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PGA Tour Commissioner Wears Blinders and Puts On Happy Face For News Conference

Thursday, December 17, 2009 , Posted by Christopher Byrne at 2:38 PM, under , , ,

After completing a CNBC interview with Darren Rovell this morning, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem held a new conference. In the transcript that follows, he takes questions from the media. In reading his responses, it is not clear whether he is intentionally wearing blinders, is really that naive, or is just doing a masterful job of putting spin on a bad year for the economy and the coming fallout from Tiger Woods taking a leave of absence from the Tour.

Two parts of the interview stand out.

The first is where he says

"The sport keeps drinking and drugs out of our sport. You can't play at this level and have those kinds of issues. These fellows are athletes. If you look at what a couple of inches on a putt means two or three times a year in terms of how you're going to finish the year and compete, players take it seriously. They're focused on physical fitness. These are family people. They come to us already 95 percent college educated. We just don't have any of those issues."

Aside from the fact that I caddied for a pot-smoking Tour player back in the early 1980's, there is a two word response to this statement: John Daly. Consider this excerpt from an AP story last December, a story that is posted on the PGA Tour web site:

John Daly says he has been suspended for six months by the PGA TOUR for conduct that brought unwelcome publicity, including a night in a North Carolina jail to sober up

"Is it fair that I got suspended? It's not fair in reality, but it's probably fair in perception," he told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

This is the second time the TOUR has suspended the two-time major champion, along with at least two other times he agreed to take time off to get his life in order. The 42-year-old Daly called this the lowest point in his wild 18-year career
 Now take this story and consider the following statement from Finchem in the transcript that follows:

"Historically the PGA TOUR has never, to my knowledge in our history, taken a situation in someone's personal life and dealt with it from a disciplinary matter or considered it conduct unbecoming as it relates to our regulations. Our regulations relate to conduct unbecoming that's either in the public arena or law enforcement arena, and so that's number one."

That was the second thing that jumped out from the transcript. They DID sanction Daly for bringing embarrassment and undue publicity. So why not Woods? Or is Tiger Woods taking a leave of absence his way of covering for a suspension, since the Tour does not publicly disclose or announce sanctions against players?

And when he laughs at rumours of parties and other activities taking place on the Tour? He needs to remember that most people initially laughed when they saw allegations of Tiger Woods behavior on the cover of the National Enquirer the day before Thanksgiving.

Here is the full transcript from Finchem's presser today.

TY VOTAW: Good morning, everybody. We appreciate your time here today. Commissioner Finchem will have a few opening remarks and then we'll be able to open it up for questions that are coordinated by the conference coordinator, and without any further delay, I'd like to introduce Commissioner Tim Finchem.

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Thank you, Ty. Good morning, everyone. As I normally do at this time of year, I make myself available for end-of-the-year questions and give a report on PGA activity during the course of the year.

This morning, given the nature of the Tiger Woods situation, I'd like to cover -- make a few comments about his departure from the game for a period of time; then I'll give an overview of 2009 business; I'll spend a few minutes on what we're looking at in 2010; and then lastly, I'll address questions that have been raised in the last few days about the impact of Tiger taking a hiatus for a period of time from playing the game of golf.

Let me just start by saying that last Friday, Tiger's statement -- made a statement that he would be stepping away from the game, and the reason for that was that he believed he needed to concentrate on dealing with what he characterized as personal issues and family issues, and then in addition to that, of course, made apologies related to those issues.

We issued a statement indicating that we were supportive of that decision. We thought it was the appropriate step to take at this point in time, and that we felt that his priorities were in the right place.

You know, just to add to that a little bit, I think when you step back and look at the last 13 years, Tiger Woods has been an incredibly positive asset and impactor for the PGA TOUR, so he's been good for the game of golf. And I think the game of golf and the PGA TOUR have been good for Tiger. At this time we anticipate, and I firmly believe, that that mutually beneficial relationship will continue when it's right, and we'll just have to see how that plays out.

