In the hurried minutes between media interviews and extended meetings with executives from Sony, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem paused midway through another grilling to consider the question of retirement.
At 64, Finchem was just hours removed from a Tour Policy Board meeting that extended his reign in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., through 2016. It is a four-year extension that will keep him in the commissioner’s chair through his 69th birthday. By comparison, Deane Beman, the man who preceded Finchem, retired when he was 56.
Yet the former Washington, D.C., lobbyist didn’t sound like a man who is considering this extension his Tour swansong.
“When I first became commissioner, after five or six years people would ask me how long I wanted to do this,” he told GolfChannel.com. “I don’t have a particular time frame in mind. I think it has to do with what’s best for the organization. . . . I’m getting a little older so you have to ask yourself those questions a little more often, but I’m not worried about that right now.”
Finchem surprised many observers last year when he negotiated new nine-year deals with NBC Sports and CBS Sports. Although the Tour didn’t disclose the terms of the new agreement, Finchem said they included rights fee increases.
It is the circuit’s evolving relationship with the networks that has changed the most since he first took over for Beman in 1994.
“The biggest dynamics have been the change in the TV industry,” Finchem said. “Now we’re looking at a digital space that we’re going to jointly work on with our TV partners the next few years. The way we reach our fans has really changed and the challenge is going to be to take advantage of it.”
Finchem is credited with guiding the circuit through the recent economic downturn and Tiger Woods’ 2009 scandal relatively unscathed.
“It was demanding. Business today is demanding,” he said. “It’s also been perhaps one of the most rewarding. The players stepped up and worked hard. We started dealing with what looked like a potential recession at the end of 2007. Our top player was out a lot, but by the same token our players stepped up and helped out a lot and our sponsors hung in there.”
However, Finchem faces an eventful six months as the circuit attempts to replace Nationwide as the umbrella sponsor of the secondary tour and either re-sign, or replace, FedEx as the sponsor of the season-long points race.
“We need to determine the future of the FedEx Cup. Obviously, our overwhelming interest is to continue with FedEx, they are the perfect partner for the cup, but we’ve yet to complete a transaction,” Finchem said. “We have a long runway with the television agreements to get done hopefully in the next six months that will help us lay down a structure over the next eight to 10 years.”