GOLF’S ‘GOOFY RULE’
Tim Finchem’s exit interview..
He has been regarded as the most powerful man in golf for the last three decades. Tim Finchem, 69, ended his 22-year reign as PGA Tour Commissioner when successor Jay Monahan took over in January.
A master politician who once worked in Jimmy Carter’s White House, Finchem’s business skills and dry humour gained him enormous respect in the golf world, as did his ability to sustain the PGA Tour’s trajectory of prize money. His greatest achievement came in 2007 and 2008, at the depth of the financial crisis, when he never blinked, slyly tapping into his reserve funds and keeping the purses growing until the economy kicked in and the tour roared back.
what would surprise the average golfer about the job as
commissioner? You don’t play golf very much.The PGA Tour always counsels people that we hire: Do not expect your handicap to go down when you work for us.We all travel a great deal, and you really can’t take the clubs because if you add an extra half-day to play, it becomes untenable.
what do you think was your no
1 accomplishment? Developing a solid working relationship between our executive staff and the players.And making good choices in hiring people. When you get bright, creative people who come up with good ideas, and good managers who can execute them, you’re going to be successful.
which single event during your tenure had the most impact on the
PGA Tour’s level of exposure? Tiger Woods becoming a dominant player. For me, as a fan, when he lapped the field at Pebble Beach (in the 2000 US Open) by 15 shots, he had cemented the fact that he was in the best two or three players of all time. I actually walked with him on the final round. If you go back and watch it, he might have hit one shot that day that wasn’t pretty much exactly where he wanted to hit it. Every shot was underneath the hole, eight, 10 feet away. So I thought that was the exclamation point: Okay, this guy’s great, and that’s going to last a long time. what would be the harm of fines/ suspensions being made public? why is your organisation different from football, basketball and baseball? You have to consider two things. One is the level of the action or violation. And the other is to your point, what’s the harm? If a player broke out into a fistfight with somebody or if a player had a significant domestic-abuse situation, or a player is in a bar with a gun, the public has a right to know our reaction. But if a player says a bad word in front of 30 kids, we don’t like that, but we don’t think we need to tell everybody, because we want people to view our players as role models. Thankfully we don’t have much of the former. But if we started to get some of it, and we’ve had our issues, then we’ve got to step up and tell the story.We like our policy the way it is.
what rule of golf would you like
to see changed? Out-of-bounds is a little goofy. People don’t follow that rule anyway. If there’s a lake on the right side of the fairway, and I hit in the lake, I can drop it with a one-stroke penalty. If it’s a fence that marks out-of-bounds, I have to go back to the tee, which is essentially a two-stroke penalty. What’s the logic in that? And then the other, from the PGA Tour’s perspective: When the ball is on the green, there shouldn’t be a penalty if it moves, period.You just replace it and you putt it. Unless you intentionally moved it.
your salary has been a matter of public record and comment ($5.7 million in 2015). were you underpaid or overpaid? pick one. (Laughs.) I think I’ve been fairly paid.
that’s not one of the choices. If you were to compare me with other American sports commissioners, you’d say it’s low. I think as a company you should try to get the best talent you can, spending as little as you can to do it.
you mentioned at arnold palmer’s memorial service that you hit 18 balls in his honour. what about
arnie moved you? When I was a kid, just watching him play Augusta, the way he moved around the course, the way he handled himself. But the first time I went to Latrobe stands out in my mind. He invited me up there to play golf 17 or 18 years ago. I mean, I’m at Latrobe, this is Arnold Palmer, and he’s making (a big deal) over me. It just didn’t feel right. And such a down-to-earth good guy. But the other side of it is, in my tenure, he became sort of a confidant. Somebody I could bounce things off. He wouldn’t be a guy who would, you know, write the book for you, but he had great instincts. So I came to love that about him, and he was very helpful to me.And then his sense of humour was amazing.
among current players, who best personifies what we admired so
much in arnie? If you had to write down Arnold’s qualities, a fair number of players you could argue have everything on the list. Not as famous maybe, not as successful, but technically have a lot of those qualities.The younger players coming up today really pay attention to those things, more than 10, 15 years ago. People say, “I love Jordan Spieth.” And there are other players like that. But Arnold had this other thing going on. I don’t know how you articulate what it was.And I don’t know if anybody will ever have that thing again. what qualities in jay made you endorse him as your successor? It’s kind of a long list. His skill set, his background, his knowledge of sports from the bottom up, is much superior to what I enjoyed when Deane (Beman) made me deputy commissioner. Jay’s tough, but in a very nice way.And he’s a good manager because he always keeps everybody looking down the road. I think he gives off a sense of confidence to people, which is important. I think he’s 10 percent more Irish than I am, but substantially more likable. If you talk about public speaking, I have a bit of an advantage over him because I’ve been doing it longer. But he has a huge advantage over me because he really connects with people. He has this ability to say things that draw you in, in a meaningful way. If I tell a story, I give the overview. If he tells a story, he takes you there into the minutiae of what happens, and you really live through the moments of the story. He has no ego whatsoever. None. So if you add it all up, he’s pretty strong. besides free private aviation, what will you miss the most? Working with these people here. Going to the meetings. Dreaming stuff up. Trying to make it happen. Setting a vision for the next year or two. Driving it.You know, I’ll miss the players.The players have been great. Yeah, I will miss it.
“It’s so much fun doing this job with these people that you just want to work all the time.”