Finchem On Washington

BoozAllen05.gifBoy, after reading the recent stuff from Carolyn Bivens, Tim Finchem's press conferences are so boring!

Still, it was a combative teleconference with the Washington scribblers on demise of the Booze Allen and the reconstruction of TPC Avenel:

With respect to how we got to the scheduling decision, as I indicated at the end of our television negotiations, when we released our schedule earlier in the year, we felt like it was important to give as many weeks to possible consistent dates. We could have gone to a continuation of a situation where some years we play earlier in the summer in Washington, like we played last year, and other years we could play later in the summer. The feeling was that we would continue to have an inconsistent execution of our product, probably the fallout of that being a lack of continuity with the title sponsor, which has certainly been the case there since Kemper left. We just didn't want to go down that road. We wanted to try something we felt like had a better chance of continual year in, year out success.

I've always said, that if you can't have consistent product execution, it's just not worth it. 

Q. Big picture question. How did the tournament in DC, one of the biggest markets in the nation, nation's capital, wind up on the outside looking in as far as the good dates go, and some tournaments in smaller markets, like the 84 Lumber in Greensboro, not nearly as well supported by the public as this one, how did they end up with the good dates and this tournament was on the out?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: First of all, it's kind of hard to answer that question in the way you phrase it because you're assuming certain things about a "good date." We have dates on our schedule from the first week in January right through now the fall series to November. What's a good date for one market is not a good date for another market. What's a good date for a particular sponsor is not a good date for another sponsor in the same market. There are a lot of variables in terms of what goes into a date.

I think that the reaction to the date change in Washington has really been focused on one thing, and that is being in the FedEx Cup season, early summer, is preferable to anything else. I certainly wouldn't argue the point that being in the FedEx Cup season is an advantage. But I think the reaction perhaps has been a little bit overdone in terms of the negativity of the fall, as I said earlier.

The bottom line is that we were not comfortable, and frankly neither was Booz Allen, in continuing a date structure that has historically led to an event that would not be the kind of event on a number of levels that we'd like to see over the long term in the nation's capital. We wanted an opportunity to do something better. We thought consistent dates was part of that, but there are other factors.

This is a little weird....

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you very much for your time today, Commissioner.

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Thank you, Todd.

Ladies and Gentlemen, if you need additional information, we're available to you. I know a couple of you have called in the last couple of weeks. I've deferred those conversations until I had an opportunity to make comments generally today. In the aftermath of this week's tournament, I'd be happy to make myself available or other people on our team. We'll have more to say about Avenel here very shortly after the public hearing.

In the meantime, I would encourage you to cover this week's tournament. We have a lot of great players there, good golf course, we're looking forward to a good competition. Thank you.

I would encourage you to cover this week's tournament? What else would they cover? 

"We've been promised some good dates thanks to our friends at FedEx"

Phil Stukenborg in the Memphis Commercial-Appeal (beat the Light and Shopper) writes about the St. Jude event and its excitement over a new June date in the 07 FedEx Cup schedule. Tournament director Phil Cannon is also excited for these reasons:

--The tournament, which will be known in 2007 as the Stanford St. Jude Championship, will be played June 7-10, or in the enviable spot one week before the U.S. Open.

--The FedEx Cup points competition, similar to the Nextel Cup on the NASCAR Circuit, is expected to increase player participation.

--And several more weeks to grow the rough should have the course in ideal condition.

That rough harvesting is tricky business!

Here's the line that will irk some tournament directors:
''There are about three primo dates on the PGA Tour in the summertime and we are going to have one of them next year,'' Cannon said. ''It hasn't been finalized yet, but the Tour has said we'll like our 2008 through 2012 dates just as much. We've been promised some good dates thanks to our friends at FedEx.''

And Cannon is excited about the FedEx Cup...

''The whole FedEx Cup points competition is going to change the structure of our sport tremendously,'' Cannon said. ''It's going to reward players for their performances and participation on a year-long basis, much like you see in NASCAR with the Nextel Cup. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt are in every race all year long. Thirty-eight races.

''I don't think you'll see pro golfers in 95 percent of their events, but I think you'll see them increase their starts and vary their schedules. From talking to players and agents, they all say this is going to revolutionize scheduling.''

"Isn't there a number between one and 15?"

230136-275498-thumbnail.jpgFred Couples, talking to Bob Verdi in this week's Golf World:

"I don't understand the new TV deal. We signed for 15 years with The Golf Channel? Isn't there a number between one and 15? Did the NBA sign for 15 years with TNT? How'd we lose ESPN? I also don't get that. What if ESPN decides in three years they want golf again? What does the PGA Tour tell them? Sorry, we're with The Golf Channel until 2021?"

