The "Playoffs" Teleconference

Tim Finchem and a bunch of other suits convened in New York to plug the Fed Ex Cup. And as is usually the case, the Tour shows little imagination in creating their "playoffs." Dan Hicks emceed.

COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM:   Thank you, Dan.   Good afternoon, everyone and welcome to an announcement that we hope embarks us on what we hope will be a new era in golf.

This morning in Washington, D.C., we had an annual breakfast, our fifth annual breakfast with 16 or 17 members of Congress to talk about the progress of the First Tee Program. 
I wonder if anyone asked about the demise of the Booz Allen?
As I was coming up here today focusing on this announcement, it occurred to me that here we are again announcing a new initiative in New York, and one that I think with great enthusiasm we will be able to look back on a few years from now and recognize the same kind of progress in what the FedEx Cup is trying to do with what we've seen in First Tee.   The difference is, of course, that today we're not starting from scratch the way we were with First Tee.   We started with a tremendously successful platform that communicates the game of golf.

And if you nodded in understanding at that last sentence, you need help.

When we concluded the elements of what we wanted to do in basic form, we thought that we needed a sponsor company and a partner that had two major qualifications.   First of all, we needed a company with a brand that could integrate easily across the entire PGA TOUR platform, because each week we did not want to take away from the importance of our title sponsors.

Because Lord knows, the fans tune in looking for brand platform integration.

So let's hear from the suckers ponying up $35 million a year for these exciting playoffs.

MIKE GLENN:   Thank you, Commissioner.   It's a pleasure for us to be here today, especially given our long-standing relationship with the PGA TOUR.   It's been wonderful being the title sponsor of the FedEx St. Jude Classic for so many years, and I have to tell you it's a bit bittersweet to give that up, but clearly we are moving to a new level and we are very excited about that.

It would be an understatement to say that this is a significant day for sport of golf and the PGA TOUR, and I can tell you that I speak on behalf of hundreds of thousands of employees and contractors of FedEx to say that we are very happy to extend our relationship with the PGA TOUR and to be the sponsor of the FedEx Cup.

Sports marketing has been a very important part of the way that we've built our brand and supports our brand for many, many years, and we truly believe that the FedEx Cup will be a very unique and special addition to our portfolio.   The Cup is very consistent with our brand values and reliability, excellence, precision and leadership and we're looking forward to 2007 when we begin the FedEx Cup.

And we're looking forward to hearing you and the Commissioner mentioning reliability 450,000 times over the life of the contract.

Here's where it gets just plain sad.

COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM:   Let me turn to focus on the second part, which is our version of the playoffs.   As we looked at it, we had a number of questions to be answered.   How can we structure playoff that is created big events?   We wanted each week to stand on its own and be a huge event in the market it's played and for all of our fan base of 110, 112 million Americans to really focus on it.   When I say "Americans," I should go beyond, because so many of our players today are international; it's really a world fan base.

Good salvage job there Commish.

But that challenge and the additional questions of creating a series that every player felt the need, the want and the enthusiasm to play in each and every week to create a series of weeks that is unheard of where all of the players would play head-to-head in four straight weeks created a number of questions.   I want to try to answer those questions, but before I do, let me introduce a little piece of video.   NBC was kind enough to ask Jimmy Roberts to take a few minutes and try to put the notion of playoffs for golf in perspective.

          (Video played).

(Commissioner gives two claps, The Clapper turns lights back on)

Oh sorry, it was that or poking fun at Jimmy Roberts.

But let me show you for a second how the playoffs set up and how they work.   First of all, the players play again through the regular season and they get to a seeding point.   So when they are seeded, the points they have earned to date go away, and they now are awarded a certain number of points that they will carry into the playoffs, and they will earn points each of the four playoff weeks.   The screen you see is the reset point distribution.

