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The professional golf watcher never catches the action. I could write a volume on Great Moments in Golf I Have Missed.  PETER DOBEREINER



Talk About Awkward...

...did you catch the Tour Championship interview of Tim Finchem?

This contractually obligated torture session pits ABC's ESPN on ABC's outgoing announcers with Finchem, who seems to have grown more reticent each year. He struggles to make eye contact and apparently is unable to show any genuine pleasure. (At least for his $10 million a year, the NBA's David Stern tries to crack a joke now and then, and this is a man who told SI's Jack McCallum in the Nov. 6 issue that he wishes he could ban his players from carrying guns...and he's not joking).

So here I was thinking that maybe, just maybe that lame duck ABC ESPN on ABC and loose cannons Faldo and Azinger, we'd actually get a spirited exchange.

After Finchem thanked ABC for "years and years of commitment to communicating the sport so well" and noting that the "production quality has always been superb," you could hear people turning channel Finchem noted that he was excited about the continued relationship with ESPN. Whatever that's about? (Probably the Tour paying ESPN to do "Sportscenter from the Players Championship" or some such thing.)

Azinger then selfishly asked about the schedule in 2008, with 7 of last 8 weeks before Ryder Cup involving the "playoffs."

"Well, we have a one-off," was Finchem's answer before shooting down Azinger's assertion that the situation was in any way messy.

Faldo then tried to make a joke about receiving the Commissioner's annual wine selection, an apparent holiday gift that Finchem naturally pounced on to plug of the tour's wine label (boy we're really reaching the 18-34 y.o.'s now!). Then Faldo asked about getting more WGC's played in International locations, which set Finchem up for some silly assertion that China could grow to 200 million golfers if it keeps on Japan's pace.

So here ABC ESPN on ABC has a chance to ask a tough question and they lob him two that have been asked repeatedly in press conferences this year.

Rivetting television. Actually, I got a big chuckle out of the tension and awkward nature of the whole thing, so it was good for something.


"Using our input on it, too."

Zach Johnson is either a big Kool-Aid drinker or, unlike most other players, he's actually been consulted on the FedEx Cup...
"We're going to learn as we go, but the potential is phenomenal," Ryder Cup member Zach Johnson said. "The Tour's done a great job making great decisions and using our input on it, too. It means a lot of positive things."

Adding Bonallack To The List

Despite all that nonsense about 63 degree wedges de-skilling the game, Michael Bonallack has been added to The List of those voicing concern about technology's role in the modern game. And when I get that list going of former golf executives expressing remorse for the lack of action during their tenure, he'll go on that one too.


Durant: No Drug Testing Anytime Soon

Since none of the slingers assembled for Commissioner Finchem's press conference asked about his about face on drug testing, policy board member Joe Durant was asked about it after second round play. It would seem--shocking as it may be--that the issue has been tabled for the foreseeable future.

Q. Is drug testing on the agenda? I think Finchem raised the possibility that that would be something you would raise at this one.

JOE DURANT: We talked about it at the PAC meeting in Tampa. We talked about setting some type of standard or some type of process, trying to be proactive about it. But as far as details, not at this time.


Q. On the drug testing thing, was it a lack of consensus or just too complicated an issue to get into this late in the year? What was your gut on that from what they were telling you?

JOE DURANT: More just the complication of the thing, because there's obviously different criteria or different screening done for different sports. We just want to make sure that we go about it the right way.

Q. Do you think it'll happen?

JOE DURANT: I would be surprised if it didn't at some point in the future.

Q. Do you think it'll happen during your tenure on the board?

JOE DURANT: Don't know.

Q. Do you think it's good from a credibility standpoint to kind of get in front of it versus waiting for something to happen and lightning crashing down and all bad things?

JOE DURANT: I personally do, yeah. I think the sport has been clean for this long and I want to keep it that way. We all do.


"The ball got away from everybody."

Yes, add Michael Bonallack to the list of rehabilitating golf executives who wish they'd done more then so we would have the game we have now. It's touching I tell you to hear this kind of remorse, documented by John Huggan in his Sunday column:

"The most fun I've ever had was being secretary of the R&A. I was there when the Open was really starting to take off, in financial terms. We were able to use that money to aid the development of the game."

However, representing the public face of golf's rules-making body outside the United States and Mexico could prove uncomfortable. During Bonallack's tenure, the battle between administrators and equipment companies was joined in earnest, and it rages on to this day.

"The biggest problem was with Ping and the grooves on their irons. That was very unpleasant. I remember sitting at dinner after watching the Walker Cup matches at Peach Tree in 1989 and being tapped on the shoulder. It was a sheriff telling me I was served.

