Wraparound Absurdity: Web.com Tour Finals Spill Into Monday, Graduates Expected In Napa Thursday

Just a reminder: it was retired PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem's vision to save four fall events, turn those into the start of the next season in the "wraparound" season concept. It's looking more ridiculous by the day as Web.com Tour Finals grads who have been grinding the last two months  need to turn around and tee up in Thursday's 2017-18 PGA Tour season starter in Napa Valley.

And now with a rain-delayed Monday finish, they have two days to prepare for the start of their PGA Tour season. Oh and a status reshuffle looms after Sea Island.

Visionary!

Day Opens The Door For New Commish To Attack Slow Play

New PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan probably took a few aspirin when he saw that world No. 1 Jason Day returned from time off and, unprompted, proudly touted plans to play slower in 2017.

After all, the new Commish has more on his plate than you'd expect given the supposedly great product Saint Finchem left behind. Big picture stuff like trying to fix a confusing schedule, repairing relations with sponsors and keeping FedEx around should be Monahan's first-month priority instead of jumping in on the slow play debate.

But did Day just hand Monahan the perfect opening to attack the slow play problem?

Because of Finchem's many blind spots related to the actual product of PGA Tour golf, none was more perverse and damaging as his desire to see pace of play policies ignored. Finchem prioritized protecting the gentleman's game imagery above the gentlemanly behavior of playing golf at a considerate pace. Finchem never shied from bragging about his players taking hats off and shaking hands for the 18th green cameras.

Slow players? That could be swept under the rug because television wouldn't show someone rudely taking three minutes to play a shot, until they started showing such antics down the stretch because they had no choice. Then a Sean O'Hair or Kevin Na or Jason Day made it apparent how ungentlemanly it is for someone with PGA Tour level talent to take that long to hit a shot, and the Commissioner openly resisted penalty shots.

It is no coincidence that in the nearly 20 years Finchem was in office, the last penalty occurred in his first months on the job and never since. He also worked to undermine the stature of his officials by prolonging contract negotiations and underpaying the unionized force charged with enforcing the rules. And don't think players were oblivious to this neutralization of the referees or the amount of time that has passed since the last penalty (1995).

Even the USGA appeared has bowed to Finchem, implementing its very effective pace of play system at all but the one of its championships. It just happens to be the one where coddled PGA Tour players play: the U.S. Open.

Now that Finchem is retired, the PGA Tour slowpokes' sense of taking as much time as they'd like came flooding out of Day's mouth prior to Kapalua's 2017 season kickoff event. With no fear of being penalized and a rumored $10 million a year from Nike to pay any minor fines, Day made clear he's not going to rush himself.

The full comment:

Imagine a pitcher declaring that he will not throw a pitch until he's ready or a free-throw shooter backing off five times before taking a free shot? The leagues would crack down. 

In an era when no sport can afford to be seen as slowing down, the PGA Tour has shied away from enforcement that might help solve the problem. However, a new commissioner is in town and he's just been given a natural opening to push back.

Monahan shied away from taking a strong stand on slow play in a Q&A at PGATour.com earlier this week, understandably not needing to start his tenure off on a combative foot. Yet Jason Day has uttered comments  far removed from the simple reality that the PGA Tour survives on its entertainment value, not on how it pads Day's bank account. The suggestion he will back off until he's ready made clear Day's entitlement level runs so deep that even his truest believers might not feel sorry to see a PGA Tour rules official stalking him around Kapalua. And Torrey Pines. Or any fairway he pitches his tent upon to indulge himself at the expense of our viewing pleasure.

New Tour Commish Jay Monahan's Four Most Pressing Issues

Tim Finchem leaves Jay Monahan a robust PGA Tour, maybe even a bloated one that presents too many management issues. Still, Finchem's now-official retirement on December 31st comes a few months sooner faster than some expected based on his comments, and while there is time for Finchem to wrap up whatever projects he has been telegraphing as priorities, the schedule would seem to indicate time is running out for him to accomplish much.

