GOLF’S ‘GOOFY RULE’

Tim Finchem’s exit in­ter­view..

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Contents - With Jerry Tarde

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.”

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