Finchem's legacy filled with far more highs than lows

By Rex HoggardMarch 30, 2016, 2:53 pm

For Tim Finchem, it was time.

After 22 years at the helm of the PGA Tour, the commissioner and chief announced last week he would be stepping down, although the exact exit moment remains to be seen.

For Finchem, who signed a one-year extension to his current contract that runs through June 1, 2017, the mind and body are willing but the skillsets required to run the world’s largest professional golf tour have changed dramatically.

To be blunt, he’s an analog executive in a digital world.

“For every organization there’s a time when it needs to morph. ... I can probably work another five or six years, but I don’t think that’s the best thing for the organization,” Finchem said.

For months, the 68-year-old has been a reluctant retiree. Last June, he started answering questions about what many considered his final year in the commissioner’s chair.

The answer was always coy and delivered with a healthy caveat.

“There are a couple of things I’m working on that I’d rather get a little further down the track and they are big things, so it’s a little early to say where they are going to be,” Finchem said last summer.

“I don’t have to see them through, but I’d like to get both of them on the right track.”

Last week he made similarly vague statements at the WGC-Dell Match Play, although it seems likely one of those “to do” items would address the early negotiations for the next round of television contracts. All of the Tour’s current television agreements with Golf Channel, NBC Sports and CBS Sports expire in 2021

“My plan would be – and that assumes I can make progress on my projects – to step aside at the end of this year,” Finchem said.

The circuit named Jay Monahan deputy commissioner and heir apparent two years ago and Finchem said last week that Monahan is now running the day-to-day operations of the Tour. Earlier this month at the WGC-Cadillac Championship he seemed to concede that the time is right for a new set of eyes and sensibilities.

“Jay Monahan is back there, he'll say, ‘OK, let's wipe the slates clean here and put down some things we never thought about,’” Finchem said. “I think in the years to come, you will see the Tour doing things that maybe right now you would be surprised that we would think in that context.”

Whatever projects Finchem hopes to complete before his swan song, his legacy has long been established.

When he took over the circuit in 1994 there were 44 events with $56.7 million in total purses. This year’s total take is 47 events with $327 million in purses, not to mention the $10 million-plus bounty in FedEx Cup bonus money.

Some will say Finchem was simply in the right place at the right time, taking over just two years before Tiger Woods joined the Tour and sent golf on a meteoric rise.

Lost in that translation, however, has been Finchem’s ability to navigate what were, by any definition, tough times.

When the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression gripped the world in 2008 Finchem was able to maintain the vast majority of sponsors largely without the stardom of Woods, who has played a complete season just three times since ’08 because of an assortment of injuries.

Finchem’s legacy includes the creation of the World Golf Championships, FedEx Cup, The First Tee and he helped return golf to the Olympics.

But last June as he entered what had originally been billed as his final term, Finchem appeared to be caught off guard when asked what his legacy would be as commissioner.

“I’ve never really thought about it in those terms,” he said. “If Peyton Manning is the quarterback and you go to the Super Bowl, he had a great season but there are 48 guys on the team.

“I’d like to think that when I get done, people look at me and say, ‘OK, he worked his butt off, a lot got done and the players and the stakeholders looked at his time and thought a good job was done for them.’”

That’s not to say Finchem’s tenure at the Tour has been without its share of peaks and valleys.

The 2001 legal wrangling with Casey Martin over his request to use a golf cart during Tour events will always represent a curious place to draw a line in the competitive sand; and the implementation of the circuit’s doping program in 2008 has been riddled with missteps and lawsuits.

Finchem’s dogged adherence to the you-can-ask-but-we-won’t-tell policy regarding player discipline and fines also feels arcane and outdated, but throughout all of the trials the commissioner has remained consistent.

The only difference in recent years as he’s inched his way toward retirement has been in his often-stoic demeanor. In many ways the commissioner has softened, either the result of time or the timing of his impending exit.

When asked about his contract status two weeks ago at Bay Hill, Finchem referred to the ongoing projects that will keep him in the job for at least the next few months before smiling, “Maybe [the policy board] wants to find someone who can get them done.”

He may not be done just yet, but it seems the commish is already enjoying his golden years.

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.

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In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.