"The writ said they were suing for $100m tripled. They have what they call punitive damages in the United States, and it wasn't only the R&A they were suing, but me personally. That got my attention!

"We had good lawyers, though. They showed that the US courts had no jurisdiction over us. We were making rules for golfers outside America.

"The wider equipment issue was a problem then, and continues to be so today, at the top level of the game anyway. There are a number of things I wish we had done, but obviously we didn't do.

"The ball got away from everybody. The scientists said the ball could go only ten more yards, but they were wrong. New materials kept on coming out, and then along came metal woods. They have taken a lot of the skill out of the game for the leading players. As have the new wedges.

"The shots only Seve used to be able to play with a 50-degree wedge are now routine for everyone who buys a 63-degree wedge. All of that crept into the game without anyone really realising the significance. I wish we could go back, but we can't."

Perhaps sensing that he has already said too much about the one subject that golf administrators tend not to enjoy discussing, Bonallack pre-empts the next question.

"There is no use asking me what I'd do if I was in charge today. When I retired I said I wasn't going to get involved in any of these controversial things. Besides, if I started announcing what I would do, people could quite rightly ask why I didn't do those things when I was in charge. Certainly, we missed some opportunities with the ball and the metal woods, but they crept up on us."
One other sadness for Bonallack is the knock-on effect modern equipment has had on course set-ups. As so many did at last year's Open, he looked on askance at the amount of rough growing on the Old Course at St Andrews.

"It does upset me to see what they have to do to golf courses nowadays. There is no doubt that the modern equipment has caused many good courses to be altered. I hate to see long grass around greens on any course. I like the ball to run off to where players can hit all kinds of recovery shots.

"It is fascinating to watch someone like Tiger working out what shot will work best after he has missed a green. Long grass eliminates all of that, and takes a lot of the skill out of the game."



"Azinger's mottos: Cash."

Craig Dolch reports that the U.S. Ryder Cup points standings will be compiled differently under Captain Azinger:
The problem with the current system is the only way a U.S. player can earn points is by finishing in the top 10 at a PGA Tour event. But with the Tour becoming more international - Azinger said 85 foreign players are exempt on the PGA Tour - fewer Americans are earning points by finishing in the top 10 (less than 60 percent of the available points were awarded for the 2006 team, and most of them went to Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk).

So look for the PGA to get away from top-10 finishes as its only measuring stick and use one of Azinger's mottos: Cash. Azinger said at the recent Chrysler Championship it was obvious to him the changes the PGA made to the system in 2004 didn't get the best team at the K Club.

"If you looked at the way it played out ... the last five guys on our team were not secure the last month and a half. If they would have had some high finishes, they would have secured their spot and nobody did," Azinger said. "The two guys that were picked (Stewart Cink and Scott Verplank) had opportunities to make the team. They didn't get hot and make the team.

"The reality is, Phil (Mickelson), his confidence might have waned a little bit after the U.S. Open. And David Toms and Chad Campbell won in January. It didn't put our hottest players on the team, not at all."

Week(s) In Review, October. 20-Nov. 4: FedUp Already?

WeekInReview2.jpgJagsheemash! Wouldn't you love to see Borat interview say, Scott Hoch? Oh well, we can only dream.

Meanwhile, in the real world I'm catching up on a couple of weeks here worth of posts that started with Frank Hannigan's letter on the latest USGA activities.

I was called out by the Bomb and Gouge bloggers over at and I'm working hard on the low self-esteem issues they diagnosed me with.

In the mean time, reader Scott S made this point that might ignite a few introspective thoughts in Bomb and Gouge:  I find it interesting that while so many bemoan even the shadow of regulation, no one seems to think it would be a good thing if distance went totally unchecked, and equipment was totally unchained. "Any more and it will break". The unfortunate thing, as with many diseases, is that if you have to wait for a major malfunction, you're usually already in the terminal stages. Why not start the chemo today, and save a long agonizing death for another century?

And from Smolmania: "A problem that does not exist?" If there's no problem, then why does their blog exist?

News that Winged Foot netted $1.5 million at a significant cost to course and club, elicited many views.

JPB: I understand the members' frustration. The US Open isn't a quaint event anymore that takes a week's play away from the host club. The USGA rakes in the cash. NBC rakes in the cash. The extreme set up hurts the course. All the add ons hurt the course and the membership. I understand why the members don't want the hassle unless the club benefits in a real way. If the membership feels like hosting a tournament at their excellent course, why not a mid am or senior am?

