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Volume 22 No. 28
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Memories of working with golf’s greatest icons

Former PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem forged strong relationships with golf’s icons from past to present, including his late close friend Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods. Here are Finchem’s perspectives on two of the greatest to ever play the game, offered just prior to Woods’ 2019 Masters victory.

On Tiger Woods …

 “First of all, I like Tiger. I’ve always liked him. He and my mother are the only two people to ever call me Timmy. He gets a big kick out of calling me Timmy. Incredibly impactful on the game of golf. I used to say before Obama was president, I thought he was the most recognizable person on the planet. And he may still be now.” 

■ “I made some comment to somebody in the media that Tiger Woods is the most powerful guy in the sport. And they said what do you mean by that? I said because if I want to communicate something, let’s say in Japan, or Thailand, or Australia, I’ve got to get all our media crew together, all our communications people, I’ve got to think about exactly how to do it. I’ve got to spend hours on how am I going to reach all these people, and then I’m not going get the percentage I’d like to have. Tiger Woods could in five minutes say something and everybody in Japan will know what he said. That, to me, is real power.”

Photo: pga tour
Photo: pga tour

■ “The fact that he’s not a politically or organizationally driven kind of person doesn’t detract from the fact that he’s still got that power buffered by his incredible capability. I think very highly of him. The stuff in 2009 that happened I viewed as a private matter, to be honest. He seems quite at peace with where he is in the world right now, so I’m happy with that. He has been very helpful in a lot of different ways.”

On Arnold Palmer …

■ “When I became commissioner we got close and spent a lot of time together. He’s a very interesting individual on so many levels. One being just having an unbelievable impact on people. One time we were having dinner at a steak place in Washington, D.C., we walked out, and we took about 20 steps down the street, and about 10 cars had stopped. Rolling down windows ‘AP, Arnold Palmer.’”

 “He had a great sense of humor. Just always ready to laugh about stuff. He had great insight into the game. Everything about the game. And he was very shrewd in his thinking about the game. Like what needed to happen, building tournaments. He took great pride in he and Jack’s [Nicklaus] leadership in forming the tour to begin with.”

■ “I remember one year we did a special layout of all the ads that Arnold did over the years down at the World Golf Hall of Fame. And it’s fabulous to see how much of that was content that he generated that impacted people. It made himself a lot of money at the same time. He was not a spender of money. He was very frugal. Except he kept airplanes. He liked to fly around.”

 “It’s hard to put it in words what an incredible individual he was. The interesting thing about it is that you stand back and look at a personality in sports that people just flock to be around. But until you know the person and understand that dimension of the person, you don’t really appreciate the whole package.”

 “He was the second captain in the Presidents Cup in 1996, and we’re playing at Robert Trent Jones [Golf Club] in Washington and it’s Wednesday and the matches were going to start on Friday. Everybody got there Sunday. They were sitting out there and the players were at the range and Arnold says, ‘I’ve got to leave. I gotta go play golf someplace.’ I said, ‘You’re a captain, you ain’t going.’ He said, ‘I haven’t played golf in three days. I’ve never watched so much golf in my life. I’ve had enough of this.’”