Check out the full column for his thoughts on possibly serving as Ryder Cup captain, and other first rate curmudgeonry. 

More On 84

Thanks to Big K for the heads up on this Teresa Lindeman story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that sheds  a little more light on the 84 Lumber Classic's surprising demise.

But pretty soon, it became clear the higher costs of such things as moving from ESPN to CBS would bump the overall price tag up to the point where 84 Lumber expected to pay $100 million over the six-year contract.

That's money that could be used to build a lot of new stores plus help pay for acquisition of companies that can fill in services not offered by 84 Lumber now.

Ms. Hardy Magerko couldn't justify putting so much money and staff time into a golf tournament, especially since her customers are not the broad consumer audience that would be attracted to a CBS broadcast.

She broke the news to her father. "I didn't ask him. I basically told him," she said, knowing that he would hate losing the event. And he did, though she said he agreed with her assessment of the financial bottom line.

Ms. Hardy Magerko has mixed emotions about how things worked out with the PGA. She has offered to host the fall tournament another year if the organization can't find a replacement in time.

She believes the golf organization might have helped 84 Lumber more in making its numbers work. She said the PGA was unwilling to sign a deal shorter than six years or to allow the company to bring in a presenting sponsor to help share the expense, though she has heard it has been more accommodating for the group that stepped up to take the spot.

For now, 84 Lumber is prepared to put on its final PGA tournament in the fall and then move on. Ms. Hardy Magerko won't miss the constant meetings required to plan the annual golf event. That's time she can spend on the road meeting with her new store managers.

I Don't Know About You...

...but after reading this Gerry Dulac story on the 84 Lumber Classic's demise, I could take a big rain check on meeting  Joe Hardy's daughter:

"My dad, he can spend money," said Maggie Hardy Magerko, Joe's daughter and president/owner of 84 Lumber Co.

It was that spending, apparently, that helped lead to the demise of the tournament, which will be discontinued after this year as part of a growth plan by 84 Lumber to expand the nation's largest privately owned lumber and building supply retailer into a $10 billion company.

And that decision was made by Hardy Magerko, not her father, whom she says did not want to cancel the tournament.

"It was my decision," said Hardy Magerko. "I'm 40 and my dad is 83. We don't always agree on things. He has different motivation. I want to pass 84 Lumber to my sons. He likes legacies.

"That's our biggest dilemma. He spends too much money. I want to make money."

The 84 Lumber Classic agreed to a six-year sponsorship extension with the PGA Tour that would allow the tournament to move to June, beginning in 2007. Four months later, Hardy Magerko changed her mind because she said the cost of running the tournament for the next six years would have been $100 million.

Among the reasons: Hardy Magerko said her company will be spending "lots of money" to aggressively purchase smaller lumber and framing companies to eliminate competition.

So good to know the money is going to such a worthy cause. What a legacy!

D.C. Ultimatum

Leonard Shapiro has the latest on the Washington area event status...
The PGA Tour has set a May 15 deadline for organizers of Washington's tour event to come up with a title sponsor or face elimination from the schedule starting in 2007.

A month after Booz Allen, the title sponsor since 2004, decided not to renew its three-year sponsorship agreement, a replacement has not been found to commit the necessary funds -- about $4 million per year. The Tour's decision to move the event, which has been played in Washington since 1980, to the fall portion of the schedule beginning in 2007 was a factor in Booz Allen's decision to scale back its commitment.

Hartford: They Were The First Port 'O Call!

Commissioner Tim Finchem drops a juicy nautical metaphor in this Bruce Berlet story on how Hartford landed back on the 2007 PGA Tour FedEx Cup schedule.

First, you might some want some Dramamine after this song-and-dance routine on the summer vs. fall...

"It was a tough call but we thought, for a lot of reasons, that it could work quite well in Hartford in the fall," Finchem said. "But that was a miscalculation of the attitude of the community, which felt strongly that it could not be as strong in the fall. That led to the shift in interest in the Champions Tour, which obviously isn't as big a deal but what [the Jaycees] thought might work better in the summer than the fall date.

"Hartford had always been a priority for us, but [its date] had moved around a lot and inhibited the tournament from being able to grow from a marketing standpoint. We never felt Hartford was a tournament that didn't deserve to be in the summer, but we just had to make some choices. We made the determination that we were going to lock people into dates as best we could, and we felt Hartford would be good in the fall because of agronomics, weather, being one of the top two or three courses in that time frame and being able to be marketed well."

Amazing what work it is to say "the 84 Lumber people were more willing to meet our price, then they changed their mind."

