PGA Tour.com is carrying a RealAudio stream of Tim Finchem's announcement (see previous coverage here), so we're going to do something a little different: live blog it.
10:05 - Someone can't figure out how to use the microphone, as it's on. We are treated to interesting talk about how we're going to leave the A/C off until Tim is done with his talk.
10:08 - Casually late, Tim eases into his speech.
10:10 - Tim says "we're not gonna talk about the details of our schedule today." Someone in the back groans.
10:15 - Tim, despite saying we're not going to talk about it, talks about it. Details include:
- "If you consider that we don't have a strong finish like in other sports, or a playoff system, we wanted to create one."
- "And you want to create a dramatic finish with a year-long points competition."
- "… on better courses and with better fields…"
- "… and a real season…"
- "January-through-September, based on points structure to be determined."
- "FedEx will be the sponsor of the 'FedEx Cup'."
10:20 - FedEx will no longer continue to be a title sponsor of the FedEx/St. Jude Classic. Instead, some financial company (Stanford Financial) will assume the title role. FedEx will be the presenting sponsor.
10:24 - Tim tells us that a four-week championship series with seeded players will commence leading up to the Tour Championship. Details won't be announced until next year.
10:25 - "Players need to play to position themselves, and the championship series will be the most impactful event in the history of golf. We'll announce the details of the bonus payout next year. The largest in professional sports as it relates to a playoff system."
10:26 - "Two objectives - pull a real season together and have a strong finish." Tim displays a chart where 2-4x the average rating is seen in playoffs over the normal season. In most sports, Tim tells us, the playoffs are worth as much or more money as the entire season.
10:27 - Three full-field events leading up to the Tour Championship. The top 30 point-getters in those events will make the Tour Championship. Following the Tour Championship, "The Quest for the Card" will make a "real" fall season, six to seven money events.
10:28 - The fall season will continue to affect the money list, top 70, World Ranking points, and winners will still receive a two-year exemption, etc.
10:29 - "Players will be motivated and 'incentivized' to play more. Field strength and fan interest will be improved during the course of the year, the 'Championship Series'. We'll have more compelling fall events because they mean something." Except, you know, that very few people in the top 70 will likely play in them…
10:30 - Tim concludes and opens it up to questions.
10:31 - Tim is not sure how many players will be able to compete for the 30 Tour Championship spots in the Championship Series. "We can decide that later." This clarifies some details, though: the first part of the season prior to the Championship Series will determine the seeding for the Championship Series. "110 or 90 or 140 players will be seeded, it'll be a healthy number" said Finchem. "The points structure will be such that there's a lot of volatility" during the Championship Series.
10:32 - In other words, players are seeded based on how they play prior to the Championship Series. How they play in the Championship Series will determine whether they are able to play in the Tour Championship.
10:34 - "We're not looking to change a player's outlook towards non-majors. The texture of the schedule is such that the players will be enthusiastic about it."
10:36 - "Q: Are you apprehensive about competing against the NFL? A: The theory here is that we can carry our audience with this kind of schedule through mid-September." We'll see, I guess. "This is a series of events that's all tied together, it's unique in the sport, it means an awful lot, and it will surpass what we saw in the Presidents Cup and the WGC-AmEx playoff."
10:38 - "Quest for the Card" is two things to players: first, they're playing to keep eligibility for the following year [ed: top 125]. Two, in keeping a card, you qualify to enter into the following year's FedEx Cup."
10:41 - "Top 144 on FedEx Cup points list after the third week in August will start the Championship Series." The first three events are 144-player fields. The top 30 points earners then go into the Tour Championship.
10:43 - Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia, and someone else are on stage to comment. Adam Scott: "Big change, gives us something else to focus on, and a more compact, intense season. Gives players the opportunity to take some time off or, for players like me, to go back and play in Australia or whatever."
10:44 - Sergio: "It will bring us together and in the first eight months you'll see more of us than you normally see. Players like us will play more in the US, I think, because we can go elsewhere after the Tour Championship or get some nice rest for the next season."
10:45 - The third player is Olin Browne, we discover. "I'm 46, so I do need the rest. I'm not sure I'm buying into Adam and Sergio needing the rest. Anything we can do to make it more exciting is good."