Let me turn then to our business for 2009 and a report on our activity in 2009. Just to start that by making a couple comments about our competition side of the equation, I think as I look back at 2009, the thing that stands out to me, first of all, is the strength of the FedExCup. It clearly is a competitive element, has matured now after three years, it's captivated fans, and all the metrics that relate to that, including television, viewership, including fan interest, participation of our fans on our website, indicate that that was the case.

I thought The Presidents Cup was a phenomenal success in San Francisco. I thought we had a wide range of great individual performances in '09. In particular Tiger coming back from his injury, of course, and playing as well as he did, winning six times, winning the Cup, the FedExCup, was special.

But also I think the other punctuation that I would just reference was the way Phil finished the year, winning in exciting fashion in Atlanta at the TOUR Championship and then in Shanghai. I happened to attend that event. I thought Phil came off the year very, very solid, as well, and we had a lot of other players step up.

So it was a good year inside the ropes. I think in terms of moving forward with what we're trying to achieve competitively, it was really, really good year.

On the business side of the equation, our biggest concern, of course, for now over two years has been the economy, not just generally the economy, but in our case the impact of bankruptcies and things of that nature that have created challenges. But as we're now coming to the end of the year, I can report that we've had actually not just a good year in terms of the sponsorship area, I think an incredibly positive year.

When you consider that at the end of October we had already concluded seven major pieces of business, including an Accenture extension with the Accenture Match Play Championship, World Golf Championship, through '14, our Zurich sponsorship of New Orleans through 2014, our Bridgestone sponsorship of the World Golf Championships at Firestone through '14, Travelers sponsorship in Hartford through '14, and then the addition of the HSBC World Golf Championship we announced early in the year, which the first one was held in Shanghai and was a terrific success.

We lost because of bankruptcy the Buick Open and were successful in replacing it with what's going to be a very solid event at the Greenbrier in West Virginia contracted through 2016; and then SBS stepping up to -- our television partner in Korea, stepping up to sponsor our leadoff event for our tournament winners in Kapalua for ten years. If we just stopped right there, we would have had a good year.

But then earlier this month, we announced the John Deere extension through 2016 in Moline, and this is a tournament that has the highest per capita charitable result of any tournament on the PGA TOUR, just an incredible job with charity. And just yesterday we learned that they'll be a million dollars over what we had projected for them at some $6 million. I mean, it's just a phenomenal success.

We also announced in the last couple of weeks Waste Management replacing FBR as our sponsor in Phoenix for a six-year term through 2015, and I think this is particularly exciting, not just because Phoenix is our biggest event on the PGA TOUR from a gallery standpoint, but because Waste Management, a company that is very involved in green technologies, is going to use the tournament and its relationship with the PGA TOUR to communicate their commitment in this area and the programs that they foster in the green area at a time when people are increasingly concerned about those issues.

Today, in addition, I'd like to announce that -- I think it was reported in Chicago this morning that we have extended our BMW partnership with our playoff event, FedExCup Playoff event in Chicago through 2014.

I'd also like to announce a new strategic partnership with Sony, and this partnership is related to us working closely with Sony to bring 3-D television to PGA TOUR golf. The goal of this partnership is to actually be able to transmit as early as the 2011 Sony Open in Hawai'i golf coverage in a 3-D format. We're excited about that.

And this year, in 2010, our plan is to have at the Sony Open some 3-D-produced golf coverage from early in the week, players practicing, players playing a pro-am, just to show the members of the media and fans just what 3-D quality coverage can mean for the future and the state of the technology right now. So we're excited about that.

I'd also like to announce that we are essentially completed with a long-term relationship extension with Coca-Cola in Atlanta for the TOUR Championship going out a good number of years, and we'll have a more official complete announcement on that in the next few weeks.