Now, for those permutations of the port of call...

"But the community felt they would much prefer to be in the summer, so we worked with them on all the permutations. We already knew it could work in the time frame and told St. Paul we weren't in position to do exactly what they wanted to do to trigger their commitment. But when 84 Lumber stepped aside, they were the first port of call and everybody got excited."

 You know I've been thinking, the Commissioner could better tap into the youth market if he would talk more like HBO's Ali G. Using the Ali G translator tranzlata, see how that last statement could better connect with the coveted 18-34 year olds:

"but da community felt dey would much dig to be in da summa, so we worked wiv them on all da permutations. we already knew it could wurk in da time frame and told st. paul we weren't in position to do pacifically wot dey wanted to do to trigga their commitment. but whun 84 lumba stepped aside, dey were da first port of call and me crew got excited." 

"Me crew" is just so much more youthful. Anyway, just a suggestion on skewing younger Commissioner. Yours in branding, Geoff.

Oh, and he also talked to Berlet about the FedEx Cup...

Finchem said the FedEx Cup points system is likely to be finalized at a tour board meeting in June, with major championships having more points but not "throwing the system out of whack." Players will accumulate points from January to mid-August, and those higher in the standings will have an advantage going into a three-event series in suburban New York, Boston and Chicago before playing the Tour Championship.

"Top players have to pay attention to the aggregation of points and that translates into the likelihood of playing a more concentrated schedule," Finchem said.

Ah, maybe he's been looking at MacDuff's FedEx point standings?

And Yet More 84 Talk

The shock is wearing off and Gerry Dulac points out the absurdity of a company doing billions in sales and that spared no expense to make the 84 Lumber Classic a significant event, suddenly worrying about the PGA Tour's measely $8 million price tag. Something strange is going on here...

As if a couple million, even $8 million, can even begin to put a dent in $10 billion?

And when did the Hardy family all of a sudden start worrying about a couple of million?

He has poured more than $100 million into making Nemacolin Woodlands the destination of the rich and famous, and that doesn't include the $66 million Falling Rock lodge that is patterned after The Cloister at Sea Island, Ga. After the first year of the tournament, he bought more than 250 acres to build access roads to the golf course and had a driving range constructed that was the envy of other PGA Tour events. What's more, Pete Dye, the architect of Mystic Rock, was brought back so many times to improve the golf course that even he joked, "That's my annuity."

84 Classic Follow Up

Gerry Dulac has a little more insight into the impact of 84 Lumber's "aggresive three-year business plan," but the end of this emerging event is still a shocker:

The decision came as a surprise to just about everyone because the tournament recently reached a new six-year agreement with the PGA Tour to move the event to mid-June, beginning in 2007 -- a time spot that had long been targeted and desired by tournament host and sponsor Joe Hardy.

What's more, since the inception of the tournament, Mr. Hardy had spent more than $80 million to improve facilities, upgrade the Mystic Rock golf course that hosted the event and make the tournament one of the best late-summer stops on the PGA Tour.

In a statement released yesterday, Maggie Hardy Magerko, owner and president of 84 Lumber Co. and Mr. Hardy's daughter, said the tournament will be discontinued as part of a strategic growth plan in which the company wants to add 125 stores and hit $10 billion in sales by 2009. The firm also plans to close 67 "underperforming" stores; that move would affect 600 employees.

Mrs. Magerko unveiled the financial plan last week and immediately informed PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem. But the announcement that the 84 Lumber Classic will cease to exist didn't come until yesterday, when a tournament in Hartford, Conn., sponsored by the St. Paul Travelers Co., was named as a replacement.

Just When We Thought That They Were Out...

...Hartford is back in in the uh, FedEx Cup (formerly known as the PGA Tour).  Dont' worry, the PGA Tour didn't come to its senses and realize that it had shipped a 55-yaer old history and charity-rich event off to the fall.

Instead, according to Commissioner Finchem:

"The opportunity for Hartford to move into the June 2007 slot previously committed to the 84 Lumber Classic recently arose when 84 Lumber informed us that it had embarked on an aggressive three-year business plan and wanted to reevaluate the June sponsorship."

I'm open to suggestions on what embarking on "an aggressive three-year business plan" translates to?

Thanks to reader Robert for the heads up.

Finchem Is Talking Bunkum...!?

Alan Campbell in the Sunday Herald may have to pay for a Tour media guide after this little WGC inspired column:

...what is despicable is the conduct of PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem. Not content with ruling the roost over a circuit which is the Premiership to Europe’s Coca-Cola Championship, this myopic golf controller has annexed the so-called world golf championships for the greater good of Uncle Sam. Next year all three WGC events will be staged in the United States, just as they will in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Finchem’s defence? “They’re staged at a level which can pay significant prize money,” said the PGA Tour commissioner. “That costs money.”

