"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 stuff...you'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 ask...eh 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?