NRH didn't agree: The traveling circus of the USGA wants to come along for the first time in 22 years and the club signs on the dotted line. They sacrifice a couple of months of the status quo in exchange for a major, then some big mouth members complain for selfish reasons? Boo-hoo.

News of excessive executive pay down at PGA Tour headquarters prompted Sean Murphy to ask: We have a money manager who never lets us know what he's doing or what the balance of our accounts are......would this make any of you nervous????

But Sean, look at the results! Bill Fields and Steve Elling wrote about Rick George hyping the Champions Tour upswing, which readers here didn't quite buy into.

Four-putt:  We had a Senior Tour event in Chicago (third biggest market in US and golf-crazy with 1.7 million golfers) from 1991-2001. The first few years saw over 20,000 spectators each of the three days, with about 25,000 on Sunday. The last three years, though, less than 5,000 people showed up at the course to watch the final round on Sunday -- and that number was under 1,000 the last year, right before SBC mercifully pulled the plug. While they're nice guys, Dana Quigley, Tom Kite, Loren Roberts, Criag Stadler and Allen Doyle alternating in the final pairing on Sunday don't add up to a "helluva product."

jneuman: Men like Gil Morgan, Tom Kite, Hale Irwin, D.A. Weibring and the rest were fine players, but they weren't Nicklaus and Palmer and Chi Chi, and fans discovered they liked watching older golfers who had personalities and seemed to care about entertaining them. Today, and for the last five-plus years, those same boring figures who made the Senior Tour a necessity -- because they were so boring in PGA events -- ARE the old guys. Why should we care about watching them over 50 when we didn't care about them in their 30s?  The problem for the old guys is that they're a product without a reason to exist, something that's carried on long past its time, like Negro League baseball in the 1950s-60s, or the Harlem Globetrotters today.

The Tour Championship arrived, Tiger and Phil blew it off, and for whatever reason, all hell broke loose.

Scotty on Tiger: One flaw in this money doesn't matter argument: Tiger Woods is skipping the Tour Championship to rest up for three unofficial events that will pay him guaranteed almost six times what he would take home by WINNING the Tour Championship. I think money matters to him more than you think.

Steven T.: I think TW might have altered his schedule this year if Coca-Cola paid him 10-20M/year to be a spokesperson. As for PM, he's happy with his endorsement money and half year schedule. I heard Dave Pelz, his new shill, on TGC saying that Phil is getting in shape for next year and is looking good even though he could lose 15-20 pounds.Perhaps Phil will win Phoenix and Palm Springs and San Diego and then quit real early next year.

This seemed to open the floodgates on the doomed FedEx Cup concept, which we've known was a mess for some time. Starting with playing opportunities for Q-school grads...

Bill N.: Sean's antitrust characterizations in this instance are well founded, Finchem has problems. How does he provide playing and earning opportunities to his membership while at the same time cutting playing and earning opportunities? He's dividing the market place covering independent contractors, and his graduates coming from the Nationwide Tour and Q-School will have a horrendous schedule that will not provide them a fair level playing field, as Jeff Rude and Lee Trevino pointed out earlier this week, but will be all the evidence a faction of the membership needs to file suit. I'm starting to understand what Trevino meant when he said he'd be heading to the courthouse. Restricting members (grads) from having a fair (rule of reasonableness) chance of making these playoffs is where the whole FedEx Cup jumps track, after a lawsuit is filed and sucessfully contested, this will go down in history as the Fed Wreks Cup, and Finchem's FECES. 

Hawkeye: Actually, when 144 guys make the "playoffs" and everyone seemingly has a chance for player of the year, that pretty much sends the message that the FedEx is the only thing making the PGA Tour relevant... I mean, why should the big boys bother showing up in more than eleven tournaments (yep, that's but four regular Tour stops for you, considering the four majors and the three WGC's) prior to it???

F.X.  FedEx and Finchem are just trying to put a different label on this long-existing system, and the business of coming up with points instead of money and identifying post-PGA tournaments as playoffs is just a dumbing-down of what already exists, which is why it attracts so much criticism and confusion. Wouldn't FedEx be just as well off taking over various events, and, like Buick, having a continuing presence throughout the season that way? What's the point of trying to invent a new prize that nobody is going to take seriously?

cmoore: The only thing interesting about the FedEx Cup is all of the fighting that it is generating. The concept of a playoff where no one really loses or gets eliminated is ludicrous.

Also from cmoore: How about a season-long points accumulation ending with a 32-man match-play event? Then I could use the word "playoff" without reservation.

