Finchem Tour will survive without Woods
In the midst of a shocking sex scandal, Woods is taking an indefinite leave from competition to try to save his marriage, leaving the sport without its biggest star while it continues to cope with a downturn in the economy.
“I want him to come back and play,” Finchem said Thursday in a conference call. “But we are going to be successful in ’10. If Tiger is out for a couple of months or eight months of a year, we’re going to have a successful year. … It won’t be at the same levels without our No. 1 player, there’s no question about that. No sport would be at the same level without its No. 1 player.
“But I think the doom and gloom needs to go away.”
Finchem said six of the highest-performing tournaments, which he based on net revenue donated to charity, have not had Woods in the field during the last several years. He also said the cumulative number of viewers during a PGA Tour event did not decrease even when Woods missed the second half of 2008 with knee surgery.
“I’m not saying that I think everything is fine,” Finchem said. “We’re in a down economy. It’s hard to sell. And having the No. 1 player in our sport not play is not a positive thing, and it does hurt television ratings. But I look at it in the reverse. I look at Tiger spiking ratings off of a significantly solid base when he plays … and I want that spike. And I certainly want the attention he brings to the sport.”
The attention has shifted dramatically since a Nov. 27 car accident outside his Florida home, setting off sensational details of extramarital affairs that have tarnished sports’ biggest star.
Finchem said it was the biggest “curveball” he has dealt with in his 15 years as commissioner.
“I can’t think of anything else that was more of a curveball,” Finchem said during a brief break from a gamut of media interviews. “Just the magnitude of it. I can’t recall an individual in politics, entertainment, sports, with this level of focus that it’s generating in the media. Everybody is talking about it. My 17-year-old daughter comes from school, they’re talking about in the classroom.
“I’ve often said that up until (President Barack) Obama, he was the most recognized guy on the planet, and everybody thought he was perfect. The realization that he’s not is huge news.”
Finchem said the tour had no input on Woods’ decision to step away, and he suggested that the salacious tales of infidelity likely would not be subject to discipline under the tour’s “conduct unbecoming” clause.
The tour does not announce suspensions, although John Daly told The Associated Press last year he had been suspended for six months because of a long list of negative publicity, including his mug shot from a North Carolina jail where he was taken to get sober.
“Historically, the PGA Tour has never … taken a situation in someone’s personal life and dealt with it from a disciplinary matter,” Finchem said. “Our regulations relate to conduct unbecoming that’s either in the public arena or law enforcement arena.”
Finchem also said he was not concerned with Woods being linked to a Canadian doctor being investigated because his assistant was found transporting drugs, including HGH, into the United States. The doctor, Anthony Galea, said he treated Woods with “blood spinning,” who help his recovery from knee surgery.
“There’s a lot of doctors linked to HGH,” Finchem said. “There’s no reason for me to be concerned because I have no information to trigger a concern.”
Finchem sprinkled some good news into his conference call: The tour has renewed title sponsorship with the Sony Open in Honolulu and plans to work with the company on a 3-D broadcast; the same is planned for one of its playoff events, the BMW Championship outside Chicago.
That makes 10 title sponsors with new contracts this year – seven renewals and three new sponsors. Finchem also said the presenting sponsor of the season-ending Tour Championship, Coca-Cola, is finishing up details on its contract renewal.
Finchem also chose to use a different measure of television. While Woods has shown to spike ratings – they were down about 50 percent at 2008 tournaments he did not play in because of the knee surgery – Finchem said the cumulative number of viewers for a PGA Tour event over four days is second only to a three-hour NFL game.
He said the tour had an average of 26 million viewers each week in 2007, and the number was roughly the same in 2008, when Woods played only five tournaments. The number increased to 29 million this year.
Finchem said PGA Tour events raised $125 million for charity in 2008, and it dropped to $109 million this year, mainly because of the economy. Projections are slightly higher for 2010.
“I don’t see corporate America backing away from golf over Tiger’s issue, and I do think at the end of the day after all the media scrutiny, if he can successfully deal with those issues and come back and play golf, that will be a positive thing,” he said.
“I’m not suggesting that his popularity level is going to soar again. I don’t know where that’s going to be,” Finchem said. “But I think people generally are going to want him to succeed. They’re going to want him to deal with his issues. They’re going to want him to come back having dealt with those issues. And I think he’ll find, eventually, a significant amount of support.”
'The Golf Club 2019' adds Elvy to commentary team
“The Golf Club 2019” is adding a new name to its commentary team.
Broadcaster Luke Elvy will join returning announcer and HB Studios developer John McCarthy for the title's third installment.
Golf fans will recognize Elvy from his recent work with CBS in addition to his time with Sky Sports, FOX Sports, TNT, PGA Tour Live and PGA Tour Radio.
A 25-year media veteran from Australia, he now works in the United States and lives with his family in Canada.