We've also reached agreement with the Southern Company in Atlanta, Southern Company being very involved in the TOUR Championship, sponsor of the Payne Stewart Award, to extend their sponsorship in those regards, as well, for at least six years.

And beyond that, I would just say that we have three or four other pieces of business that are well into the discussion phase that relate to long-term commitments. We have 13 major pieces of business we concluded this year, and if you'd have asked me in January where we would come out at the end of this year, given the difficulty of the economy, I would not have predicted that level of commitments this year. We've just had a phenomenal year, I think, in the sponsorship marketplace.

In addition to the sponsorship area, a couple other areas. Charity, we now project that we will finish the year at $109 million in charity from the TOUR and our tournaments off of a record high of $125 in 2008, but still a number we think in this economic environment is very, very positive. I'll come back to charity when I talk about 2010.

With regard to television and new media, first of all, we did have an increase in ratings in 2009, not unexpected, but I think it's important to get everyone focused on -- in addition to talking about ratings from time to time, the notion of cumulative audience, because from a PGA TOUR perspective, this is the way we market our television to sponsorship. Of course we're interested in ratings. Ratings measure a point in time in terms of the audience level. But cum ratings relate to a figure that represents the number of people that come into our telecast over the four days and spend time in the telecast.

Year in and year out, we are second only to the NFL on an event basis because our event runs over four days in terms of the number of people that spend time with our telecast. Interestingly, in 2007, we had 26 million people average per week during the course of our season come into our telecast. In 2008 it was 26 million again. In 2009 it was 29 million. These are numbers from the Nielsen service, not our numbers. So it showed some growth in '09, but very, very solid in '07 and '08, as well.

On the new media side, we had an increase of 28 percent in terms of activity and time spent on, and that is a significant increase over '07 or '08, which we're very, very pleased with. We attribute the increase in '09 to an upsurge of interest late in the season because of the FedExCup.

Let me turn then to 2010. First of all, tournaments. We're going to have a full -- I'll start with the PGA TOUR. We're going to have a full schedule next year, a solid schedule. We'll have as many tournaments as we had in '08. We will have as many playing opportunities for our members as we had in '08. Our prize money will be up slightly, and as I've said over the last two years, while we anticipate some small increase in prize money during this downturn, it's a much flatter growth than it has been in the previous five years. But in this environment, any kind of growth is growth, and we're pleased about that.

In terms of charity dollars, we now project that we will rebound nicely in '10 from being off somewhat in '09, and just to be conservative, we are currently estimating our charitables at $115 to $117 million, somewhere in that range, which gets us moving back in the direction where we'd like to be. But it continues to be a reflection of the commitment of our sponsors to the charitable activity and thousands and thousands of volunteers working hard at our tournaments around the country.

With regard to sponsorship in '10, we view the TOUR in 2010 being fully sponsored from a television and tournament charitable standpoint. Now, when we entered the year, we had four situations, one of which in Memphis, the Stanford Company, virtually imploding; and then three bankruptcy-related issues, two with General Motors, which is Buick Open in Michigan and the Buick Invitational in San Diego, and then one with Chrysler, which was the Bob Hope Chrysler Open.

Of those four, the Buick Open has been replaced. Memphis is in a bridge situation probably for the second year, although we continue to talk to potential longer term sponsors, but will be operational and fine and a steady purse and charitable giving level in Memphis.

Hope and San Diego are not title sponsored right now. We continue to be in conversations for potential titles for both of those tournaments, and I wouldn't rule out the possibility of having sponsorship involved in either or both. However, given the time frame that we've had to work with since the bankruptcy, it's very difficult for '10 because of the activation time that companies want to see. So we have contingency plans to bridge those tournaments in a combination of different ways if we don't achieve sponsorship, but it will not affect the conduct of the tournament, the purchase of television advertising, or a significant charitable commitment in either case.

