Finchem Changes Likely Regarding PGA Tour Schedule
Total prize money, $56 million in 1994, will surpass $250 million this year. Fifteen players already have won $2 million this year, and three of those guys haven't even won. Ratings continue to spike when Tiger Woods is contention, and his winning two majors this year certainly helped.
But the closer the tour gets to negotiating a new television contract, the more change looks inevitable.
'You want to grow,' Finchem said in an interview at Firestone, his first public comments about a new schedule since March. 'To compete effectively - even if you weren't going to grow, just to maintain your position - you look at who you're competing with. And everyone you're competing with is changing to get better, sometimes dramatically.'
The prize in this competition is a stronger audience, specifically the number of fans watching on TV.
The PGA Tour saw the NFL negotiate a new television deal in which 'Monday Night Football' is leaving network TV for ESPN. Prime-time football on the network is moving to Sunday night, and the NFL will allow important games to be shifted from afternoon to evening so NBC isn't stuck with any duds.
Next to the negotiating table is NASCAR.
Its popularity already was motoring along without restrictor plates when NASCAR revamped its schedule last year to create 'The Chase,' which features the top 10 teams competing over the final 10 races of the year.
This is where golf likely is headed.
Finchem says there are still 'a number of options,' but two sources who are privy to the discussions said last week that the tour is focused on a playoff race that would begin shortly after the PGA Championship and include four tournaments that lead to the Tour Championship.
The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of their relationship with the tour, said two of four tournaments already have bought into the plan, one of those the Deutsche Bank Championship.
Finchem declined to discuss details of any models the tour has considered.
'To say any one option is the lead option ... there are issues with all of them,' Finchem said.
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson took the lead earlier this year in saying the schedule was too long, stretching from the first week in January to the first week in November. In television terms, that would be from the start of the NFL playoffs to when the next season's NFL playoff race is taking shape.
For casual fans, television interest in golf doesn't start until Pebble Beach (the week after the Super Bowl), and it begins to slide after the majors are over (and football resumes).
Golf might need something to inject some enthusiasm, especially late in the season.
'You need to challenge yourself every few years and say, 'Are we taking all the steps necessary to allow us to compete effectively?'' Finchem said. 'It may develop that you say, 'You know what? There's no better way to do it, so let's just leave it alone.' It's certainly easier to do that. But I think it's been good to challenge what we're doing, and I think the likelihood is we'll make some changes.'
Finchem has tried before to generate interest at the end of the year.
When the World Golf Championships began in 1999, the season ended with the American Express Championship. Played the first two years in Spain, it followed the Tour Championship on the U.S. tour, and the season-ending Volvo Masters on the European tour. The idea was to create back-to-back weeks of big tournaments.
But it didn't work for Europe, and too many top Americans didn't bother going to Valderrama.
Whatever change Finchem has in mind must have the support of Woods, the No. 1 attraction in golf. Woods already has met at least twice with the commissioner, including last week at Firestone.
Still, the process is not causing Finchem too much concern.
The greater challenge came three years ago. Finchem negotiated a four-year TV contract in July 2001 that approached $1 billion, then spent the next year scrambling to replace nine corporate title sponsors when the economy soured after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
This task is more about moving a variety of pieces into the right places, each move affecting another.
'It's taken a lot longer than we thought,' Finchem said. 'It's going to be very late in the year before we get to television (negotiations). I would be concerned about that, because we don't like to be within a year of starting the next season. But this year is a little different in the sense we've extended so many title sponsors.'
Bridgestone signed up as title sponsor of the World Golf Championship at Firestone through 2010, and Finchem said he has 20 other title sponsors secured through the length of the next TV contract (2007-10).
Now all he has to do is figure out where they all fit.
And hope it works.
Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational
Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.
The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.
Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.
Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.
The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.
Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump
Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.
Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.
None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.
Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.
An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.
In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.
Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.
Playing with the pros
Tiger, DJ and Faxon
President at the Presidents Cup
Purported round of 73 with Lindsey Graham
Cart on the green
Presence and protests at U.S. Women's Open
Trump golf properties
Reportedly fake TIME covers
Trump apologizes for voter-fraud story
Pros comment on the president
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates. And click here for the full collection of articles.
No. 1: Dec. 18