Tim Finchem slipped away from vital cocktail reception to calm down that liberal, secular, cynical press corps on the eve of the FedEx Cup playoffs. His comments sounded genuine until...he started talking about the FedEx Cup.
Q. First question, you're here in the No. 1 media market, your No. 1 player is not here, you're promoting the Playoffs, big kickoff here, how much of an impact does his absence have on the promotion of the FedExCup?Thankfully, no grey area there.
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Well, obviously I'm disappointed with his decision. It's not a decision that I like to see him make, candidly, any week of the year, but he doesn't play them all.
I think there's two ways to look at it. On the negative side, and I'll be candid about the negative side, you know, from the standpoint of the sponsor here, the fans in New York, it's certainly a negative. You know, I would like to see it the other way.
From the standpoint of the FedExCup and the Playoffs, it's a little different focus. I mean, clearly we've been carefully watching the e-mails and blogs come through over the last better part of a week now, and the fans seem to have a different view. They seem to think that Tiger was going to win this thing, and now it's not so sure that he's going to win it, so it creates more excitement and more enthusiasm.
I noticed one blog the other day on ESPN, a couple of them accused me to going to Tiger and asking him not to play for that purpose, which I thought was a little amusing. (Laughter).
Wait, you read blogs? Whoa Nellie.
And what blogs were those representing the fan enthusiasm? You have a link handy?
Q. That said, what are some of the issues that you're focusing on next year?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Well, if I started listing them, I'd be focusing on them and I don't want to focus on them. We're going to look at everything.
That's a relief.
I'll say this, though, categorically, that the enthusiasm and the excitement that we had as a team, working after a couple of years with most of the players, not all players got involved in the process, but the vast majority did.
I don't think Jeff Maggert would agree.
But that enthusiasm that we felt when we brought the Cup forward and announced it, there is absolutely nothing that has happened to this moment that detracts in any way from our enthusiasm about what the FedExCup potentially can be for the PGA TOUR.
Of course, the playoffs haven't started yet...
Q. Just going back to Tiger for a second, have you had any conversations with him since he came to his decision not to play?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: We communicate different ways, but I've had communications with him, yes.
Text? IM? Telegrams?
Q. What were the assurances, and what were the impressions that you had of assurances from him that he was going to play all four?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: I didn't have any assurances from any player. I didn't ask for any assurances. I asked for players to get involved in structuring and lending their best contributions in terms of what they thought would make an exciting, compelling series, and most of them, you know, certainly a significant majority did just that.
And according to Adam Schupak's reporting, you didn't listen to them. At least on perhaps the most important element of the playoffs, the $10 million annuity.
I never asked a player, and I don't ask a player, you know, to commit to me. That's a process that they have to deal with based on what we put out there in terms of product. That's the history of the TOUR.
Our first product mention of the day. Word 1835. He's losing his touch.
Q. With golf being so traditionalist-steeped and such, looking back, do you think you guys have maybe over hyped or over promoted this product at any point where there's been a little too much change?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: No, I don't --
Q. Last Friday the reaction was pretty harsh.
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: But I think a lot of the harsh reaction was because people were excited about the Cup. I mean, that's certainly what I read in the fan comments. They have gotten excited and captivated about the Cup.
I know what you are thinking, is Tim going to head into the city to do a quick stand-up spot at Comic Strip Live this week? He is a funny man!
They are looking forward to everybody playing. The No. 1 player doesn't play, they don't like it. I like to see that. I'm glad they had that reaction rather than saying, gee, whiz, we don't care.
No, I don't think -- we have to get people -- this is not -- listen, we've been through this. We created the Presidents Cup. We created the World Golf Championships. We created The First Tee. People didn't understand The First Tee and questioned it and why would you want to go out in inner cities and get kids involved with the game of golf.
Hey don't bring the First Tee into this.
Q. You mentioned maybe the lack of players' focus on the Playoffs until they actually got here. But what was the educational process for the players adapting to the Playoffs, because a lot of them as recently as Akron and the PGA Championship seemed confused as to what the format was. So I guess can you talk about how many meetings did they have; how often were they briefed about what the format would be?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Well, I don't think -- let me make sure we're clear. I'm not suggesting the players didn't focus on the playoff until they got here. I'm saying a lot of the players didn't focus on the details on what's involved until late.
Oh, huuuuuuuuuuge difference!
For example, alternates or no alternates; it's just a straight 144. You play all year to get to 144 and you're in and then it cuts, little things like that. I think there's been a focus all year long on the Playoffs, and that has resulted in some scheduling impact with certain players knowing they are going to play a lot late and addressing their schedule in such a way.
Although, my sense is from talking to players during the course of the year, they weren't really going to be at a comfort level about their schedule until they got through one of these in terms of how it played out. We have had an uptick of the number of starts in the Top-30, Top-50 players, which is a good thing for the first year. It's a spinoff benefit we'd like to see the Cup have.
I suspect the stat gurus out there just logged out and are already looking over the "starts" on PGATour.com.
Hey, there is one benefit to no one really liking the FedEx Cup. No steroids questions!