning Drive."
The Hyundai Tournament of Champions kicks off the 2012 season on Friday in prime-time with the winner set to be crowned for the first time on Monday. It's one of two tournaments -- along with the Deutsche Bank Championship -- that concludes its 72-hole run on Monday this year.
Finchem said the Monday finish at Kapalua is just one of several ideas the TOUR has as it searches for innovative new ways to present the game and the players who play it.
* "One of the exciting things about this year is that we're going to be experimenting with a lot of different things -- a lot of stuff online, a lot more digital content to our fans -- and also we're going to play around with different formats and different times and this is one of them. We will watch to see how it works. We'll see how it feels, see how the fans react to it. If it's a more compelling and a more efficient way to get what our players are doing in front of our fan base it will be a winner. We're going to try to do some more experimentation in this area."
The commissioner also sees the 2012 campaign as one of opportunity -- particularly in terms of marketing younger players like Rickie Fowler and Keegan Bradley, who have really connected with the fans.
* "Everything is pretty good right now on the basic things we want to see. There is a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and focus on the younger players that were coming up the last couple of years. Some of that is driven by the fact that Tiger woods came on the scene when guys like Rickie Fowler were 7-8-9 years old. The game has gotten more athletic. Players are bigger, stronger and more exciting to watch ... and people are reacting to that very positively.
"That's affecting our sponsorship, it's affecting our television and it's a good juxtaposition of those young guys versus the guy who's been the No. 1 player for a long time on our TOUR and also the other veterans. So those stories are terrific. Our new television deals are going to be tremendous in terms of the different ways we convey what they're doing to the public. We've got the best continuity of our sponsorship that we've had. So all of those things are very, very good."
Finchem is also pleased with the progress of the FedExCup. He admitted the amount of volatility in the Playoffs has been a point of discussion over the years but acknowledges that is part of the allure of the system. While the commissioner wouldn't rule out changes in the future, he feels the fans have embraced the FedExCup as the sixth season begins.
* "As I said two years ago we wanted to get into a situation where the fans could get used to the system. That's happening. The Cup has really grown every single year. I think another recent indication of its popularity has to do with Lee Westwood's decision, who hasn't competed in the FedExCup but has indicated one of the reasons he's rejoining the TOUR is to do just that. There's so much interest and focus on it now. It's a big part of the game. So we're going to continue to look at that. … But you have to say that over the last five years the FedExCup has done better each and every year and we look for that again this year."
Finchem also said he sees the growth of The First Tee as essential to the growth of the game. He spoke extensively about what this year’s $100 million capital campaign will allow the program that uses golf to teach life skills to youngsters to accomplish.
* "We've reached 4.7 million kids with The First Tee program in the last 14 years. If we can be successful in this campaign which will culminate in Pebble Beach on Oct. 8 ... Joe Barrow and his team will be able to reach 10 million kids with The First Tee over the next 6 or 7 years which really has an impact in improving the look and the face of what the game of golf is in the U.S. and globally."
MELBOURNE, Australia – The International Team has taken the advantage early during the opening Foursomes at the Presidents Cup.
Greg Norman’s squad leads in four of the six matches while the U.S. has the edge in two. Maybe the International Team drew inspiration from some surprise guests on Wednesday evening.
Here’s what assistant captain Frank Nobilo tweeted earlier
today. “3 welcomed visitors to our team room last night. Tim
Finchem and our first two captains in David Graham and Peter
Graham captained the first International Team while Thomson (yes, that’s spelled correctly) was at the helm for three Presidents Cups, including the 1998 victory at Royal Melbourne. That 20 1/2-11 1/2 International win remains the team’s only one in eight previous matches.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
MELBOURNE, Australia – The Presidents Cup will be played in the Pacific Rim for the first time in 2015 when the 10th renewal of the biennial matches are held in South Korea.
The venue will be announced in the first half of 2012. PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem said there are a number of options and the search is on-going.
Joining Finchem at Wednesday’s press conference were three members of the International Team – K.J. Choi, Y.E. Yang and K.T. Kim. This is the first year more than one Korean has been represented on the squad.