Jeff Babineau at Golfweek.com outlined his thoughts on what Monahan faces, and here are the priorities in my view:

--Television future. Expect the PGA Tour to exercise an early opt-out of its CBS and NBC deals soon, with a renegotiation of terms that would kick in for the start of next fall's 2017-18 start. The current Golf Channel cable deal is locked in until 2021, but some changes in weekend coverage of PGA Tour events may be possible in this renegotiation. Such an opt-out would be risky considering that the sports rights fee bubble has burst, golf is expensive and cumbersome to cover (ask Fox), and golf's largely older demographic is not ready to log onto Twitter, YouTube or even PGA Tour Live to watch a live feed of the Shriner's final round. Monahan can use the opportunity to consider another partner besides the two he has and ask for telecast upgrades in technology, but he also risks upsetting two very powerful media companies. Maybe Monahan has been ushered into the Commissionership to play good cop to Finchem's final-move, bad cop opt-out cop? Big bonuses are at stake, but with Finchem having stocked the Policy Board with cronies and PGA Tour employee/PGA of America President Derek Sprague, his exit will be a well-compensated one and Finchem won't need to be signing up for Obamacare anytime soon.

--Schedule. PGA Tour players are asked to compete all summer, then show up in the playoffs before "enjoying" maybe a week or two off before returning to a full schedule (or risk falling way behind in Cup points, ranking points, or re-shuffle status). In 2017, the late season schedule may have only one week off up to Thanksgiving. So while the Commissioner's job is to provide playing opportunities, the long term pacing of the schedule makes little sense for players, fans, sponsors or TV partners.

--FedExCup. There still has been no renewal with the playoff sponsor. This was assumed to be (one of) Finchem's final pet projects. Perhaps the FedEx deal is done and terms will be delivered to the networks on opt-out day. Or maybe a FedEx renewal is not done and this will dictate a more-comprehensive-than-expected re-thinking of items one (TV deal) and two (schedule).

--European Tour. As partners in the PGA Tour's WGC events, will Monahan let them have their moments or turn up the heat with an eye to squelching Europe's tour? Chief Exec Keith Pelley and Finchem have very different views of the game, with Pelley thinking about things like night golf, while Finchem still thinks the PGA Tour's greatest charm is the sight of players taking off hats to shake hands. Monahan seems like he falls somewhere in between the two extremes. Will he take his eye off the core, most highly-rated product--domestic PGA Tour golf in the winter and spring--to expand internationally, all just to squelch European Tour power? Will it lead to him not dealing with a different rival few saw coming, say, a Formula One-style team concept?

Who Is Jay Monahan And Why His Appointment Is Promising

The only negative on Jay Monahan’s resume? Why of course, he is Tim Finchem’s hand-picked successor.

Nothing against Commissioner Coterminous. Really. He navigated the PGA Tour through some swampy times and leaves a fine legacy on many fronts, but especially in providing his membership playing opportunities. But times are changing, threats loom and openings exist to re-imagine elements of the mostly-healthy PGA Tour "product".

As with Adam Silver moving into David Stern’s NBA Commissionership and Major League Baseball's Rob Manfred taking over for Bud Selig, Monahan has been positioned to enjoy similar success possibilities of those two recently-appointed leaders. Thanks to his ascension through a myriad of jobs and the core model of the tour in good shape thanks to Finchem, Monahan enters at a good time to refine what pro golf looks like and to enhance the tour's stewardship role in the game.

For a young guy (46) he’s got a lengthy résumé. That could be interpreted as the sign of someone who either (A) can’t sit still, or (B) was building an experienced pathway to a complex job like PGA Tour Commissioner.  I side with option B and give Monahan benefit of the doubt because he’s imminently likable, making him a personality that allows him to receive job offers with regularity.


