Finchem pleased golf not losing ground

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem expects three or four

tournaments to be without a title sponsor going into the 2011

season, although he said the tour has no plans to subsidize

them.

Finchem painted an optimistic picture Tuesday of the tour,

noting its cumulative TV audience – number of viewers who tune in

to a PGA Tour at any point during a tournament – was down only 2

percent despite Tiger Woods not playing the first three months of

the season. And despite a weakened economy, the tour has signed or

renewed some 18 title sponsors since 2009.

But when asked about being ”happy” with how well everything

appears to be going, Finchem added some context to the

situation.

”We’re pleased that we’re competing. We’re not falling backward

when we’re in a difficult environment,” Finchem said. ”On the

other hand, you would much prefer to grow. We’d much prefer the

growth levels that we had for charitable contributions in the three

years before 2008 than bumping along with very slight growth. And

the same thing with financial benefits to players.

”But given the circumstances, given the difficulties, given the

cutbacks we’ve seen in other sports and given the fact that we’re

headed into television negotiations, we are cautiously optimistic.

And we have to be pleased about that.”

Finchem described the 2010 season as ”eventful” and

”interesting,” which takes in a lot.

On the golf course, there were two scores of 59 within a month

of each other, by Paul Goydos and Stuart Appleby. And while Woods

is enduring a miserable season on and off the course with his

personal travails, a younger class of competition has emerged

through Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Hunter Mahan, Jason Day and

Rickie Fowler, the first PGA Tour rookie to make the Ryder Cup

team.

Most noticeable was Woods, who has failed to win a PGA Tour stop

for the first time in his career.

His downfall – from the extramarital affairs that led to his

divorce to finishing in the top 10 at only two tournaments – comes

at a time when the tour is about to start negotiations on the next

TV contract.

Finchem said he doesn’t think the performance of golf’s most

popular player will have much bearing.

”I think Tiger brings a lot of unique viewers to the

telecast,” he said. ”Tiger doesn’t generate the core audience

that we have week in and week out. I’ll say this for maybe the 50th

time – we have 47 tournaments, Tiger plays in 16. … The economy

is the problem, not Tiger.

”Having said that, there isn’t any question that when you have

not just the No. 1 player on this tour but the most dominating

player in a sport in history, you want him playing because it makes

a lot of things work a lot better,” Finchem said. ”And we want

him playing, we want him playing well. And given his intensity, we

assume that’ll be the case.”

The tournaments without title sponsors are the Bob Hope Classic,

Hilton Head, the St. Jude Championship in Memphis, and the World

Golf Championship at Doral. Finchem said he expected a title

sponsor for Doral.

As for the others, he said they have enough funding to get by

another year.

He also said the tour was getting closer to a requirement that

players add new tournaments to their schedules. The idea is to

designate tournaments that top players must attend each year,

although various plans are still being discussed.

”We will go to one of these models next year, for sure,” he

said.