“I think when you look at K.J. Choi, Y.E. Yang and Kyung‑tae Kim, this is the future,” Finchem said. “This is the future of golf in Korea, certainly on the men's side, and it represents to a great degree what The Presidents Cup is all about: Allowing players who come from places outside the United States and Europe to showcase their skills in this unique team environment.
“So all of that adds up to very strong, compelling reasons to go to Korea, to take advantage of taking what The Presidents Cup is all about and sharing it with the Pacific region and particularly Korea and Asia.”
Choi, who is the reigning PLAYERS champion, said he is excited about the development.
"To be one of the players involved in such a prestigious event and hopefully in the prestigious event coming up in Korea in 2015, I'm very honored and very delighted,” Choi said. “It's an honor, still, just to have three players from the same country play at such an event, and it's a much bigger honor to have the event held in my home country.
“It's a good step and positive step in heading to globalization for golf in Korea, and I think everyone in here, including K.T., myself and Y.E., we will try and do our best to keep our a‑level games up until 2015. I know that a lot of my compatriots back home are going to target their goals towards the 2015 Presidents Cup, so I'm very delighted and thank you very much.”
Yang, who won the 2009 PGA Championship and is playing in his second Presidents Cup, echoed Choi's words.
"The first time I came to The Presidents Cup in San Francisco I was a bit awestruck,” Yang said. “Now I can actually absorb a little of what this is and what the meaning of The Presidents Cup is, and apart from it being competitive and a competition for two continents, it's also a golf festival for not just the host country but also for everyone involved, and all of the countries involved.
“So to have that kind of huge golf festival coming to Korea is a great honor, and it just adds to the delight that I chose right in my line of work. I'm very glad; it's one of the occasions where I feel proud that I picked up golf as a living.”
Before the three players left to join the International Team at its barbecue, Choi was asked whether he wanted to throw his name in as a potential captain. He said that he would rather play.
“I learned a lot from playing with the Aussie players this week, how they take pride in playing in their home country,” Choi said. “ would like to feel that, and feel that kind of feel back home, not as a captain but as a player.
“And it's a great stepping stone for a lot of Asian players, and it's a good target for a lot of Asian players to aim for participation in The Presidents Cup. So throughout the years, it was my role and I guess Y.E.'s role to sort of open up the windows for Asian players in Europe and in the U.S. It was quite predominately U.S. and European players in South African and Australian players, and I believe that we sort of trail-blazed that Asian players can compete at that level as well.
“I do believe that with The Presidents Cup coming into Korea and with a lot of Asian players growing up, it's going to be another endeavor for the younger generation to build upon what we opened up and maybe better it and try to compete at a high level in the bigger events.”
ATLANTA -- PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem was at a recent Player Advisory Council meeting in New York when one of the pros made the statement that the TOUR is "at a point of total parity."
Meaning: Any player can win at any given time.
"It occurred to me that that's true," Finchem said Tuesday during a news conference prior to this week's TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola. "So far the fans seem to really like it and it'll be interesting to see what develops in that regard going forward."
Finchem said the TOUR has gone from a sport that had a dominant player -- Tiger Woods -- to "all the way" to the other end of the spectrum. He noted that there is particular interest in the TOUR's young group of players, many of whom were inspired to play golf because of Woods' dominance.
"When I go around the country, the first thing I hear from people is, boy, you've got a lot of great young players right now, and they're so athletic and fun to watch on the golf course," Finchem said. "So we'll see. But I think that every indication is that this is the beginning of a long-term (trend)."
Keegan Bradley, who won the PGA Championship last month, is one of those young players, as is Webb Simpson, who'll enter this week's event ranked No. 1 in FedExCup points. Those two players are among the six who have won two events this year; no player has won more than two.
Finchem said the TOUR's sponsors have been particularly pleased with the impact that the young players have made.
