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.
Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings
Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.
Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.
As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.
"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."
Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.
Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.
Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut
If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.
Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.
But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.
Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.
Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:
Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180
Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70
Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5
Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450
Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200
Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000
Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements
SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.
Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.
“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.
Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.
“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”
Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.
“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”
Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back
SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.
Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.
Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim.
Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.