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He Said/She Said: Commissioner for a day

Tim Finchem
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It's no small task to be commissioner of the PGA Tour and we give Tim Finchem kudos for signing a four-year extension. But if Finchem ever took a day's vacation, the Golf Guy and Birdie Bailey pondered what they would do if asked to fill in. And, much to our delight, Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee also decided to weigh in.


If I was commissioner for a day I would take a long, hard look at the schedule, as well as course set ups. Here are two ideas I feel need to be addressed: 

- Stay away from football season as best you can (Silly Season and the Fall Series events not included). It's crazy having a great golf event coming down the stretch on a Sunday going up against the NFL and insane fantasy football fans (not to mention the also insane NFL wagering fans). Golf often provides fantastic finishes (count the record 19 playoffs in 2011 as proof) – the Golf Guy just wishes more people would watch. Which makes that famous philosophical question come to mind ... 'If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?'

- Course set ups. Here's the usual math – 10+4+4=18. That is the normal set up of a course – par-wise. A plethora of par 4s, and a couple dashes of par 3s and 5s. Which holes are usually the most exciting in golf? Correct, par 3s and par 5s. I understand purists would never change this formula – but if I was a commissioner, I certainly would. Golf on TV is entertainment. Please let us be entertained with the possibility of some wild lead changes that par 5s and par 3s always provide as they close in on the 72nd hole.

Now I want to be commissioner for a day on the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.


Social identity theory tells us that groups are an important source of pride and self-esteem. Groups give us a sense of social identity; a sense of belonging to the social world.

If you think about it, we are conditioned from birth to belong to groups. We are born into a family. We go to schools, church and play on sports teams. We are girls or boys.

Even in golf, up until you turn professional, you play golf both in team and individual settings simultaneously. You play on a high school team and a college team before turning pro. It is without question an individual sport, but imagine the possibilities of more team events.

Think of how exhilarating and energizing it is to watch the Ryder Cup. The Presidents Cup. Heck, even the Solheim Cup. Think as a player, how electrifying it is to play for your nation; to play for a cause larger than yourself. As a fan, think of how much more deeply you connect with teams, entities and brands.

Teams provide undeniable benefits for both players and fans, so in my one day as commissioner, I would campaign for more team events throughout the year. Instead of a handful of the same big-name players that fans root for week in and week out, we would start to see the formation of allegiances to larger and fewer ‘team’ brands that would span more players and ultimately help grow the game.

My second order of business would be a more trivial matter. I would host a 'Dyed and Gone to Heaven' gala for my friends and family at TPC Sawgrass – a tribute to the course’s beloved architect, Pete Dye.

Attendees would dress in tie-dye and sip on Mai Tais while nibbling on stir-fry.

Festivities would include hitting orange golf balls from 190 yards out at the 18th fairway and anyone who knocked it inside the 2-foot mark as done so by Jerry Pate in 1982 would get to toss Pete Dye into the lake and jump in after him. 

The 17th hole would be themed after Pete’s wife, Alice, because rumor says she was instrumental in the implementation of the famed island green. The ‘Alice in Wonderland’ par 3 would have friends shouting, “Hit it, Alice!” to anyone whose tee shot found the water short, after which they would be served Dunkin Donuts.

We would laugh and dance, eat and drink and party till we ... Dyed.


If I found myself in control of the PGA Tour for one day and had usurped all power from my board I would rage against selfish desires, like extending a lifelong Tour card to a broken down Tour pro who now just rants on about all things golf. Perhaps, lining the 17th green at the TPC Sawgrass with enough dynamite to blow up the Hindu Kush and setting the timer to coincide with me Skyping Pete Dye. I think I could get both of those done before lunch and still find time to hop on the Tour jet and meet Jack Nicklaus for a round of golf at Seminole, to discuss Tour business, of course.

With deference to the historian Lord Acton, who said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, I would, however, resist such childish thoughts and fight to do some lasting good with the 24 hours as commissioner; although, one could still argue for the dynamite.

Two things have hurt the game and will continue to do so. Technology and slow play are related in that as technology has given all Tour players the ability to hit tee shots into tomorrow, courses have been stretched out and the game has become a dragged-out affair. Five- and 6-hour rounds can’t attract a new audience in a generation filled with short attention spans. One solution would lead to growth in the game, I am convinced, and simultaneously make it more interesting for Tour players and those consigned to dark corners and bad coffee whose job it is to describe the action.

The word people use to describe what I am going to suggest is bifurcation, which sounds to me like a word used to make palatable that which tends to smell. Perhaps, that’s appropriate, because when bringing up the idea of two sets of rules, most look like they have smelled something offensive. Ironically the very ones who are offended the most are the ones who talk about growing the game most fervently.

Football, basketball and baseball all have different rules that separate professional and amateur competitions, and while arguments as to why may be circular, the sports have not suffered from this separation. Golf would benefit in many ways from a similar partition between the professional and amateur ranks. The long putter, which offers a great respite from putting woes and bad backs to many amateurs, has no place in professional sports. Its use, understandable in club golf, is corruptive at the professional level as it allows one to predetermine the path of the putter.

Drivers and golf balls could be scaled back on the Tour, which would allow holes to return to nostalgic lengths and records to be viewed more accurately. Amateurs could have access to bigger heads, thinner faces, longer shafts and hotter golf balls, which would allow them to at least feel some closing of the ever-widening gap between professionals and recreational golfers.

Shorter holes would mean faster rounds and cheaper golf and with the new equipment that amateurs would be able to use they just might have as much fun as I would blowing up the 17th hole at the TPC.