"There's a real interest with this number of young players, and I think that sponsors feed off the fans in that regard," Finchem said. "They see the galleries and they see the interest level and they see the television numbers -- and in today's world, if you're spending millions of dollars for a sport, you're really studying it pretty carefully. It's been very interesting."
ATLANTA -- David Toms has won 13 tournaments in his PGA TOUR career. He's also played on winning Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup teams. But winning the Payne Stewart Award, which recognizes the spirit of the late champion, comes with a greater meaning.
"It's different than winning golf tournaments," Toms said after he was announced as this year's recipient. "It goes beyond that."
The Payne Stewart Award was awarded for the 12th time this week. The winner represents sportsmanship, integrity, the spirit of giving back and understanding what it means to be a role model, said PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem. It goes to an individual "who through their actions on and off the golf course has distinguished himself with his demeanor, his preparation, his words and his actions," Finchem added.
Toms was voted as this year's winner by a committee that includes some of the previous recipients. His foundation has raised millions of dollars for abandoned, underprivileged and abused children in Louisiana, and was also involved in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
"In Louisiana generally and Shreveport specifically, his foundation activity is well-recognized," Finchem said.
Asked about Stewart, Toms said one of his regrets is that he did not play in a team competition with his fellow American. Toms has played on three Presidents Cup (and will be playing in another this November in Australia) and also three Ryder Cups, but none before Stewart's death in 1999.
"Knowing what those team competitions are all about, I know it would have been a lot of fun," Toms said. "He was always the guy in the locker room that made people laugh, that was pulling practical jokes on people. ...
"To not be able to play on one of those teams and really get to know him better this way, I regret."
NORTON, Mass. – The PGA TOUR announced agreements Thursday with CBS Sports and NBC Sports that secures the TOUR’s television rights through 2021. PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem made the announcement at TPC Boston on the eve of this week’s Deutsche Bank Championship, with CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus and NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus participating via conference call.
Here are a few excerpts from the news conference ( click here for news release with more details ):
FINCHEM ON THE KEY POINTS: “I think the three takeaways from these agreements really are, first and foremost, the term itself and what that means; secondly, that they provide for growth and stability of our sport … and third, they provide for a framework of innovation, when we talk about a lot of the digital rights and how they'll be employed.”
FINCHEM ON CHARITY IMPACT: “While the vast majority of our charity dollars are raised at a tournament level, the stability that will be developed by these agreements that we're announcing today and the overall impact on our ability to take steps that support our charitable mission will be a very positive factor for that activity, and I think at this point we then can say without question that barring some significant economic downturn that we will reach the $2 billion mark of charitable giving in 2014. I think I can say with some confidence that we could reach the $3 billion level before the end of these agreements.”
FINCHEM ON IMPACT OF YOUNG PLAYERS: “The fans clearly have taken increasingly to the nature of our competition over the last couple years and in doing so have re-instilled confidence in our sport that might have been waning when our No. 1 player was not that active two of the last four years. But there is such tremendous buzz and focus on this juxtaposition of Tiger and Phil and other mature players and veteran players against this huge increase in young players who are coming forward and able to win tournaments at every level. We hear increasingly more and more from our fans about Dustin and Rickie and Keegan and Webb and Bubba and Graeme and Rory and on and on it seems, that has helped our ratings, stabilized our ratings, grown our ratings, has helped result in sponsor renewals, et cetera, and I think that is a major factor of why we are now at a point where we can look forward to 10 years in growth.”
McMANUS ON CBS’ PERSPECTIVE: “I am really, really happy with this deal. The process was open. It was honest. And to be able to continue with the TOUR for the next 10 years is a proud moment for CBS Sports.”
LAZARUS ON NBC’S PERSPECTIVE: “The NBC Sports Group is obviously very bullish on the sport of golf and the PGA TOUR with this extension for the NBC Television Network on behalf of our affiliate stations and their constituents and with the work we do and the long‑term arrangement we have with Golf Channel, PGA TOUR and the game of golf are very important to our company and to our overall business model. “
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. -- Is the PGA TOUR headed back to Philadelphia and Detroit? If it has its way, yes.