In addition to that, I would just say that we're very, very -- we're not concerned about those tournaments longer term because we've had so much interest in them, and activation won't be an issue at 2010.
If you look at the sponsorship situation going beyond '10, I read something the other day where somebody had written that we were having trouble with renewals. It's just not the case. We just don't see a situation for '11. Even though we have a number of tournaments up in '10, I don't see a situation where -- we're going to have some turnover. We always have some turnover. Companies change their strategic direction; sometimes they get restructured like FBR did this year. But I don't see a turnover rate that's any different than it's been in years past when we had a good number come up, notwithstanding the bad economy, which I think speaks a lot to the value of the brand and the attractiveness of the product from a television and charity standpoint.

Lastly, let me turn for a few moments to the question of what's the effect of not having Tiger play the TOUR. I've been interested to see commentary from a different number of directions in the last week, specifically since Friday, since Tiger's announcement, that projects significant doom and gloom for the PGA TOUR, even to the point where Saturday Night Live got involved and had us losing most of our sponsors. Let me just parenthetically say that the rumor that I keep on flask on my desk is not true, that was spawned by the Saturday Night Live telecast on Saturday night.

Here's the real world: I know some pundits will try to say Tim is trying to spin this and spin that, but facts are facts. I could go on and on about the facts on this situation, but I just want to mention two or three things. First of all, I've been answering the question about what we do with tournaments where Tiger doesn't play for 13 years. How is it that the TOUR has 46, 47 events, Tiger plays in 16, how do the other tournaments make it happen? Scratching of heads. I've explained this many, many times.

The reason is there's value. There's real value to sponsorship. There's real value to television, and there's tremendous charitable commitment. Those three things come together to put together viable, well-funded tournaments.

I'll just give you two pieces of data to take away on this. One is if you consider that the top six charitable generators, top six tournaments in terms of charitable generation, and I'm sure everybody on the call knows all of our tournaments are organized for a charitable purpose. If you consider the top six; the Waste Management now sponsored by Waste Management event in Phoenix; the Valero Texas Open; the HP Byron Nelson; John Deere Classic; the AT&T Pebble Beach pro-am, these tournaments -- and the Crowne Plaza event at Colonial, Tiger hasn't played in any of those events since -- Byron maybe four years ago or five years ago, but most of these tournaments not in the last five years, and yet they're generating millions and millions of dollars to charity because they sell.

So why is that? It's because there's other factors. One factor is we've got a lot of players who the fans like. They'll buy tickets to come out and see them play. They're exciting. The second reason is the brand is strong. The third reason is that you have dedicated volunteer organizations in those communities reaching out and using our product to raise money for charity.

The other thing I would point out is television related, because all the commentary is, well, ratings are going to be off without Tiger, the world is going to come to an end, you can't sell any television. Tiger was out for most of '08, and we had -- on the tournament side we had a record year in '08. We had $125 million raised for charity.

In 2008, as I mentioned earlier, we had an average of 26 million people per tournament tune into our telecast, which according to Nielsen was flat to '07 when he played a full schedule. Up a little bit in '09, but we attribute that both to the fact that he won six times and to the strength of the FedExCup, which was a lot stronger this year than it was in '08.

Now, it's that audience that creates value for sponsorship, and as a consequence we remain fully sponsored. So if you partner that television audience, which is the most valuable television audience in sports, the size of the audience is second only to the NFL, average event, and you marry that with a solid title sponsor and a strong charitable organization, you have compelling events that work financially. That's our business model.
The commentary I've heard comes from people that don't understand the details of our business model.

Now, let me just say this: I'm not suggesting, as I just heard somebody about an hour ago after an interview I did say, I'm not saying that I think everything is fine. We're in a down economy; it's harder to sell. And having the No. 1 player in our sport not play is not a positive thing, and it does hurt television ratings. But I look at it in the reverse. I look at Tiger spiking ratings off of a significantly solid base when he plays, and particularly when he's in the hunt, and I want that spike. And I certainly want the attention he brings to the sport.