10:47 - "Q: Was there any concern that this schedule caters to the top players?" Olin: "It offers guys on the fringes to come in and let their play do the talking. I have struggled to maintain my card, but I've been well within the top 144 that would get into the Championship Series."
10:48 - "Q: Where are you going to hang out when the season ends, and will the events after the Tour Championship be lacking in top names?" Olin Browne: "The tournaments have a long and historic history and players have supported them, and a lot of players will probably continue to support the events. All things being equal, they'll continue to get support." The questioner then asks Finchem what the attraction will be for the Fall Finish for fans and top players. Finchem: "A player who has played in September/October will keep playing. There's a chance the others who play only one or two events may not play much at all. Davis Love III said it's a rare player who won't play any golf for two or three months and then start a new year. They'll be good tournaments on popular golf courses. The fall will be fine."
10:51 - "Q: Are there some tournaments in jeopardy of going away? Will there be opposite field events earlier in the year?" Tim: "There will be opposite-field events earlier in the year, yes. Total tournaments will be about the same in '06 and '07. If we do eliminate opposite-field events, it won't be to shorten the list of tournaments. It'd be because they don't bring the level of quality we like on the PGA Tour. There are none of these right now."
10:53 - "Q: If the FedEx Cup has such significance week to week, will that change your schedule and how often you go back to play in Europe?" Scott: "Majors and World Golf events still count for both. I haven't seen the schedule, but I don't think it'll change my schedule. I'm sure it won't be an issue."
10:54 - The players depart and Tim comes back. The phone lines are open. The New York Times has the first question: "The changes sound like the NASCAR thing. How much is this like that?" Finchem: "We have had the Schwab Cup on the Champions Tour for a number of years. We've had some experience in year-long competitions, it's structured differently. We have paid attention to the other sports, but we think this is unique."
10:57 - Florida Times Union: "Have you had any kind of informal sounding out with your TV partners? Did you get any kind of indication? Date change for the Players Championship?" Finchem: "On TV part, yeah, we've given them a general flavor, and they see the possibilities for strengthening the product. With respect to the Players, we're focused on the possibility of moving to May."
10:59 - Commercial Appeal: "Stanford Financial owns a big part of a Nicklaus course down there. Will the tournament change venues?" Finchem: "The infrastructure is not in place for us to consider it at this moment. We may look at it down the road."
11:00 - Chicago Tribune: "We've heard things about course rotations for the Championship Series year to year…" Finchem: "In one or more cases we may look at some rotation. We've had some conversation with different clubs from the midwest. Bellerive, for example. Cancelled because of 9/11, and we've wanted to go back ever since. We just want good golfers on good courses."
11:02 - Q: "How do you address some of the concerns of some of the tournament directors that this is leading to a two-tier system between haves and have-nots?" Finchem: "There's no issue there. I heard the concerns eight years ago when we added the WGC events. We've grown, and lifted everyone up with that. Every event can market itself successfully with good management. The FedEx Cup will increase that dimension, that value." I think the question was directed more at the Fall Finish events, which aren't part of the FedEx Cup…
11:04 - Q: "What benefit for a higher seed going into the final events?" Finchem: "You want to be a high seed because you're not starting from zero: you'll have a set of points as a base walking into the first event. We'll show you some models at The Players next year to show you how things would have happened in previous seasons, and you'll see the volatility."
11:06 - Q: "Phil Mickelson is not here this week. Have you spoken with him? Are you concerned or disappointed?" Finchem: "I'm disappointed that he's not here. You always want all 30 players here, so I'm disappointed. We're not gonna gnash teeth, but I'm disappointed he's not here."
11:07 - Q: "Will the Championship Series be new events?" Finchem: "At least two will be existing events, maybe all three. However, one or more may move around between or to different golf courses."
11:08 - Q: "The bonus payout at the end of the FedEx Cup. Is that a lump sum? You said the largest in pro sports: is that for the winner or as a whole?" Finchem: "The individual who wins would be to that individual the largest for any single person because a variety of revenue streams come together to make that. The payouts down from that will be significant too. It does not count as Official money on the money list."
11:10 - Finchem: "Thanks for being here. We've done the easy part in talking about this, and now we have to go out and execute it. Thanks a lot."