Finchem's legacy filled with far more highs than lows

By Rex HoggardMarch 30, 2016, 2:53 pm

For Tim Finchem, it was time.

After 22 years at the helm of the PGA Tour, the commissioner and chief announced last week he would be stepping down, although the exact exit moment remains to be seen.

For Finchem, who signed a one-year extension to his current contract that runs through June 1, 2017, the mind and body are willing but the skillsets required to run the world’s largest professional golf tour have changed dramatically.

To be blunt, he’s an analog executive in a digital world.

“For every organization there’s a time when it needs to morph. ... I can probably work another five or six years, but I don’t think that’s the best thing for the organization,” Finchem said.

For months, the 68-year-old has been a reluctant retiree. Last June, he started answering questions about what many considered his final year in the commissioner’s chair.

The answer was always coy and delivered with a healthy caveat.

“There are a couple of things I’m working on that I’d rather get a little further down the track and they are big things, so it’s a little early to say where they are going to be,” Finchem said last summer.

“I don’t have to see them through, but I’d like to get both of them on the right track.”

Last week he made similarly vague statements at the WGC-Dell Match Play, although it seems likely one of those “to do” items would address the early negotiations for the next round of television contracts. All of the Tour’s current television agreements with Golf Channel, NBC Sports and CBS Sports expire in 2021

“My plan would be – and that assumes I can make progress on my projects – to step aside at the end of this year,” Finchem said.

The circuit named Jay Monahan deputy commissioner and heir apparent two years ago and Finchem said last week that Monahan is now running the day-to-day operations of the Tour. Earlier this month at the WGC-Cadillac Championship he seemed to concede that the time is right for a new set of eyes and sensibilities.

“Jay Monahan is back there, he'll say, ‘OK, let's wipe the slates clean here and put down some things we never thought about,’” Finchem said. “I think in the years to come, you will see the Tour doing things that maybe right now you would be surprised that we would think in that context.”

Whatever projects Finchem hopes to complete before his swan song, his legacy has long been established.

When he took over the circuit in 1994 there were 44 events with $56.7 million in total purses. This year’s total take is 47 events with $327 million in purses, not to mention the $10 million-plus bounty in FedEx Cup bonus money.

Some will say Finchem was simply in the right place at the right time, taking over just two years before Tiger Woods joined the Tour and sent golf on a meteoric rise.

Lost in that translation, however, has been Finchem’s ability to navigate what were, by any definition, tough times.

When the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression gripped the world in 2008 Finchem was able to maintain the vast majority of sponsors largely without the stardom of Woods, who has played a complete season just three times since ’08 because of an assortment of injuries.

Finchem’s legacy includes the creation of the World Golf Championships, FedEx Cup, The First Tee and he helped return golf to the Olympics.

But last June as he entered what had originally been billed as his final term, Finchem appeared to be caught off guard when asked what his legacy would be as commissioner.

“I’ve never really thought about it in those terms,” he said. “If Peyton Manning is the quarterback and you go to the Super Bowl, he had a great season but there are 48 guys on the team.

“I’d like to think that when I get done, people look at me and say, ‘OK, he worked his butt off, a lot got done and the players and the stakeholders looked at his time and thought a good job was done for them.’”

That’s not to say Finchem’s tenure at the Tour has been without its share of peaks and valleys.

The 2001 legal wrangling with Casey Martin over his request to use a golf cart during Tour events will always represent a curious place to draw a line in the competitive sand; and the implementation of the circuit’s doping program in 2008 has been riddled with missteps and lawsuits.

Finchem’s dogged adherence to the you-can-ask-but-we-won’t-tell policy regarding player discipline and fines also feels arcane and outdated, but throughout all of the trials the commissioner has remained consistent.

The only difference in recent years as he’s inched his way toward retirement has been in his often-stoic demeanor. In many ways the commissioner has softened, either the result of time or the timing of his impending exit.

When asked about his contract status two weeks ago at Bay Hill, Finchem referred to the ongoing projects that will keep him in the job for at least the next few months before smiling, “Maybe [the policy board] wants to find someone who can get them done.”

He may not be done just yet, but it seems the commish is already enjoying his golden years.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

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.