So as I said at the top, I'm looking forward to him, us, at the right time moving forward with our mutually beneficial relationship, and I want him to come back and play. But we are going to be successful in '10. If Tiger is out for a couple of months or eight months or a year, we're going to have a successful year.

It won't be at the same levels without our No. 1 player, there's no question about that. No sport would be at the same level without its No. 1 player. But I think the doom and gloom needs to go away, and frankly it's misleading to our fans.

Before I conclude, let me just quickly mention Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour because I think it's important. On the Champions Tour we've got a full schedule, a solid schedule of 26 events. We're actually going to play an event internationally next September, the new Songdo City Championship right outside Seoul, Korea. We're going to play a new event in Biloxi, Mississippi, the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic. We've extended three title sponsors into 2014 or 2010, 3M Championship, Toshiba through '14 and Ace. We have a new sponsor in Hickory, North Carolina, Ensure, which is an adult nutrition shake, part of Abbott Labs, and we feel like the Champions Tour is in very solid shape.

On the Nationwide Tour we are announcing today a new event in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Mylan Classic. We recently announced a new event in Jacksonville sponsored by Winn Dixie here in Jacksonville to be played at our Valley Course at the TPC Sawgrass, and we'll be playing an event in Colombia for the first time, in Bogota, the Pacific Rubiales Bogota Open, the idea for which has been fostered by Camilo Villegas in working with our staff over the years.

So that said, let me just summarize by saying we had a solid year in '09. We're working our way through a down economy. I feel very positive about being able to continue to work with this economy as long as it doesn't spiral downward significantly, and I hope that gives you a reasonable overview, and I'd be happy to answer your questions.

Q. You talked about the Tiger Woods thing. What about the other half of the Tiger Woods controversy right now, the doctor and the reports of HGH? What about that? Can you speak to that?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, the procedure that was reported -- the only thing we know is that there was a procedure reported. I haven't been directly involved in it, but our anti-doping people have looked at it, and they've concluded that there's nothing about that procedure that would trigger any violation of our anti-doping policy.

Q. I guess would you be concerned that this is a doctor linked to HGH?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, there's a lot of doctors linked to HGH. There's no reason for me to be concerned because I have no information to trigger a concern. I only have what you just said, and that doesn't trigger a concern in my mind. And the reason for that is we spent a year reaching out to players, working with them on understanding the details of our anti-doping policy, the reason for our anti-doping policy, the elements of that policy, and we got back virtually 100 percent support for those policies, including Tiger. So they've taken it very seriously. We've had a vigorous testing program. I have no reason to have a concern with respect to him and a doctor that's used HGH with whatever patients for whom it's not an illegal drug. I have no reason to have any concern, no.

Q. I had a couple of questions. Do any of the comments and what we know about Tiger fall under conduct unbecoming? I know you can't speak to fines or suspensions or anything, but how would that differ from Daly's suspension of last year?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Historically the PGA TOUR has never, to my knowledge in our history, taken a situation in someone's personal life and dealt with it from a disciplinary matter or considered it conduct unbecoming as it relates to our regulations. Our regulations relate to conduct unbecoming that's either in the public arena or law enforcement arena, and so that's number one.

Number two, our disciplinary policy is developed and focused in our sport primarily as a tool to use to bring to a player's attention why certain behavior is inappropriate from a public presentation of our sport standpoint. That wouldn't be relevant here, either. It's never been seriously considered that these matters in his personal life are subject to our tournament regulation.

Q. And secondly, you speak so much about growth of the game, especially in the year of Olympic news. Is there any concern that given Tiger's appeal worldwide that this will stunt the growth?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, no, I don't think so. I think golf is centuries old. It's as far as I can detect grown every one of those years to some extent. It continues to grow now. It's on a tremendous growth path right now in certain parts of the world, punctuated this year by being accepted into the Olympic games and recognized, and one of the key things the IOC looked at was whether we are a "global" sport and whether we're growing, and we were able to really knock that one out of the park.