This is the final year Aronimink is playing host to the AT&T National, which moved from Congressional Country Club just outside Washington D.C. after the 2009 tournament as that course underwent renovations to host this year’s U.S. Open. The tournament will return to the Bethesda, Md., course next year.
That said, PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem said the support of the AT&T National at Aronimink has been “fantastic” and that he would like to see the TOUR return to the Philadelphia area.
”This is a terrific sports town with a terrific economy of its own,” Finchem said Wednesday. “We have a strong fan base here. There was terrific enthusiasm by the membership.
“[That] certainly leads us to conclude that we would definitely like to continue an involvement here in Philadelphia, and we're actively looking for ways to do that.”
As Finchem pointed out, there currently aren’t any open dates on the schedule, but he could see a return to the area following the 2013 U.S. Open, which will be held at nearby Merion Golf Club.
”This is a place where you don't want to be gone for very long,” Finchem said. “That's not good for the sport. So we'll be looking at that.”
Finchem also acknowledged that the TOUR is actively seeking a return to the Detroit area after losing the Buick Open following the 2009 tournament.
“We have a working discussion going on with General Motors, which has shown strong interest,” Finchem said. “Our hope is that depending on how our schedule works out for the long‑term that we will be able to figure out a way to get them on the schedule because we do think it would be a very positive addition. I just am not in a position to say how it's going to happen just yet.”
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
TRANSCRIPT: Tim Finchem
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem held an impromptu Q&A session with the media outside the press room Sunday morning, and he addressed a number of topics. Among them were Tiger Woods, drug testing, the schedule and more.
Here’s a rundown of some of the key points:
• On Tiger Woods and whether the TOUR pressured him to play, Finchem reiterated what he said earlier in the week and said, flatly, no. “We communicate with players all the time about weak field events and we encourage players to move their schedule around and try to include a weak field,” Finchem said. “We never go to a player and say would you please, please, please, play X event, this event or any other event. Ever.” As for when Woods will be back, Finchem doesn’t know. He sent a note to Woods wishing him well but there’s been no indication as to when Woods will return from his latest injury.
• On disciplinary matters: “Our policy is we don’t comment on disciplinary matters. We don’t announce disciplinary decisions,” Finchem said. “We do reserve the right to clarify the record if an individual or the involved player makes a statement that’s not consistent with the action. We renewed it a number of times. We like the policy.”
• On THE PLAYERS’ move to May, which took place five years ago: “We like the flow of May, we like the weather,” Finchem said. “We had the storm [Saturday] but it’s the first delay we’ve had in five years. We’re still working on getting this golf course ready [for May] but we like it, the players like it, the fans like it. We’re very pleased with it.”
• On the TOUR’s drug testing policy and whether it would reconsider its policy on testing for human growth hormone: “Possibly,” Finchem said. “The big question about HGH is reliable testing. That’s the challenge with all sports. If there is reliable testing available and it’s only blood, do we want to go to blood, which is another step. As part of that review you’d want to think about whether HGH makes a difference in this game. We’re testing for a lot of stuff right now that quite candidly doesn’t make a difference, but we do it so our program has credibility in the anti-doping world. We’re supportive of the coalition to find answers on HGH on all these questions and we’ll see what develops over the next several years. It may be something that comes to our doorstep with golf entering the Olympics in 2016.”
• On next year’s schedule: “There may be some changes in the schedule for next year,” said Finchem, who added that next year’s schedule isn’t set and that there’s a large focus on 2013 and beyond as the TOUR enters television negotiations. “We haven’t finalized things for next year, so there may be some movement.”
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem on Friday denied a report that the TOUR pressured Tiger Woods into playing THE PLAYERS Championship. Woods withdrew from the tournament after nine holes in Thursday's first round with knee and Achilles tendon problems that have plagued him since the Masters.
"It's always important for Tiger to be a part of the TOUR, because he's Tiger Woods, but the idea that we would pressure him to play is ludicrous," Finchem told CNBC's Darren Rovell. "We don't pressure any player to play the tournament. In this case, the suggestion is somehow he was hurt and we got him to play anyway. Tiger doesn't enter a tournament unless he thinks he can win."