Pausing only to let this staggering sliver of logic sink in, Finchem continued: “The American marketplace is best suited to generate those kind of resources. I think that’s why, historically, three of the four Major championships are in the United States.”

Finchem is talking bunkum, as the American marketplace wasn’t involved in the evolving of the Majors. He compounds his error by inviting the question: given that the United States already has the cream of world golf’s championships, why does it need to selfishly syphon off the next tier?

And...
The unwillingness of the Phil Mickelsons and Davis Loves to rack up transatlantic air miles is, along with the financial muscle of US corporations and the dictates of the American television networks, the reason why the world golf championships have become almost as big a misnomer as the World Series in baseball.

John Daly and Woods are just about the only two high profile Americans prepared to leave the country for anything other than the Open Championship. While both are paid handsomely in appearance money, they see the bigger picture. “There should be at least one [WGC] every year somewhere other than America,” said Woods. “Obviously the market is huge here, but it is a world game and any opportunity to get the best players to other parts of the world is a great way to grow golf.”

The PGA Tour have cemented the WGC events into their revamped schedules, which start from next year. It stinks, but then money usually does.

An Integral Part of the FedEx Cup

In announcing the Honda's move from Mirasol to PGA National, note Commissioner Finchem's quote:

"We look forward to a bright future as the Honda Classic moves to PGA National's renowned Champion Course and becomes an integral part of the FedEx Cup for years to come."

Not an integral part of the PGA Tour for years to come, but an integral part of the FedEx Cup for years to come.

Translation: after this year, the PGA Tour name is going to become secondary to FedEx Cup.

I hope they're getting a lot of money for this. 

MacDuff's Post-Doral Fed Ex Cup Points

Thanks to MacDuff for an update on what a Fed Ex Cup race would look like under his points system treating every week the same. It's early, but even with two wins, Tiger is still only 13th in 3 appearances (4 but his WD isn't counting) while Phil Mickelson and his 0 wins is 2nd.

No one before Tiger has played less than 5 times and only one two other players in the Top 20 have played less than 5 times.

1    Sabbatini    10891.66        7
2    Mickelson    8934.37        6
3    C.Campbell    8850        7
4    Toms    8634.37        5
5    Glover    8529.16        6
6    Singh    8371.87        6
7    Furyk    7133.33        5
8    Petersson    6983.33        6
9    Lehman    6962.5        5
10    Appleby    6858.33        5
11    Oberholser    6737.5        5
12    Verplank    6712.5        5
13    T.Woods    6471.87        3
14    Gf. Ogilvy    6400        4
15    Palmer    6166.66        6
16    Parnevik    5930        6
17    T.Clark    5892.5        6
18    Weir    5834.37        4
19    Chopra    5724.5        6
20    Barlow    5713.5        6
21    Rollins    5662.5        5
22    Donald    5609.37        4
23    Van Pelt    5490        6
24    Love III    5437.5        4
25    JB Holmes    5433.33        4
26    Jerry Kelly    5325        4
27    Mayfair    5316.66        6
28    N.Green    5137.5        4
29    Villegas    5037.5        4
30    Cink    5021.33        5
31    J.Ogilvie    5020        5
32    Pernice    5000        4
33    DiMarco    4984.37        4
34    Leonard    4895.83        5
35    D.Wilson    4762.5        5
36    Bertsch    4725        5
37    Z.Johnson    4687.5        4
38    Senden    4625        4
39    Matteson    4575        5
40    Calc    4450        5
41    Olazabal    4412.5        3
42    Olin Browne    4387.5        5
43    A.Scott    4375        3
44    Jobe    4355        4
45    Franco    4350        4
46    Rose    4341.66        4
47    Atwal    4312.5        4
48    Bub Watson    4250        4
49    Watney    4137.5        4
50    Warren    4083.33        4
51    Kenny Perry    3962.5        4
52    Gay    3950        5
53    Vn Taylor    3825        4
54    Branshaw    3812.5        3
55    Imada    3787.5        5
56    Estes    3775        3
57    M.Wilson    3765        3
58    J.Byrd    3750        3
59    Bohn    3683.33        4
60    Choi    3675        3
61    Garcia    3662.5        3
T62    Couples    3650        4
T62    Immelman    3650        4
64    Slocum    3550        5
65    Sluman    3550        6
66    Triplett    3537.5        2
67    Bjornstad    3530        4
68    Funk    3525        5
69    F.Jacobson    3512.5        3
70    Crane    3482.5        3
71    J.Smith    3462.5        3
72    Gore    3350        3
73    Pampling    3292.5        4
T74    Bryant    3287.5        3
T74    Els    3287.5        3
76    Purdy    3262.5        4
77    Beem    3256.25        4
78    Frazar    3187.5        4
79    D. Howell    3175        2
80    Waldorf    3137.5        3

It's still early but it looks like MacDuff's balanced points distribution (with benefits for top 10 finishers, as explained here), rewards not only solid play, but players playing a lot. Similar to how it works over at NASCAR, the model for this swell idea.