As I said a couple months ago I think we're on the eve of a golden age of golf from a growth standpoint, and having any player, even if it's the No. 1 player, have personal issues like this, I don't think you're going to deter that growth, number one. Number two, I have every expectation that Tiger Woods, as I said earlier, is going to rejoin this relationship with golf and be a contributing factor to it. He by his own statement has a lot of work to do to get to that point with the issues and family questions that he's got to deal with, but I fully anticipate that he'll be back and part of that growth.

But in the meantime, no, I don't think it will have a stunting effect by any means.

Q. First question I had, you said you haven't spoken with Tiger. Did you attempt to? Had you reached out to him at all?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No, I've respected his privacy in this matter.

Q. Second part is you've talked and you spoke on CNBC this morning talking about how you think that the game of golf hasn't been hurt by the Tiger scandal. Now, we realize the game is centuries old and will continue to grow in that fashion, and the game of golf may not have been hurt, but the PGA TOUR -- and I know you've detailed this, but the image of golf and the gentlemen's game and all of that and golfers are an appealing audience for advertisers because they are out of scandal and they are not in the police blotter sort of section. Not that Tiger is in the police blotter, but he's been on the front page of various newspapers now. The image of the PGA TOUR and the image of golf, how has that been affected in your eyes?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, like I just said for the last 15 minutes, we've written a ton of business here in the last two weeks. I don't see corporate America backing away from golf over Tiger's issues, and I do think at the end of the day after all the media scrutiny, if he can successfully deal with those issues and come back and play golf that that will be a positive thing. I think there is a distinction between a player having personal issues that because of the scrutiny of that player get a lot of media attention is a very different thing than a pattern of activity that is distasteful across the TOUR.

I think one of the reasons, certainly not the only reason, but one of the reasons this stands out is because we haven't had much of this kind of issue on the PGA TOUR. I think that the corporate community, our volunteers, people that play the game of golf -- I've been at this for 23 years. I've met thousands of people who are involved in this game at all different levels. These people have common sense. They are intelligent people. And I think when they look at this, they will keep it in balance.

I'm not suggesting that his popularity level is going to soar again. I don't know where that's going to be. But I think people generally are going to want him to succeed. They're going to want him to deal with his issues; they're going to want him to come back having dealt with those issues; and I think he'll find eventually a significant amount of support.

Q. And if I can also get back to the Accenture part that you've brought up, extending through 2014, that extension was done in October before all of this happened. Obviously we know what Accenture has done since that with their relationship with Tiger. What is the status of their contract in regards to 2014 with the Match Play? Have they approached the TOUR at all in changing that sponsorship simply because they have also changed their sponsorship with Tiger?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: No, they have not. I don't anticipate that they will. I think that would fly in the face of what I've just described as a fairly strong trend in us accelerating the long-term commitments of our current sponsors and bringing new sponsors to the TOUR. Individual companies make individual marketing decisions, whether it relates to Tiger or anything else, for a range of reasons. I don't anticipate difficulties in that area whatsoever.

Q. I was just curious, in retrospect, do you think there's anything you could have done, or maybe there was something done and you might be able to elaborate it in terms of maybe somebody reaching out to Tiger about the behavior that clearly was kind of an open secret?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: You mean reach out to him when?

Q. Reach out to him not in the last two weeks but maybe in the last couple years if there were people that were around him that were seeing things that could be detrimental to him personally and the TOUR itself. I was wondering if in retrospect you think anything could have been done in terms of having a discussion with him. And also you talked about law enforcement, and there has been involvement of law enforcement and there have been allegations that there was prostitution involved or he may have been involved with -- does that rise to the level where a disciplinary action could take place?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, the second question, I don't have any facts to support anything that would trigger disciplinary action on the part of the TOUR. On the first part, to my knowledge, the issues that Tiger has himself referenced -- well, let me put it this way: The things that Tiger has himself referenced that occurred, some of which has been reported in the media in spades over the last few weeks, I have no knowledge about who, if anybody, knew anything about his behavior, and not knowing that, there's no way I can answer your question. There's no way that I can say so-and-so should have said something to Tiger because I don't know who knew what. I just can't go there.