The commissioner said he is not worried about Woods' status as it pertains to the TOUR.
"You know, I hope he's healthy enough to play," Finchem said. "Just look at it from the health of the TOUR standpoint. If he's an active player it helps us out a lot. ... He doesn't have to come back and dominate like he did. He needs to play.
"My concern is, where are his injuries going to go? And he doesn't know what the answer will be and we won't know for a while."
Asked by Rovell about the TOUR's TV ratings being up 29 percent on weekend telecasts through April, Finchem said: "It's a focus on young players and I think its also a combination. Tiger has played some this year and a question and interested if he's coming back. Phil (Mickelson) is a major impactor."
DORAL, Fla. – At a press conference early Sunday afternoon at Doral, PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem and George O’Grady, the chief executive of the European Tour fielded questions from the media on a variety of subjects. Here are some of the highlights:
* Discussions are continuing with the South African Tour about the conflict between the dates of the Presidents Cup in Australia and the South African Open. Ernie Els, who is the defending champion of the tournament, leads the International Team standings and is among five South Africans at the top of those list to make Greg Norman's team. The South African Open is co-sanctioned by the European Tour, and O’Grady said he hoped there could be a resolution by the Masters.
"The European Tour certainly has an interest in seeing a very successful Presidents Cup, at any time, and especially when it goes around the world; and it can help, if you like, to grow the message of top flight golf in the countries it goes to, whether that's South Africa, Australia or any territory it might go in the future," O'Grady said.
"With the leading players on the rest of the World ranking coming from South Africa at the moment, the choice of that date doesn't appear perfect. … There are different alternatives, and I would hope that we can get it sorted out quite quickly."
* While he noted the top players in the world already compete against each other at 15-18 events each year like the majors, THE PLAYERS Championship and World Golf Championships, Finchem knows the game is evolving and new markets like South America and Asia emerging. So he expects more integration between the leading golf tours in the future.
"When that happens and how that happens, I couldn't tell you," he said. "I don't think it's in the short term. I certainly believe it will be in the mid term, ten to 20 years from now. Certainly as Asia develops as a powerhouse in terms of generating elite players and managing what that means in terms of access and presentation of the sport; and I do think we should be looking out 15 years on these issues and talking about that, and we are."
* Finchem said the TOUR is in on-going discussions with Cadillac and General Motors to bring a tournament back to Detroit. Those talks, however, hinge on finding an open date and there isn't much flexibility in that department right now. There are two tournaments currently on the PGA TOUR schedule that do not have title sponsors – the Bob Hope Classic in January and The Heritage in April -- but Finchem doesn’t expect those to fold.
"I think they are both going to be on the schedule for a good period of time, but I'm not positive about that; if that doesn't happen, I suppose it conceivably could open up a position for Detroit, although Detroit obviously has to be played later," Finchem said. "So it's not without its challenges, but I suspect it could happen.
"Right now, if I were to bet, I would say that both of those tournaments would continue to be on the schedule, and at some point in the future, it is a priority of ours to build an event in Detroit, and we are working on how to build that event. But it's the kind of event that we would want to, you know, do in a manner that would be quite successful. So we are spending energy on it. I just don't know when it would be added to the calendar."
* When asked about the devastation in Japan, Finchem said no plan has been formulated yet but there would be some kind of support for the relief effort. Right now, though, he said it was too early to identify the areas of most need and where to direct the support but he expects an announcement within the next few weeks.
"We are going to watch the situation, watch what the President's lead is on this from the United States' perspective and talk to the other golf organizations like we have done in Australia where The Presidents Cup people down there worked with Greg Norman to help people affected by the floods," Finchem said. "There was some effort in Christchurch; there was a big effort after the tsunami by golf several years ago where we supported the funds chaired by President Bush and President Clinton, and that was done across the board in golf.
"We'll just have to see things evolve and what we can do to help." – Helen Ross