Tom Pernice joined the frey and slammed the commissioner and the FedEx Cup

Smolmania: The fact remains that Tom Pernice wouldn't be making the money he makes if Tiger wasn't playing on the PGA Tour, just as all of those guys wouldn't be making the money they make if not for the King.

Bob S.:  I think a more important question is how the heck did Tom Pernice qualify for the Tour Championship?

Pollner: Tiger could completely neglect the US tour now and still be considered the most succesful golfer ever. And I imagine if Tiger left the tour that every single sponsor would pressure the Tour to allow him to play in every tournament he desired. What's Pernice going to say then?


Ames WD, Tiger, Phil?

Thanks to reader Al for noticing that Stephen Ames is listed as WD on the Tour Championship leaderboard while Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are not listed as WD or DNS or CCL (Could Care Less).

I don't know how to do a screen grab, so just hit the link above. 


"If you qualify for an event like this and skip it, there should be some type of sanction."

John Hawkins has a little more from Tom Pernice and another interesting anonymous quote from the fun, jovial, all-aroiund good times Tour Championship:

“I think it’s a disgrace,” he replied. “It’s a slap in the face to [presenting sponsor] Coca-Cola and the tour. He would not make the money he makes if it wasn’t for the PGA Tour. At some point there is a credibility factor as to what’s inside you as a person. There is a responsibility and an obligation to the people who helped make you who you are.”

Well, let's not overstate Coca-Cola's role in Tiger's development, Tom.

To say that Pernice stands alone in objecting to Woods’ absence would not be accurate. Two other players have privately expressed disappointment that Tiger chose not to play in the season-finale, one of whom said, “They [tour officials] are so afraid of these guys [top-level players]. If you blow off the pro-am at a regular event, you’re not allowed to play in the tournament. If you qualify for an event like this and skip it, there should be some type of sanction. Maybe you should get a month [suspension] or something.”



"Tim works for us."

 Jerry Potter has the highlights from Tom Pernice's post 1st round rant which (I believe) first aired on The Golf Channel.

His anger was directed at PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem, who on Wednesday said there would be no alterations in the format for the FedEx Cup, the season-long playoff system that begins next year.

"Tim has no right to say that," said Pernice, a former member of the Tour's Policy Board. "It's not Tim's decision to make. Tim works for us (the players)."

Right Tom, right.
"If you're going to make that an elite competition, you have to cut the field," said Pernice, who believes the no-cut fields just protect lower-ranked players, who should be eliminated to make it a true playoff.

That was the Tour's original idea, put [but] the plan presented in June was for 144-player fields.

Henry Hughes, chief operating officer of the Tour, said options were presented to the players and the Player Advisory Council last week, but there was no support among them for reducing the size of the fields.

Joe Durant, one of four player directors on the board, said he would vote for the current system when the board meets in two weeks. He said he's following the wishes of the 15-member Player Advisory Council.

"It's not going to be perfect in the first year," he said of the system. "We can change it if we need to."

Durant said players would be eliminated from the 30-man field in the three tournaments because poor performance would make it impossible for them to make the field.

What does that last sentence mean?

Anyway, on The Golf Channel interview (where I think Potter and others picked up these remarks), I also got this from Pernice, with an assist from TiVo:

Pernice: I don't think it's Tim Finchem's decision. There's a board meeting coming up in a week or two. I think it's up to the board of directors and our four player directors who I think are the ones that should be making the decisions and comments like that. I think Tim needs to realize he works for us the players, he doesn't work for himself. I think our board, as a former board member, I think our board needs to start dictating more and quit getting run over by our staff and Tim. I respect what Tim and these guys are trying to do, but none of them are golfers, and I think it's in our best interests to step up and do the right thing.

After his comments, TGC's Steve Sands asked Davis Love, "who has the final say, the players or the Tour?" Love's reply:

...the players always have the final say. we can, in anything that affects competition, any of the player directors can stop something from happening. If we decided as four player directors that we want Fed Ex Cup points to follow a certain way, that's the way they're going to fall. Then we have to go deal with the players after that.



Azinger On Branding

During the first round telecast at East Lake, Paul Azinger:

...there are not a lot of players in the 25 years that I've played the tour that have actually created their own brand. It's curious to me that the PGA Tour hasn't acutally had a branding division to help brand the players.

Karl Ravech then chimed in on the NBA and baseball's "branding" efforts. Azinger replied:

Well often we're in competition with the tour, hard to sell a player's brand when the tour is selling their own.

After a Vijay Singh birdie putt...