Q. Two questions: One, with the new BMW sponsorship deal, is it important to have that event in Chicago to you and the TOUR, or do you just let sort of BMW and the Western decide on that?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, we've been pushing hard to move it out of Chicago because we enjoyed so much the beating we took the last time we took it out of Chicago. No, I think that we'll follow our plan. We currently -- with the Ryder Cup coming to Chicago in '12, we currently plan that year to play at Crooked Stick in Indianapolis, which we're actually excited about. But the fans in Chicago have the Ryder Cup that year.

And other than that, we have no plans to play it away from Chicago.

Q. So in Chicago in '13 and '14?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: That's our plan, yes, sir.

Q. That Saturday Night Live skit, did that amuse you at all, or did that annoy you?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I've always been a Saturday Night fan, and it's kind of flattering, although I didn't think the guy did me very well. He got the tie right, but the thing that I told our folks here I wanted to do is have this press conference on video and then have all of our -- have a blank wall behind me, and as I'm talking, people are coming in and putting up the logos of our sponsors until the wall is falling down from so many logos because we have about 90 sponsors, but they didn't think that would go over that well. However, they did present me with an honorary flask, and I'm enjoying that.

Q. I'm just wondering, are you happy with the way Tiger has handled all this? He hasn't been seen in public, he hasn't exactly stood up and faced the music, for lack of a better cliché. That's basically led to sort of a feeding frenzy where every fact out there is assumed to be true because he hasn't denied anything. I was wondering whether the deleterious effect on the TOUR, if there's a little bit of collateral damage because he's been unavailable and whereabouts unknown.

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Well, I've seen so much commentary from experts and marketing consultants and psychologists on how this could have been handled. I actually read some article the other day about the statement that he -- changing a word here or changing a word there. I don't know, candidly, my own view -- everybody has got a view on this stuff. I don't know if you do it any different if it changes much to be honest with you. And as far as Tiger, I think his statement was heartfelt. If you just read it, you get a sense of how focused he is and how much difficulty he's having. But I can't speak to that because I'm not with him.

If he's going to reemerge as a PGA TOUR player, he will be out in public, and he'll have to sort out -- one of the things he's got to sort out is how he's going to handle that. Those are questions that only he can decide. But I'm not going to try to pick apart how this was handled from day-to-day because candidly I don't think it gets us anywhere.

Q. There's been some suggestions that this has kind of been a peek into a seedy side of the PGA TOUR, that there are parties and things going on that people have never been aware of. How do you respond to that?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Yeah, I saw somebody showed me some blog that made references to that. You know, I just laughed. You go out to a PGA TOUR event, and I've been going to them for 23 years, you'll find more group activity in the fitness truck than you will anywhere else. The notion that players are out there partying is absurd. It's just absurd.

The competition at this level -- people ask me over the years, how do you keep drinking and drugs out of the sport. Actually, we don't. The sport keeps drinking and drugs out of our sport. You can't play at this level and have those kinds of issues.

These fellows are athletes. If you look at what a couple of inches on a putt means two or three times a year in terms of how you're going to finish the year and compete, players take it seriously. They're focused on physical fitness. These are family people. They come to us already 95 percent college educated. We just don't have any of those issues.

Now, that's not to say that you don't have an individual here and there, like anything. We reported a violation of our anti-doping policy a few months ago. So it's not a perfect situation. But to suggest there is that kind of activity at PGA TOUR event is a joke.

TY VOTAW: We'd like to thank you all again for participating and wish you all a happy holiday. Thank you very much.

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