SAN FRANCISCO – PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has been more visible than ever at tournaments this year, meeting with sponsors and even playing (three rounds) at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Now, Finchem is about to embark on his longest trip in years.
He will be at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, where the PGA Tour has a vested interest because it is a World Golf Championship. That will be part of an 18-day trip to five cities in Asia, where he plans to meet with current and potential sponsors.
“I haven’t been to Japan in three years, and we have a lot of existing customers,” Finchem said. “We have a WGC in China. There are other things I need to do in China and Korea. I would say 80 percent of the trip is seeing existing customers and potential customers, partners, possible sponsors, possible official marketing partners.”
The European Tour already has established itself in China, the most appealing new market in golf, and it announced an alliance with the Asian Tour in July. Finchem said expanding a U.S. tour presence is “not a primary focus of ours right now.”
“We wanted to get a piece of the World Golf Championships in Asia to balance them, and it’s just another step to help golf grow in China. If we’re doing enough stuff to grow golf in China where we’re comfortable with it … that’s our major focus right now.”
Finchem spoke two weeks before golf was added to the Olympics.
“If the Olympic vote goes positive, we may get a little more aggressive in some of these areas,” he said.
Finchem could not remember a longer trip since he became commissioner 15 years ago. On the itinerary is a reception at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo for the tour’s current customers, which he has not done in 12 years.
“It’s a fair amount to do, but it made sense to pull it all together and do it over that period of time,” he said. “I look to get a lot out of the trip. But it’s a killer.”
RYO’S FUTURE: Ryo Ishikawa was given invitations to play in the Masters and PGA Championship amid skepticism that he had not done enough to earn them. The Japanese teen answered with three victories this year, and an impressive debut in the Presidents Cup when he contributed three victories, the one in singles over Kenny Perry.
He already is No. 41 in the world and likely will be in all four majors, along with the World Golf Championships next year.
As for when – or if – he comes to America?
Ishikawa plans to stay on the Japan Golf Tour for now, with eight more tournaments on his schedule. But it was an eye-opener for him, and he said he would look forward to competing with them again.
“I’ll be looking forward to playing in America and in foreign lands,” he said. “I think playing in other countries is going to help my golf game. And obviously in the end, I would like to play on the PGA Tour.”
GOLF BOOK: Sports Illustrated published “The Anniversary Book,” to celebrate its 50th year as a magazine, and followed with books on baseball, pro and college football, and basketball. Now golf gets a turn.
“The Golf Book” went on sale last week. It features more than 300 photos – black-and-white and color – that are divided by eras and feature the best players, from Bobby Jones and Ben Hogan to Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. It is accompanied by essays from writers that include Dan Jenkins, Gary Smith, Frank Deford and George Plimpton.
It already received one acclaimed review from Paul Goydos.
“There isn’t a person who plays golf for a living that wouldn’t look through it,” Goydos said. “Mine is sitting on my coffee table. It’s going to sit there. All of the aspects of what made the game great over the last 100, 200 years are covered in the book. It’s just a great encyclopedia of the game.”
PRESIDENTIAL EXCUSES: After failing to win the Ryder Cup in 2006 in Ireland, Tiger Woods wondered if the Americans were victims of having to play team competitions every year, noting that since the Presidents Cup began, the Americans were 1-6 in the Ryder Cup.
Now that the Americans hold the Ryder Cup and have won the Presidents Cup three straight times, Ernie Els of South Africa believes the Americans are helped by getting to play a cup each year.
“I think the fact that they play this type of format every year has to help at least a little bit,” Els wrote on his Web site Monday. “Maybe in (the) future we have to think about getting our guys together, either playing a friendly or something before we actually get to Presidents Cup week. But that’s not easy with all of our schedules.”
He must not think the Tavistock Cup counts.
DIVOTS: British Open champion Stewart Cink, Fred Couples and Bubba Watson will represent the PGA Tour in the Wendy’s 3-Tour Challenge, to be played Nov. 10 at Rio Secco in Las Vegas. … Donna Caponi-Byrnes, who won four majors and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, has been selected to receive the PGA First Lady of Golf Award. … Phil Mickelson has 20 points in his Presidents Cup career, the most of any American. Vijay Singh has 20 1/2 points to lead the International side.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Tiger Woods earned $5.94 million over the final two months of his PGA Tour season, more than any player except Steve Stricker earned all year.
FINAL WORD: “He sent me right into retirement, that kid.” – Kenny Perry, after losing to 18-year-old Ryo Ishikawa in the Presidents Cup. Perry has three children older than Ishikawa.