So if Stuart, who is in fifth or sixth place right now this year, and we were doing the Cup this year were to progress and end up in first place, he would have 100,000 points.   He'd have a 1,000-point lead over the No. 2 player, and you can see the distribution right on down the list.   The philosophy here is that Stuart should be awarded some benefit for the play that he has had all year long.   He's won tournaments, he's worked hard, he's played a well and he's got himself into that No. 1 seed position.   But it is not an award that precludes him from significant competition.   Therefore, the intervals between players are fairly slim.   And it creates on one hand more or less a home-field advantage, if you will; in some sports you can argue whether there is real a home-field advantage, versus a very volatile system where a lot of players go into the playoffs with an opportunity to win.
If you have any idea what the home-field advantage thing is about, please let me know, because I have no idea what he's talking about.
When you consider that each of our four events is going to have a prize money each week of $7 million, it means that if Stuart is in that first position or in the fifth position at the end of the seeding process, the regular season, he's looking at the next four weeks being worth $63 million in total payout.   And it is that amount of money, coupled with everything else going into the Cup, which we think sets it apart and makes it very, very special.

Yes, to the players. But for the fans?

Here's the Barclay's dude, Bob Diamond, who puts Finchem to shame with some of this MBAspeak.

Let me give you a sense, just a couple of things about why this is important to an organization like Barclays.   You know, first and foremost, it's who do we think we are and how do we think of ourselves.   And you heard Jimmy Roberts talk on the video just a few minutes ago about golf being a game of tradition, it's really one of the world's oldest, most traditional games.   Well, in Barclays, we first took to posit in the City of London in 1689.   We have been in the banking business over 300 years, over 100 years here in the United States.

When we think about ourselves, we think about tradition, we think about strength and we think about excellence.   But we also think about the importance of being around the globe of our global footprinting business.   Another thing that's important to us is our U.S. build.  

(Finchem scribbles "footprinting" on yellow tablet, circles it twice.)

Time for questions and where the bad news arrives. It seems the playoffs aren't really playoffs.

Q.   Most playoffs that I know don't include every member of a league, but in yours, everybody plays in the first three tournaments.   Have you thought of reducing the field after all the points were accumulated leading up to the first playoff tournament?

COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM:   We have, and we thought about it a great deal.   We've concluded that with the first playoff event, the Barclays Classic, we assume that every player in the field will have a mathematical chance to win.   We could reduce it the next two weeks, but we don't feel the need to do.

So now, we may change our mind and probably will change our mind on some things as we go forward as we analyze it each year, and right now, we're of the view that the players are really focused all season long on getting into the playoffs and if they played hard enough to get there, they should have the opportunity to participate.
Yes, but you see in real playoffs, eventually we send people home.
Also, we recognize that winning is what is most important in the playoffs, and it's harder to win a tournament when you have more competition; I think virtually any PGA TOUR player will tell you that.   So at this juncture for those reasons, we are going to stay the course, and we'll see as we evaluate it in the out year.

So I don't think it's unusual that we should have a system that's different from every other sport in this respect.   The key question is:   Does it work for us and does it work with the culture of our sport.

Culture, nice, but it's no footprinting.    

Q.   I'd just like a clarification, as I understand it, you won't be eliminating any players until you get to the TOUR Championship; is that correct?

COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM:   There will be players, Jerry, who fall below a line of mathematically that are able to win the Cup.   Each week that line will descend.   But the field sizes, if you make it to the playoffs, you can play all three of the first three events in 2007, that's correct.

What that's going to create, obviously, is a player who no longer has a mathematical chance to win might play lights-out for two weeks and move well up into the points list from a distribution standpoint.   Now, that doesn't bother us, and it's another something for people watching to pay attention to.

Or not. Wouldn't this work better if they eliminated players once they had no mathmatical chance to win the Fed Ex Cup?

Q.   Commissioner, the number going into Barclays, is that 144, how many players?   And the 2007 BMW will begin the third day following Labor Day observed; will that be the position of the BMW each year?

COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM:   That is correct.   There will be 144 players off of the FedEx Cup point list eligible to play at Barclays, and the same 144 players eligible to play at the Deutsche Bank Championship and the BMW Championship.

Yes that's right, players who will be losing their full status get into these playoffs.

If, and let me just further clarify; if a player is ill, he would not be replaced.   If a player cannot play for whatever reason, he would not be replaced.   There are no sponsor exemptions.   There is no open qualifying.   There is no alternate list.   You must make the 144 finishing at Greensboro to be in a position to play one of those three events.

Wow, rigorous standards to get into these playoffs.

What a farce.

Final count from the press conference: 3 platforms, 13 brand(s), 2 brandings and 3 cultures. Oh and 1 footprinting