Karl Ravech: But it's a fine line in order to sell your sport you have to sell the stars. And this sport more than any shows what a star can bring.

Paul Azinger: Or at least let the stars sell themselves on PGA Tour property. But that wont happen. I'm going to get in trouble, I better stop.

Indisputably His Baby

Alan Shipnuck points out that the FedEx Cup is essentially Tim Finchem's first truly original idea, and he points out a few flaws:
Twelve years into his tenure, Finchem's major achievements have been the exponential growth of purses and the creation of the World Golf Championships, but he can claim neither for himself as an unqualified success. Certainly Finchem's hardball TV negotiations helped jack up the purses, but in the end Woods will get most of the credit for this new era of big money. Finchem did preside over the creation of the WGCs, but it wasn't exactly his idea -- just ask Greg Norman! The WGCs are nice little tournaments that have been good additions to the schedule, but if their reason-for-being is to export the Tour product around the world then they have to be judged as spectacular failures. The vast majority of WGCs have been played in the U.S., and the scheduling in the future is only going to get more insular, much to the mystification of the international golf community. (Ernie Els in particular has been a shrill critic.)

So the FedEx Cup becomes all the more important to Finchem, because it is indisputably his baby. He described the FC as "our version of the playoffs. Like most other sports, playoffs are the most dynamic portion of the season, and we want to take advantage of the opportunity to create some playoffs that we think will drive fan interest, television interest, and carry our audience somewhat further into the year."


"Essentially, the FedEx Cup turned this into a lame-duck year"

Tim Rosaforte reporting from dreary (but oh so blinding white bunkered) East Lake:

...there were player meetings last week in Tampa and high-level discussions this week at East Lake among Tour officials and the FedEx sponsors, which indicate the format for this competition is not yet locked down. "We're still very fluid," said a source involved in the talks. In other words, the 144-man fields that make this anything but a playoff system are still being debated as the middle-class lobbies not to be excluded from the exercise.

What we do know is the rollout date is fast approaching, the tour has appointed a former Washington lobbyist and tournament chairman for the Presidents Cup (George Burger) to oversee the FedEx Cup, and that nobody quite knows how it's going to work.

Now this is absolutely priceless... 

One thing it has done: create buzz. "I think it's going to work out great because when you think about it, we've been talking about it for a year, so that's what we want," said policy shaper Davis Love III.

I guess Davis is going with the all publicity is good publicity thinking there, because everyone else is talking about the lack of sizzle and substance in something that kicks off in, yes just 60 days.

This is beautiful too...

Tying next year in to this week's proceedings, where Woods and Phil Mickelson are noticeably absent, has everybody at Tour headquarters uncomfortable. Even if they had nothing to play for, it doesn't look right that the Nos. 1 and 3 players in the world decided to use this as a bye week. "Essentially, the FedEx Cup turned this into a lame-duck year," said a representative for one of the FedEx sponsors.

Riiiiiiggggggghhhhhhhhttttttt! That's probably coming from the guy who convinced his bosses to pony up $40 million a year. 


The Zen Caddy!

I wish I could make up stuff like this...

Groundbreaking new keeps golfers focused and relaxed anytime,anywhere with tips only a phone call away

COLUMBUS, OH (November 2, 2006)-- announces it has launched a new free service for golfers--receive zen inspired golf tips on your cell phone while you play.  The recorded tips were designed to help golfers play better by simply refocusing and relaxing in real time. conducted interviews with many PGA tour caddys to find out how they help their player relax.  We took their best advice to form our recorded messages.  The old saying is golf is 90% golfers can put the power of zen to work for them.

"We are pleased to launch this new service for golfers.  The goal of zencaddy is to make golf fun again ," says Peter Moon, founder of  "Many of the PGA tour caddys mentioned that golfers take the game too seriously.  By listening to the recorded messages, golfers can learn how to refocus and relax and get back into the zone.  Great players like Tiger Woods and Vijah Singh rely on their caddy and their training to instantly refocus. Now this is available to every golfer."

The service is free and the signup process is simple.  Go to  and register online.  An email will be sent to the subscriber with the toll free number to access the recordings.


Making Offers They Can Refuse

Thanks to reader Tuco for this Post story on the Jack Nicklaus designed New York city course that was supposed to be built near the Whitestone Bridge and possibly serve as a future host to the Westchester event.

Doesn't sound like it's going to happen anytime soon.

When it was announced, the Jack Nicklaus-designed course was supposed to welcome golfers in December 2001 and provide sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline from a 222-acre site under the Whitestone Bridge.

