"I think the first and foremost is coming out in good shape in the wide range of scrutinies that we always get during these downturns."
Tim Finchem, sporting a PGA Tour logoed dress shirt (PGA Tour PGA TOUR(C) logoed Hawaiian shirt would have sent the wrong message in these tough times) sat down with golf's last remaining scribblers to drone on about a few things, including negotiations on future Mercedes Championships at Kapalua (Robert Collias reports that the post-2010 future is far from certain.)
Q. You indicated that your major focus was to be better coming out of whatever this is we are in right now, than going in. How do you do that?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, there's a number of things that go into that. I think the first and foremost is coming out in good shape in the wide range of scrutinies that we always get during these downturns.
Scrutinies. New Year, new MBA jargon!
When we start into a downturn and companies are reducing their expenditures in advertising and marketing and sponsorship, they are obviously going through a process that they are deciding what's more valuable to them, where they get most value to the dollar spent.
In prior downturns -- and I would add to that, in my experience, every time we have a downturn, there was even more scrutiny than last time, and there's better scrutiny, because companies have learned how to do it better. They have better analytics and outside consultants, etc., etc.
Oh yeah, America is really feeling the effects of companies' improved scrutinies and those analytics. What did Obama say today? "We arrived at this point due to an era of profound irresponsibility."
So in prior downturns, we have performed very well in that regard, because our value model, in terms of spending a dollar with the PGA TOUR versus spending a dollar versus X-Sport versus spending a dollar in Y-Sport, we come out very well. The first step is to win that contest and to come out ahead. If we are coming out ahead in those tests and those challenges, that absolutely positions us better for the future.
The second thing is that we just take advantage of the environment to work hard on our cost structure, challenge ourselves, although, we like to think that we do that all the time, but even more intensely, and be more efficient coming out of it.
And on that note, my jet is prepped and waiting, so I'm outta here once we finish up.
And the third thing is, use the period to where we are not winning that contest, where we are in a situation where we are sliding, use the opportunity to fix whatever problem it is that created that slide and structurally make changes that give us more value.
Let's see, how about working on the dreaded WGC's? The Fixed Cup's version three in year three? Competing tournaments during majors and WGC's? Boring product fueled by excessive course setup and demise of shotmaking?
Get your cliche and sports metaphor boards out...
So that's where we are at full-court press to do. We are going to take some hits. Everybody is going to take some hits in this environment. But if it's cyclical, we'll come through it and we want to position it to get back into a solid growth pattern.
This answer about the decline of newspapers seemed to be an improvement over the one I got at Sherwood.
Let's say we have a PGA TOUR event in St. Louis this year, we're there once during the year for four days of competition. The market doesn't view it -- the intensity level of the fans isn't such that they really have to have somebody that covers that sport for them.
So when you are coming to chopping budgets, a dedicated golf writer is going to come on the chopping block before somebody that covers a team sport. That's just the way it is.
I went out to my driveway and picked up my local newspaper and thought I had lost a few sections of it. It got quite thin on some days. But I don't know where it leads.
To be able to live in Pittsburgh or Detroit or anywhere and see a familiar name dedicated to your newspaper writing about a sport is a good thing for our sport. Losing that is a bad thing for our sport. But I can't quantify it in terms of what it really means to the fan base.
Ah the first John Daly question of the new year...
But if a player comments, if a player says, "I was fined $50," and he was fined $10,000, we might correct the record. But that's the extent of our commentary. That's up to the player, whether the player wants to keep it confidential or not.
So that was my response to the John Daly situation. I did say that I am not clarifying or changing his commentary on his suspension, which by definition means that he is generally correct in what he said.
Now, why don't we talk about it or give out the details. One, we don't feel like people really care that much. We don't get emails from fans saying, Why don't you tell us. So we don't think there's this hunger for that information.
No, there's no hunger...just reporters all over the world writing about it!
Two, candidly, we don't have that much of it, and we don't want to remind people about it. I'm just being straightforward. If somebody -- and remember now, in our sport, a bad thing is a bad word; it's not getting indicted usually. It's a bad word. But we don't want to remind people by saying, we fined such-and-such a player $5,000 for saying a bad word. It's just reminding them that he said a bad word.
In most cases, people don't know he said a bad word; somebody was standing at the ropes, a marshal or a fan who brought it to our attention, for a fellow competitor, and the player got fined. So usually it's a very small amount of people that know about the kind of attractions that we get, and we see no reason to publicize it.
If we had a problem of any magnitude, if we had a conduct problem, if we were faced with any significant issues where a player is not showing integrity or respect for the game, we might have a very different attitude.
Thankfully John Daly would never demonstrate anything that, wait, continue digging this hole...
I mean, I can understand in the NBA that if a guy jumps into the stands and gets into a fistfight, if I the Commissioner, I would pretty much feel like I had to tell the public about that, because there's a demand to know. We don't have those kind of situations.
No, our guys just take spectators digital cameras and smash them into trees.
And finally an unusual and unusually succinct answer on Tiger's comeback:
Q. But do you expect him to come back better than he was?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I'm not going to comment on my expectations.