Howell and Elk On WGC's

Andrew Both in the Telegraph:

European Tour Order of Merit leader David Howell has joined the growing chorus of condemnation over the Americanisation of the World Golf Championships."There should be at least one event every year somewhere other than America.

And...

"Obviously, the market is huge here but it is a world game and any opportunity to get the best players to other parts of the world is a great way to grow golf. I'm sure lots of corporate sponsors in America would be happy to see a tournament in China, but we're not having one for some reason."

Howell's comments, strong though they were, paled beside the amazing outburst by Steve Elkington, the Houston-based Australian who beat Colin Montgomerie in a play-off at the 1995 US PGA Championship, but who missed the cut here.

"They're not really world events any more. It's just a fancy name for a $10 million event," Elkington said in a blistering attack on the US Tour, who decide when and where WGC events will be played.

"They're killing world golf everywhere else. Next year we're going to be playing the Match Play in Tucson, Arizona. I mean, who's ever been to Tucson?"

To Pay Or To Be Paid?

Reader Frank pointed out something that caught his eye in the story about Tucson receiving the WGC Match Play. Greg Hanson reported that:

"The Gallery is expected to pay something in the $500,000 to $750,000 range to play host to the Match Play Championships."

Contrast that with Bob Harig's story on the struggle to get a deal finalized between Innisbrook and the Suncoast Golf Classic (non-profit running the Chrysler event moving to the March Florida swing).

Deals between tournaments and their host venues vary. At the TPCs, tournaments get the course for free. But most tournaments pay a base rental fee and that may or may not include office space, rounds of golf for entertaining, catering, outings, etc. The tournament and the venue may share in revenue, such as concessions and merchandise sales.

But that has proved to be challenging. Tournament director Gerald Goodman said the event will pay a "significant" increase to Innisbrook for course rental in a new contract that would begin in 2007 and run through 2012.

The PGA Tour understandably prefers to go places that pay them to host an event, instead of paying places like Innisbrook or Riviera or Westchester substantial sums.

So The Gallery pays to host a WGC, while most venues are paid to host a PGA Tour event.

This trend, while understandable from a pure dollars and cents perspective, may explain why the Tour plays so many mediocre layouts in locations far away from population centers.

Shapiro: Bring On The LPGA

Leonard Shapiro looks at Washington's place on the PGA Tour schedule, assesses the new TV deal and says the Booz Allen people were treated so poorly that they are looking at sponsorig an LPGA event.

The tour asks its title sponsors to put up about $8 million a year for the right to put its name on an event. What do you get in Washington for that sum? Almost certainly a mediocre field competing on a second-tier golf course in an afterthought event played during a time of year when many area courses are not in the best condition after a long hot summer and seven months of member play.

The tour also has treated Booz Allen rather shabbily in the manners department. The sponsor found out about the new schedule and its banishment to the fall with a phone call less than two hours before the tour announced it to the media in a press conference that would have made the spin control masters at the White House look like a bunch of ward-level political hacks.

The tour has said it is locked into its current schedule, not to mention an unprecedented -- and rather risky--15-year television contract with the Golf Channel to show 15 events in their entirety and first and second round coverage of tournaments covered on the weekend by re-upping partners NBC and CBS.

The Golf Channel deal came about because ESPN and ABC felt they weren't getting enough value for the money they also were plowing into the PGA Tour coffers. The Golf Channel says it's available to 70 million viewers, but industry sources indicate only about 45 million have the service included in their basic cable or satellite packages. Perhaps the tour will help increase those numbers, but it also risks becoming even more of a niche sport without the sort of daily exposure ESPN has provided in the past.

And this...

Still, there may be better news on the way.

We're already whispers that the LPGA may be interested in filling the PGA Tour void in Washington. And with Annika Sorenstam, the best female player on the planet, and appealing young American stars like Michelle Wie, Morgan Pressel and Paula Creamer emerging as mega-watt talents, perhaps Booz Allen ought to think about putting its dollars in a far better place, at a far better time of year with world-class players who actually want to come to the Nation's Capital.