SBD/Issue 238/Leagues & Governing Bodies

Tiger Woods, Ernie Els Offer Criticisms Of Finchem, FedEx Cup

Woods Criticizes New Schedule
With FedEx Cup Playoffs
As the BMW Championship, the third event in the PGA Tour Playoffs for the FedEx Cup begins today near Chicago, Ernie Els and Tiger Woods yesterday both delivered strong criticisms of the new format.  Els said the players and Commissioner Tim Finchem's office have "grown apart from each other because of these big decisions that were made without the real knowledge of the players.” Woods questioned a schedule that featured seven big events -- including the PGA Championship and President's Cup -- over a nine week span. Woods: “We all didn't think it was in the best interest for us as players to play that much. We normally don't play that much, especially towards the end of the year.” But Finchem said, “If you go back and look over the last three years, the number of player meetings that have been called to discuss the details of the Cup, the number of PAC meetings that have been called, the amount of information that's been distributed to players. In hindsight, I feel comfortable that we did a good job in reaching out to players on the details. Now, over the last six months, we've discovered that a lot of players, regardless of the amount of information that might have been discussed, didn't necessarily, for whatever reason, want to pay much attention to it.” He added that sponsorship and TV contracts would likely preclude changing the schedule from four-straight events next season. Finchem also addressed Phil Mickelson, who skipped this week’s tournament after referencing problems he had with Finchem and the playoff format. Finchem: “He indicated in his statement that he has a couple of issues that he's made suggestions on that haven't been implemented, and he's not happy about that. But that's between me and him.”

Els Questions Deferred Payment
Of Bonus To FedEx Cup Winner
BONUS BABIES? Woods and Els also questioned the $10M bonus for the FedEx Cup winner coming as a deferred payment, rather than an immediate lump sum. Els: “I don't think Tiger knew about it; Phil didn't know about it; I didn't know about it; a lot of people didn't know.” Woods said, “I think that’s one of the major issues for all of us. ... How great would it be like in the World Series of Poker, at the first tee starting the first day of the Tour Championship, that's all you see is it stacked up there and that's what you're playing for. That would create a lot of buzz.” Finchem later clarified that the Tour in no way benefits financially from deferring the payment or awarding it as a lump sum.

BMW: Woods also criticized plans to move the BMW Championship to different markets in the Midwest, with the occasional return to Chicago. Woods: “I didn't like that idea. I think this is a great town. It's one of the biggest sport towns, if not one of the biggest markets we have in our country. I just don't understand why we can't play here year after year.” Finchem said moving the tournament around to courses near Indianapolis and St. Louis will better serve the Tour’s interests, adding, “I think it was a good decision” (THE DAILY). Finchem, in a Q&A with the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, said, “The reaction that we’ve had about rotating out of Chicago hasn’t been lost on us. ... We’re not decided long-term. Other people are involved -- the tournament sponsor, the Western Golf Association and the fans -- so we’ll be having those discussions. I don’t see us in any position where we have to rush to any conclusions” (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 9/6). Finchem also said that Medinah Country Club near Chicago hosting the 2012 Ryder Cup would not keep the Tour from returning the same year to Cog Hill for the third FedEx Cup event. Finchem: “If we wanted to play here in 2012, Chicago could support a BWM and Ryder Cup.” He also acknowledged that the BMW could be in S.F. “at some point in the next decade,” as the Tour has an agreement to put at least one event in the city by 2019. Finchem: “This tournament could be one of our options” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/6).

CHANGES COMING? Finchem has been noncommittal on potential tweaks to the FedEx Cup system, and yesterday he offered slightly conflicting statements on where changes can be expected. At his press conference he said, “I don't feel compelled as we sit here today to change anything about this system. I want to hear players explain to me what their concerns are, what they would like to see happen, why it's better, and then we have a process.” But in an interview taped yesterday for Golf Channel’s “Golf Central,” he added, “Everybody says, ‘Are you going to tweak the system?’ Probably, but the fundamentals are working” (THE DAILY).

REAX: In Chicago, Mike Downey writes under the header, “FedEx Fails To Deliver.” Downey: “If the golfers don’t treat it like a major, it’s a minor.” Golfer Aaron Oberholser said Woods and Mickelson “drive the Tour. And when they don’t play, the event is not the same thing” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/6). Also in Chicago, Tim Cronin wonders, “Is there a place on the calendar for [a four-week playoff]?” Woods: “There really isn’t. If the schedule is this short, there really isn’t” (DAILY SOUTHTOWN, 9/6). In Dallas, Bill Nichols writes Mickelson “made a statement” by skipping this week’s event that said, “Professional golfers are so pampered, they don’t mind damaging the inaugural FedEx Cup because it’s not exactly how they wanted it” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/6). In Orlando, Mike Bianchi asks Finchem, “Why should we care about your sport when your own golfers don’t? If ever a group of professional athletes deserved the scorn and the derision of the American working stiff, it is the golfers who have turned the [playoffs] into an indisputable end-of-the-season punch line” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 9/6). But in Nashville, Joe Biddle writes, “Next year will be the litmus test. It will need more tweaking. Will the top stars commit to playing?” (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 9/6).

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