"This groundbreaking project is a wonderful example of public and private sectors working together," then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani said in 1998.

He suggested the course might even become a stop on the PGA tour. But Pierre Gagne, the chief developer, couldn't pull it off.

The city poured in more than $8 million for environmental remediation. Lawsuits ensued after Gagne accepted 2.5 million cubic yards of fill to help cover the one-time landfill.

FBI wiretaps captured one mob-connected trucker boasting of collecting $5 for every cubic yard dumped.

Estimated construction costs skyrocketed from $22.4 million to $50 million and beyond.

Wait, the mob is charging $5 a cubic yard and it's only $50 million? Shoot, some of today's guys spend that much without the Corleone's looking over their shoulder.




Fiscally and Mentally Sharp

Steve Elling on Tiger and Phil not playing in Atlanta:
Tour players are required to compete in a minimum of 15 events per season, with few restrictions. Woods took two months off in the summer when his father's health was failing and played a career-low 15 times this year, while Mickelson played in 19 events. He hasn't played since August.

Woods played seven times in nine weeks, but hasn't played in a month. Last Friday, he wrote on his Web site that he needed more time to "recharge my batteries." That said, he leaves this weekend to play for the second consecutive year at foreign tour events in China and Japan, where he will receive an estimated $6 million in appearance fees.

The PGA Tour prohibits appearance fees, but its players can accept them overseas.

Woods and Mickelson are not alone in their part-timer philosophy, necessarily. Heading into play this week, five of the top 10 players in earnings had entered fewer than 20 of the 47 official events.

"We are all independent contractors," Oberholser said, smirking and repeating a common player theme. "That's the most politically correct way I can put it."

If Woods at the moment is too tired to play after a four-week break, what does next year portend? The top guns will be expected to play six times in a seven-week stretch as the FedEx Cup series race heats up to its fender-bending finale, a stretch that also includes a World Golf Championship event and the PGA Championship, the season's final major. Woods and Mickelson previously have indicated that they plan to play for as long as they feel sharp, mentally and physically.

Maybe "fiscally" is more apt.


"Not as expensive."

During the first round of the Tour Championship, Azinger, Baker-Finch and Faldo were discussing the dynamics of the caddy-player relationship, when Karl Ravech decided to sum it up by saying, "so it's like a husband and wife relationship."

To which Faldo replied, "not as expensive."


Putting On His Worst Poker Face

MD1B-azinger.jpgPaul Azinger really knows how to work the press. Here he is talking to Steve Elling about the Ryder Cup captaincy announcement.

"I just can't confirm what has been leaked," Azinger, 46, said in Atlanta, where he is handling broadcast duties for The Tour Championship on ESPN. "I have no idea how this happened, how it was leaked. I am completely blindsided."
He couldn't even do a non-denial denial! How's he going to keep this buttoned up for four days on ABC!

See what fun this is going to be Julius?


The FedEx Cup Picture... finally getting murkier by the day. Why finally? Because we've known since the announcement. But now that writers and players are facing its arrival, questions are being asked, scenarios contemplated and the word "playoffs" scrutinized.

Doug Ferguson reports that players are already talking about changing it because of the silly idea of 144 players qualifying for a playoff, especially when only 125 theoretically get to come back the next year.

Meanwhile in the USA Today, Jerry Potter analyzes how the point system will work and includes this quote from the PGA Tour's Ric Clarson:

"We've run hundreds of computer models," Clarson says, "and no player came from lower than 13th seed to win the Cup. If you're not in the top 15 going into the playoff, your chances of winning aren't great."

But Commissioner Tim Finchem has contradicted with his Yankees analogy several times, including Wednesday's press conference at East Lake:

But the only question I've gotten is the seeding. If a player plays at an exceedingly high level and he basically has to start over again, is that fair? Actually they're not starting over again. They have a bit of an edge because the seeding -- it's kind of like home field advantage maybe in team sports.

But my reaction to that, in every conversation and my reaction back has been the same. If the New York Yankees win 315 games and they win 20 more games than everybody else, they still start over. That's what the playoffs are all about. And in every single conversation the reaction back is, Yeah, I get that. That makes sense to me.

What the players have asked for, Let's make it as much as possible like a real playoff. That's what we've tried to do, and I think there's real enthusiasm. We're just going to have to see how it plays out in '07. I, for one, am pretty confident it's going to be spectacular.

So we've got one guy saying only 15 have a chance to win, the other saying that the elite merely have a slight edge going in, but by and large, it's a virtual free market setting once the four weeks of playoff golf commence.  

