Tim Finchem On Digital Interfacing, Compartmentalizing Trump

It's been a while since I've had the privilege of reading one of PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem's torterous transcripts. And I will miss them when he retires in 2021, but until then, here is the Commish from Doral where the scribes tried to understand the tour's relationship with future president, Donald Trump. (Spoiler alert, you won't get much clarity on the matter other than, it's all GM's fault.)

Here's a quick GolfChannel.com sampler for those who are low on Ambien refills. Or, from the transcript:

Q. Have you spoken with Donald since he landed here today, and how would you describe the TOUR's relationship with him?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I haven't spoken to him in two or three weeks, and I assume he landed just shortly -- earlier today. So the answer is no.

I think our relationship is good. We try to compartmentalize these things,

Translation: when he helps us make money--for charity of course--he's okay...when he says bad things about people inconsistent with our eagerness to make more money (grow the game), we issue statements.

Go on...

but in terms of his focus on the game, on some of the facilities around the country and internationally, he brings a lot of energy to it. He's done a lot of good things.

And I think early on in his presidential campaign, we were concerned at one point because he referred to, quote, golf being supportive of some more controversial positions he had taken. And we, as you know, with the other golf organizations, issued a statement in that regard.

But other than that, I think a question came up recently that led us to point out that where we were this week, and that when we concluded this week, we'd be looking at options going forward.

Nice segue out of that potential rathole.

Which may have read to a lot of people like we were trying to end our relationship here, which is not the case.

Eh em...Tim...you hit the dreaded explore "all options" key, which is not normally how you treat other partners you just signed a 10-year deal with.

Although we are, like we do any week, carefully evaluate the performance of the tournament.

General Motors, which has been our sponsor for over 50 years, is contracted just through this week, so we are looking to get a final answer from them in the short term as to whether they are going to continue. Let me just say parenthetically, they have been a great partner for a long time. So whether they continue with us or not, we want to thank them for -- and helping us out significantly in the bridge of the Match Play which is now well-positioned in Austin.

We're bridging!

So we conceivably would have a sponsorship question arising, and a lot of these things need to be nailed down. So we'll be doing a full evaluation. But in terms of our relationship with him, I think it's fine.


Well if he's El Presidente a year from now, we need to work on upgrading that from fine to "our dearest partner" and "future Presidents Cup ambassador." Emeritus.

Finchem did at least make somewhat clear that the future-of-Doral question will be determined by a sponsor. And that GM's recent changes in leadership may be behind Cadillac's latest flip flop on golf (they've had at least three in my lifetime, but we love 'em when they're all in).

Having said that, we have to have sponsorship to conduct a tournament. So it's never in our business us making all the decisions. We have partners and stakeholders, whether it's the players, the charities, the sponsors that need to be involved, and they have a lot to say about these things, too.

But our hope is that the future could allow us to stay here and continue to build the tournament. But we'll have more to say about that after we do a full evaluation of our performance this year.

Q. Typically how long does that evaluation process last?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, I would say that in the next -- not long. It's not unusual for us to be within a year; it's not rare that we would now be within a year of next year's tournament. So it happens, and it usually happens in concert with a change in leadership, either in the company or in the marketing piece of the company. And there have been a lot of changes at GM in the last year or so.

So it's not surprising when you have that kind of turnover that change occurs, if that's what develops. But I would say in the next few weeks we'll have our arms around how we performed this year. And then meanwhile, we will be working very hard on the sponsorship question.

On the LPGA strategic alliance front, Finchem wheeled out his best barrel of empty jargon, confirming that this is a TV inventory play meant to leverage a better deal post-2021.

So that part's just beginning: Interfacing our digital business, our broadcast rights, working on collaborating in tapping the global marketplace. I mean, the LPGA is already positioned as a global tour, and an increasing percentage of our customers, whether they be title sponsors, official marketing sponsors or just involved in the tournament at some level are international companies.

So we feel like, we think Mike Whan and his team have done a very solid job the last few years maximizing what that tour has to offer, which is a lot. We're at least moving toward a point where it's maximizing. And I think now working together we can help him get it even further, which is where he wants to go, and their board wants to go. He's got a very solid board, too. There's a lot of things we can do together.

They maximized, then the PGA Tour will show them how to grow from there. At least he touched on the idea of a joint event, which would be nice:

If we did have an opportunity to do something together, what would be the coolest format we could use. Because if the opportunity came up, we would want to take full advantage of it. We used to play the JcPenney for years and it was kind of interesting. Some players didn't want to take that week and get ready for other tournaments, but the ones that played really enjoyed it.

So there's different ways to do it. You could come up with a whole new format. You could do something that's more traditional like a better-ball or a team competition. But just showing off the comparative skills, I think would be something that would be well received.

And again, I think I'd have to applaud the LPGA for making the tough decision to say, okay, we're going to be a global tour; and as a consequence, we're not going to have as much presence in the United States, but we are going to take advantage of parts of the globe where they are more popular than the men. That was a very smart way to go about it.

And again, the growth of women in the game is crucial, absolutely crucial, to our ability to grow the game, and it has the most potential in our view. Second only to young people, but kids are harder to figure out in terms of their longer interests.

It's all about the kids!

Now, back to The Donald.

Q. Within the PGA, where did the original criticism of Mr. Trump's comments come from? Was that you particularly?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, the only thing we commented on was the fact that he intimated that we -- if you read the language, made it sound like we just broadly supported anything he says on an issue or a criticism or whatever, at a point in time when there was a fair amount, and I guess there still is, back and forth on some of the things that he points out.

Not really, no. You just issued a statement condemning his comments about Mexican immigrants, and Trump never suggested any specific golf organization was on board with his views. But go on...

And all we were saying was we asked him that he not categorize us as taking a position on any issue, because we're not -- we work very hard to not be involved in presidential politics, not be involved in partisan politics generally.

We don't think it's in the interests of what our fans want to see us do or be. The same thing with our players and candidly, we don't think it's smart.

That was the only thing. We didn't pick at one thing or one thing and say, we don't care for this, that and the other.

That's just not true. He made comments about certain peoples, and you joined a chorus condemning him for that. Why the revisionism? Oh right, he's not a fringe candidate any longer. He's American Pharoah! With smaller hands.

By not doing that, the people that don't like those comments show -- we've gotten our share of e-mails, though not a lot. And I think people generally recognize that our position is trying to compartmentalize.

The Freudian way of saying picking and choosing our battle$.

We have a relationship and he happens to be running for the president, but we are not involved in presidential politics.

We merely started an event from scratch called The Presidents Cup and regularly enlist Presidents to tout our charitable efforts.

So we have nothing to say about this stuff. Not going to make everybody happy, but that's kind of the way we look at it.

It's amazing what winning a bunch of primary states will do.

Q. I think the main word used was inclusivity in the original --

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Yeah, we used the word inclusivity. But there were a number of different things said that would conclude that if we were -- if it was assumed that we supported it, it would be inconsistent in our view with our long-term belief in inclusivity.

Now, you can debate the semantics of that on all kinds of levels, and we don't want to, because we don't want to be involved in it.

But you know, the presidential campaign has a few months left, and I suspect that whatever happens, this won't be front and center what we're talking about next year. But that's just the nature of politics in the United States.

I will grant you that Donald Trump and all of the dynamics in play here are above even Commissioner Finchem's bloated pay grade. Still, I go back to the question from earlier in the week: where do these folks in golf stand? Does taking major events to the properties of someone you condemn count as inclusivity?