Finchem says Masters is the exception to the rule


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Call it PGA Tour logic – even though at times such terminology can be considered the ultimate oxymoron. 

In advance of this week’s Players Championship, commissioner Tim Finchem met with the media on Wednesday, addressing the PGA Tour’s regulation toward sanctioned tournaments on golf courses which feature discriminatory membership policies.

“The position of the PGA Tour hasn't changed,” Finchem explained. “We have a policy that says that when we go out and do a co-sanctioned event, we are going to play it at a club that is as open to women members, open to minority members, etc. – and we follow that policy carefully.”

Terrific explanation. Clear and concise, rational and sensible.

As a non-profit entity that prides itself on charitable endeavors that are quickly reaching $2 billion all-time, this is a sentient practice to eliminate any potential notion of the PGA Tour consenting to such exclusionary policies.

Which is why what Finchem said moments later contradicted his aforementioned viewpoint.

“In the case of the Masters,” he continued, “we have concluded a number of times now – and we have certainly not moved off of this – that we are not going to give up the Masters as a tournament on our Tour. It's too important. And so at the end of the day, the membership of that club have to determine their membership. They are not doing anything illegal.” 

So in layman’s terms, the PGA Tour is completely against sanctioning events at venues where discriminatory membership policies exist – unless that event happens to be one of the four major championships and that venue happens to be Augusta National.

That’s oxymoronic. Hold the oxy.

The issue, in this particular instance, isn’t about the policies of the club itself. We’ve been there, done that already. Augusta’s failure to recognize a single female as a member is a hot-button topic that won’t go away soon.

There are those who believe the club is completely just in its private membership practices; there are those who believe its policy is discriminatory and shouldn’t be considered acceptable. It’s a debate that has been hashed and rehashed for years – and like most compelling arguments in today’s society, everyone has an opinion and few will be swayed from their thoughts.

No, the issue today is the PGA Tour’s contradictory procedure toward the year’s first major championship. There isn’t any doubt that the Masters is important, but where is the line drawn to consider an event, as Finchem stated, “too important”?

This may not be a new subject for debate, but it’s one to which the commissioner responded in such a contrasting manner that its ugly head has reared again. After all, rules are rules. Unless, as Finchem preached, rules can be broken for subjective reasons.

He furthered his explanation by simply categorizing the Masters as being more worthy of special consideration due to its status as one of the game’s most elite tournaments.

“We just elect to continue to recognize them as an official money event on the PGA Tour because we think it's that important to golf, so we don't get to determining whether their policies are right or wrong,” Finchem said. “We don't have to, because we made the conclusion that regardless of those policies. We are going to continue to play and recognize them as part of the PGA Tour.”

This is akin to a teacher giving an A+ grade on a failing homework assignment, simply because the student excels in all other aspects of school.

The truth is, the PGA Tour’s policy on discriminatory policies is a discriminatory policy in itself. By choosing to make all host courses follow protocol, but allowing one co-sanctioned event off the hook, Finchem and those in Ponte Vedra Beach headquarters have implemented a procedure which bends their own bylaws and reeks of favoritism.

Perhaps the most enlightened words of Finchem’s contradictory rant came at the end, when he seemed to acquiesce that it may not be the most prudent decision.

“I know some people don't like that position, and I appreciate that and I understand their reasoning,” he explained, “but that's the decision we've made.”

Golf is a game of rules. Competitors can’t “sort of” take a drop or “kind of” hit a ball out of bounds. And the penalties can’t be enforced based on the specific competitor. 

Apparently some rules, though, have been made to be broken.