Okay, so here's the problem. The system that rewards the top point-getters going into the playoffs also emphasizes playing more often. Great.  Except, come playoff time, it locks in top players to positions that will make it hard for anyone outside of a small group to win, making the playoffs less likely to produce wild point swings or Cinderella stories.

An alternative system would not emphasize "seeding" and therefore create no extra incentive to play more often during the season. But that system would leave things wide open going into the "playoffs." Great for an exciting finish, but bad for making stars play more often during the course of the year.

Ultimately, they are going to have to decide what is more important. A system that rewards those who play more often and play well, or a system that sets things up for an exciting finish. I'd go with the latter of the two, since the stars have proven that they will only play where they want to play.


"I mean, I think that if -- if the reaction were flat, it's not a negative. I mean, I don't think there's a hurtful thing."

...That's the Commissioner talking about the FedEx Cup, which was the focus of his "State of the PGA Tour" gathering with the media.

Commissioner, take it away...

First of all, we had a great season during the course of the year. This concludes the official money portion of the season. Certainly Tiger had another great individual performance and has a string going.

Has a string going? Yeah, and this week he looks to, oh wait...well, the string gets going in January at the Mercedes...maybe.

After reviewing the PGA and Nationwide Tours, he had this to say about the Valiant Competitor's Tour:

The Champions Tour also had a good year. We had a great finish between Jay Haas and Loren Roberts for the Schwab Cup. Charity dollars will exceed $10 million for the third straight year, and we had new winners and veteran members performing well.

I think the important thing about the Champions Tour is that the transition that began in 2000 when Watson, Wadkins, and Kite came over is now almost complete.

Yes from popular tour to moribund.

We said, I think in '01 or '02, that by 2007 you would see just a fundamental redo of the leaderboards on the Champions Tour, and that's certainly come to pass when you consider Jay Haas and Curtis Strange and Larry Nelson, Chip Beck, the players that have come out in the last five or years six.

Curtis Strange? He's been on leaderboard?

Talking television...

We now are at over 200 countries. Our television passes 450 million homes outside of the United States. The focus of interest in Asia and South America to go along with the historical focus in Australia, South Africa, Japan. And Europe is astounding, really, in terms of the interest level in PGA TOUR golf.

Astounding? Uh, European correspondents, could you please track down some numbers so that we can understand what constitutes astounding interest level?

Okay here goes with the FedEx Cup've been warned.

Let me start first with the season-long competition, the FedEx Cup. This is a major shift for the PGA TOUR. It is designed to really do three things: One, increase the importance of every week on the PGA TOUR, and as a consequence we think improve the quality of fields on average as we go through the season;

Now, if 144 guys make it, why will guys play more during the year?

secondly, create our version of the playoffs. Like most other sports, playoffs are the most dynamic portion of the season, and we want to take advantage of the opportunity to create some playoffs that we think will drive fan interest, television interest, and carry our audience somewhat further into the year.

Yes, great, but in those other playoffs, they play, and people who lose, go off the eligible list. As far as I can tell, no one is eliminated in the PGA Tour playoffs until the Tour Championship field is set. I'm quibbling again, I know, I know.

Now get the ma$$age oil out...

We want to thank FedEx. I think it was a year ago today that we announced our partnership with FedEx. We said at that time that not only are they a global brand, but they are incredibly skilled marketers. All the work that's gone on since that announcement confirms, certainly in my mind, that we picked the right partner. We have some people who are dedicated to making this a very special thing in golf as we enter what we now call the New Era.

Who's we? Why isn't that NEW ERA?

Now, about the clubhouse at the, gulp, "Players Stadium" course of Ponte Vedra...

We tore down the old clubhouse and rebuilt a new clubhouse. It's on kind of a different schedule. It's on schedule, that's the good news. The bad news is, as I've said over and over, that the schedule has an opening about two hours before the first tee time of The PLAYERS. It's a little tight to the tournament, but we think we'll get it done. It's just spectacular, and it's going to be a great addition to the quality and texture of The PLAYERS.

There's that texture stuff again. Notice THE PLAYERS is now The PLAYERS. Subtle branding touch.

Oh and on the subject of spectacular, wait until you see the locker room where the commissioner has his own shower protected by eye recognition security so only he can use it. Just kidding.

The third thing I'll mention is television. We had NBC officials here today, and we're going into a new environment. Again, another change for us with a two-network partnership as opposed to three, and a single-platform carrier for all of our early rounds with the Golf Channel. CBS and NBC, we think, are ideal partners for this arrangement.