"Ian Baker-Finch was my right-hand man on Australian televison," Elvy told GolfChannel.com in an interview at the Quicken Loans National. "And Finchy said to me, 'What are you doing here? You should be with me in the States.’ He introduced me to a few people over here and that's how the transition has happened over the last five or six years."
Elvy didn't have any prior relationship with HB Studios, who reached out to him via his management at CAA. As for why he got the job, he pseudo-jokes: "They heard the accent, and said, 'We like that. That works for us. Let's go.' That's literally how it happened."
He participated in two separate recording sessions over three days, first at his home back in February and then at the HB Studios shortly after The Players Championship. He teased his involvement when the game was announced in May.
Although he doesn't describe himself as a "gamer," Elvy lauded the game's immediate playability, even for a novice.
“It’s exactly how you’d want golf to be,” he said.
"The Golf Club 2019" will be the first in the HB series to feature PGA Tour branding. The Tour had previously licensed its video game rights to EA Sports.
In addition to a career mode that will take players from the Web.com Tour all the way through the FedExCup Playoffs, "The Golf Club 2019" will also feature at launch replicas of six TPC courses played annually on Tour – TPC Summerlin (Shriners Hospitals for Children Open), TPC Scottsdale's Stadium Course (Waste Management Phoenix Open), TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course (The Players Championship), TPC Southwind (FedEx St. Jude Classic/WGC-FedEx St. Jude Championship), TPC Deere Run (John Deere Classic), and TPC Boston (Dell Technologies Championship).
“I played nine holes at Scottsdale,” Elvy added. “It’s a very close comparison. Visually, it’s very realistic."
The Golf Club 2019 is due out this August on PlayStation 4, XBOX One, and PC.
Expired visa, helicopter, odd clubs all part of Vegas' journey
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jhonattan Vegas thought someone was playing a practical joke on him.
Or maybe he was stuck in the middle of a horror movie.
Scheduled to leave for The Open a week ago, he didn’t arrive at Carnoustie until a little more than an hour before his first-round tee time Thursday.
“Even if somebody tried to do that on purpose,” he said, “you couldn’t really do it.”
The problem was an expired visa.
Vegas said that he must have gotten confused by the transposed date on the visa – “Guessing I’ve been living in America too long” – and assumed that he was cleared to travel.
No problem, he was told. He’d have a new visa in 24 hours.
Except the consulate in New York didn’t respond to his application the next day, keeping him in limbo through the weekend. Then, on Monday, he was told that he’d applied for the wrong visa. UPS got shut down in New York and his visa never left, so Vegas waited in vain for seven hours in front of the consulate in Houston. He finally secured his visa on Wednesday morning, boarded a flight from Houston to Toronto, and then flew to Glasgow, the final leg of a 14-hour journey.
His agent arranged a helicopter ride from Glasgow to Carnoustie to ensure that he could make his 10:31 a.m. (local) tee time.
One more issue? His clubs never made it. They were left back in Toronto.
His caddie, Ruben Yorio, scrambled to put together a new bag, with a mismatched set of woods, irons, wedges and putter.
“Luckily the (equipment) vans are still here,” Vegas said. “Otherwise I probably would have played with members’ clubs today.”
He hit about 20 balls on the range – “Luckily they were going forward” – but Carnoustie is one of the most challenging links in the world, and Vegas was working off of two hours’ sleep and without his own custom-built clubs. He shot 76 but, hey, at least he tried.
“It was fun,” he said, “even though the journey was frustrating.”
'Brain fart' leads to Spieth's late collapse
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The closing stretch at Carnoustie has famously ruined many a solid round, so Jordan Spieth’s misadventures on Thursday should not have been a complete surprise, but the truth is the defending champion’s miscues were very much self-inflicted.
Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.
“The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it's an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”
Spieth continued to compound his problems with a sloppy bogey at the 16th hole, and a drive that sailed left at 18 found the Barry Burn en route to a closing bogey and a 1-over 72.
The miscues were more mental, a lack of execution, than they were an example of how difficult the closing stretch at Carnoustie can be, and that’s not good enough for Spieth.
“That's what I would consider as a significant advantage for me is recognizing where the misses are,” said Spieth, who was tied for 68th when he completed his round. “It felt like a missed opportunity.”
Perez: R&A does it right, 'not like the USGA'
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez didn’t even attempt to hide his frustration with the USGA at last month’s U.S. Open, and after an opening-round 69 at The Open, he took the opportunity to double down on his displeasure.
“They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They've got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you've got the greens receptive. They're not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn't. The course is just set up perfect.”
Concerns at Shinnecock Hills reached a crescendo on Saturday when the scoring average ballooned to 75.3 and only three players broke the par of 70. Of particular concern for many players, including Perez, were some of the hole locations, given how fast and firm the greens were.
“The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”