Highlights of Monahan’s career to date, with commentary:

—Division III Academic All-American golfer at Trinity College: He could play the game at one time, which never hurts with players who respect such ability.

—Masters of Science in Sport Management from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1995: He knows how to use B-speak.

—Account Supervisor at Arnold Advertising, handling Titleist and FootJoy Worldwide's advertising business: Okay, so rolling back the ball might be a tougher sell.

—Director, Global Sponsorships and Branding Programs at EMC Corporation: When they had the Skills Challenge, which, I think many of us kind of miss and might be the kind of alternative format idea the tour needs to be open to going forward.

—Executive Director of the Deutsche Bank Championship: has experience on the ground running a tournament, never a bad thing in a climate where tournament directors are not exactly unanimous members of The Tim Finchem Marching And Chowder Society.

—EVP at Fenway Sports Group. Knows sports, loves sports and has worked in sports besides golf. This has always felt like a blind spot for Finchem, who never seemed like a serious sports fan.

— Co-founded Golf Fights Cancer, with fellow Fenway executive Brian Oates. Has a heart!

—Tournament Director of The Players Championship
. More tournament operations experience, which will help him justify the event's move back to March, opening up the PGA Championship to some day be played in May. Or something like that.

—Deputy Commissioner of the PGA Tour starting in 2014: reportedly never once dropped Tim Finchem’s garment bag in that time, always picked out the best ties for his boss and never ran out of hand sanitizer.

—COO of the PGA Tour. Already has essentially started the job and has begun moving in his preferred lieutenants.

I’m sure there are other elements to his career missing here, but you get the idea.

Jay Monahan has worked in golf and sports from the ground up.

He does not hold a law degree. These are good things.

Photo Caption Contest: McConaughey Meets Finchem

As I wrote for GolfDigest.com, Matthew McConaughey visited the Olympic golf course and followed Rickie Fowler.

Big day here in Rio!

All right, all right...

More importantly, MM got some face time with TF, as evidenced by this Chris Condon photo on the IGF Flickr page. While this looks like a showdown, it was a long and friendly conversation (especially with MM in a Presidents Cup jacket). But I don't know what was said...you?

'11 Flashback: Clinton Foundation Signed On For Eight Years

Tuesday's news that the Clinton Foundation was no longer going to be associated with the old Bob Hope Classic was surprising, and topped a day later by the news of Phil Mickelson's SEC issues seems pretty embarrassing for the PGA Tour.

Having the announcement of Mickelson as new "ambassador" a day before his SEC matter went public looks terrible given the comments of Mickelson's attorney, which suggests he knew this was coming.

As for the Clinton Foundation saying goodbye, the original 2011 announcement said it was an eight-year deal, yet they are now out after five years?

Thought for players to consider: perhaps Tim Finchem should be spending less time working on building leveraging plays to boost his retirement package and more time talking to Bill and Phil?

Just a thought.

Former WADA Chief On Golf: "There’s a problem there."

Moira Gordon quotes former WADA chief Dick Pound, hosting a lecture at Stirling University, explaining golf's attitude toward drug testing.

Long opposed by PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem, he recounted this conversation.

“We have all seen the shape changes in golfers and the distances they are hitting now and we know that the equipment is better and the balls are better but it isn’t just that,” said Pound, who recalled a conversation with the commissioner of the PGA Tour, Tim Finchem, stating that the sport which “has a great reputation for calling faults on yourself” could set an example to others by outing the cheats. But, the reply he received was disappointing. “He said: ‘Ah, but if I do that then they are all going to think my guys are just like those baseball players and football players and I don’t want that’. But if you follow some of the shape changes in the golfers and follow how, at a certain point, if they happen to come off them, you see how many more injuries they get. There’s a problem there.”

Happy Easter! Commish Finchem "Likely" Retiring By End Of '16

AP's Doug Ferguson reports that PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem has signed a one-year extension but plans to retire by the end of 2016, pending Policy Board approval of Deputy Commish Jay Monahan.