There were 5 platform mentions in all, a new record I believe.

It's a very different direction for us. I might just pause here.

Oh, time for ten seconds of silence on behalf of our lost platform partners at ABC who we liked even though they introduced humor to their telecasts over the last couple of years...

This is the last official money event that we're doing with ABC, ESPN, and comment that they've been a great partner for us for a good number of years. We are indebted to them for the energy they put into this partnership.

And for all of the millions they lost too, thanks.

I would also point out, however, that they're still our partner. We have an ongoing relationship with ESPN. The world has changed.

When did ESPN buy the world? 

There are a lot of different distribution vehicles for media and telecasting messages, and we are partnering with ESPN and utilizing some of those avenues, but our tournament coverage will be with CBS and NBC, and totally from a cable standpoint on The Golf Channel. While we thank ABC and ESPN, we look forward to this new environment.

Partnering with ESPN? Anyone know what he's talking about?

I'm sure the scribblers will no, they asked about the FedEx Cup and little else...

Q. Is it fair to say this is the biggest change in Tour history? Maybe, I guess, the all-exempt Tour, but I don't know that most people knew what that meant. Is there an element of risk with this at all? Do you think that you will be judged by how this thing comes off? I guess that's three questions.

COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: I don't think it's unfair to suggest that it's the biggest change certainly in the modern era from a competitive structure standpoint. If it doesn't come off -- we've talked about that. I don't see any downside. I mean, I think that if -- if the reaction were flat, it's not a negative. I mean, I don't think there's a hurtful thing. But as I say, we feel very strongly that there are going to be a lot of positives.

If the reaction were flat, it's not a negative. Well, unless you are FedEx and your brand is tied to something perceived as flat, confusing and a get-rich scheme for a few already rich players.

Q. You said just in the first question that it would create more of a connection with fans and it would add more value to the sponsors. Do you see that the connection with fans of the PGA TOUR is waning? And do you also see that the value for the sponsors is waning if this is why you created that?

COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: I don't see it waning. Three years ago at our 20/20 conference we had a company called DYG come in, and actually they came in again this week to make a presentation. But they did a presentation on society today and time constraints.

Without boring you with all the details,

You could never bore us...

the sad fundamental bottom line is that getting people in today's world to do anything, watch something on television, certainly get up, get in a car, go to a tournament, is more challenging than it was 30 or 40 years ago just because there are so many options.

They even pointed out that in today's world, psychiatrists -- you used to go and spend an hour on the couch. Now you do it for 15 minutes and pay for 15 minutes.

Of course, the Commissioner knows nothing about that psychiatrist stuff. It's just what the DYG people tell him about shrinks. 

That's just the way the world is. When USA Today came along, it was all about snippets of news 25 years ago, and that's the recognition.

Oh okay.

So you're fighting for fans' time, interest, and attention. All the sports are doing that and all entertainment vehicles are doing that, and we have to -- if we're going to stay even, we have to work harder, and hopefully this initiative is going to help us move up. That's what we're hoping to do.

Tiger, close your eyes, this is where you get criticized lightly scolded.

Q. You've mentioned players like to go head to head against the best players -- and talked about a lot of other things -- but this week the big story so far is that neither Tiger nor Phil chose to play here for various reasons. We wonder what you think of that? Can your new system keep that from happening again?

COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Well, I'm against it (laughter). I'm disappointed, candidly. There's no other way to characterize it. I'm disappointed.

Phil was not a surprise to me.

He's a shlub and I've accepted him as nothing less.

Now that I know the details of Tiger's thing from last week,

...whoa, what? His thing last week? What's this in reference to? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

I understand how he came to his conclusion. It doesn't make me less disappointed, but I understand how he got there. And I recognize that there were -- I recognize, A, there were some unique circumstances this year that changed his schedule dramatically, and I recognize that he's had a good, solid run of commitment to this tournament.

Back to the TV platforms...we finally get an answer why they are on The Golf Channel for 15 years!

The other piece is getting the attention of the viewers. Now, the magic there we think is the consistency of the platform on Thursday and Friday all year long, and the fan base -- right now over the years you had to look for us -- where are you on Thursday? Where are you on Friday?

My father watches The Golf Channel about 60 hours a week.
He's 87.

So that's who is watching the Big Break! 

When he can't find something on The Golf Channel, he needs help. We're on The Golf Channel every Thursday and Friday, every Thursday and Friday night replay. That's a great platform. Once that kicks in with our fan base, it's a marvelously strong lead-in to our weekend program.

We will see how marvelously soon, won't we?