Ferguson writes:

"For every organization there is a time,'' said Finchem, 68, who began his tenure in 1994 and is just the third commissioner in the PGA Tour's history. "I could probably go on another five or six years. But I don't think that is best for the organization. I don't consider myself old. But I'm getting old.''

Oh 68's the new 60 Tim, except for the people you pushed into retirement at 60!

Monahan was named the tour's COO this week, which many assumed was a sign of Finchem hanging on a few years more to finish off two or three pet projects.

Monahan, former of Fenway Sports, figures to be more in the vein of Adam Silver (NBA) and Rob Manfred (MLB), bringing a modern sports fan perspective and a lot less aloofness. But more gray hair!

Pieters: PGA Tour Provides (Photoshop) Grooming Services

Jason Crook reports on Thomas Pieters going to Facebook to show how the PGA Tour altered his stock photo. Pieters, who finshed second to Rickie Fowler in last week's HSBC in Abu Dhabi, appears to have run into Commissioner Kiehl's and his army of Photoshopping barbers.

Look out Boo Weekley!

Rio Test Event Participation Facing "Compaction" Issues

Commissioner Coterminous wheeled out his first gem in a while, describing for AP's Doug Ferguson the issues facing golf's effort to get players to Rio for the necessary "test event" to fulfill all obligations with the International Olympic Committee.

"We've got a good list of players who are, quote, interested in coming," PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. "But we don't have a long list of players who are committed to coming. That's the case with the guys who are currently playing on the PGA Tour, just because of the schedule, looking ahead to the summer, seeing the compaction. So I don't know."

Not Going Anywhere: Finchem Calls His Future "Ill-defined"

Commissioner Tim Finchem tells AP's Doug Ferguson that his retirement schedule is still on hold as he works on "a couple of three major kind of projects" he'd like to get "pushed a little bit."

This was a startling revelation for an organization that allowed Finchem to put numerous executives out to pasture when they turned 60:

Finchem turns 69 next year, though the PGA Tour policy board recently extended the age limit of board members to 75. So that's not an issue.

Hilariously, another massive amount of cash is set to be put into The Players and Stadium Course, and there is the inevitable effort to re-up FedEx for the Reset Cup beyond 2017.

There was also this:

An early start on the next round of TV negotiations. The contracts are up in 2021, though it's never too early to start.

If the tour was going to invoke an out clause in their current network deal, it would need to happen very soon. But with ESPN getting out of golf and Fox not showing much sign of interest outside its USGA contract, the leverage to pick up more money seems gone. As does the cord-cutting momentum that now makes some TV rights deals look bloated.    

Finchem: Appearance Fees Can Go To A Player's Head?!

Commissioner Timmy Fallon is fresh off his year-end employee summit where he actually put on a wig to look like Jimmy Fallon and delivered a, gulp, humor skit (thanks for the blog shoutout "Timmy"!).

So apparently emboldened by his effort last week in Ponte Vedra, the Commish was asked about the prospects of a bleak start to the 2016 as top stars chase appearance fees.

The question prompted a strange response. From Rex Hoggard's GolfChannel.com report:

“There isn't anything happening out there that would say the guidelines are starting to get pushed by players in typically unique situations,” Finchem said. “Certain places have a fair amount of appearance money and it can in turn go to the player's head.”

Good thing money never goes to Timmy's head!

Meanwhile the Commish was cracking jokes about the reaction to Tiger's press conference, reports Jim McCabe at Golfweek.com.

“I saw Tiger. It was good,” Finchem said. “It was fun. He seemed fine to me. I kidded him, because based on the media reports I read before I came down this morning, I thought he had actually died. I said, ‘Tiger, you’re supposed to be dead.”

Finchem chuckled, then confirmed, “he’s alive.”

Maybe if the narrative was not to Finchem's liking, he can always rely on the TigerWoods.com account which noted how the injury time is allowing Woods to improve "his already proficient skills in video games."