Finchem glosses over Woods situation

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem says Tiger Woods’ indefinite leave doesn’t spell “gloom and doom” for golf.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem says Tiger Woods’ indefinite leave doesn’t spell “gloom and doom” for golf.

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Rough seas? Treacherous riptides? Uncharted waters? Yes, sir, it’s all of that for the world’s most recognized sports icon, Tiger Woods, and his yacht, “Privacy,” though seemingly not for PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem.

You get the feeling that he’s at the helm of the S.S. Good Ship Lollipop.

After a 27-minute opening statement and a 19-minute question-and-answer session, Finchem’s first public comments since Woods’ private life exploded into the public theater following a Nov. 27 car accident outside his home were certainly upbeat. Forget that the constant barrage of Woods’ infidelities and sordid lifestyle has seen his favorable rating with the public drop like Anchorage temperatures in December, it also has draped a black cloud over the entire PGA Tour.

Reader poll

When will Tiger Woods return to the PGA Tour?

  • San Diego Open (Jan. 28-31) 2%
  • Arnold Palmer Invitational (March 25-28) 25%
  • Masters (April 8-11) 20%
  • U.S. Open (June 17-20) 10%
  • After the U.S. Open 5%
  • He will not return in 2010 38%

2218 total votes.

Yet . . . the commissioner spent nearly a half-hour pointing out that “the Presidents Cup was a phenomenal success,” that Phil Mickelson played well at the end of 2009, that the FedEx Cup flexed its muscles like never before, that some key business pieces have fallen into place . . .

Whoa. Back up there.

The Presidents Cup was a phenomenal success?

What in the name of Ky Laffoon is going on here? Has anyone on any planet in any galaxy in the last 20 days turned to anyone and said, “Man, that Presidents Cup was something else, huh? Couldn’t sleep for two days after. Was that a 3-iron from 232?”

Answer: No, a million times no. All anyone has been talking about the last 20 days is Woods, what did happen in the early-morning hours Nov. 27 and his admitted infidelity. When they’ve turned to friends, they’ve said things like, “I’ve lost count, is it 13 or 14 or 15?” and trust me, they’re not talking about his major championships.

And if they’re not talking “The Tiger Saga,” they’re probably onto another negative story that indirectly entangles Woods. That is, the arrest in Canada of Dr. Tony Galea, who visited Woods’ home in Florida to help with the golfer’s recuperation from reconstructive knee surgery. It’s been reported that Dr. Galea helped Woods by using “blood-spinning.” It’s a technique that isn’t illegal, but what raises a flag when Dr. Galea’s name is mentioned is the fact that his assistant was arrested at the Canada-U.S. border with vials of HGH, which is banned in the United States, and Actovegin, a controversial drug that is not approved by the FDA.

While it’s documented that Dr. Galea is under arrest for drug-related charges, no one is suggesting Woods should be the subject of suspicions. Still, it was alarming to hear Finchem state, almost brushing it aside like a three-putt bogey, that “I have no reason to have a concern with respect to him and a doctor (Galea) who has used HGH with patients for whom it’s not an illegal drug (which is true of HGH, in Canada).”

Dick Pound wonders. The former president of the World Anti-Doping Agency said, “You would have a heightened awareness. I would not put it any further than that.”

Dr. Gary Wadler, chairman of the WADA, does take it a step further. Asked if he thought Finchem should have expressed a little more concern, Dr. Wadler said, “You can’t be dismissive. I’ve seen that for years and years and years. Let’s put it this way: As a doping expert, when I hear in the same sentence ‘blood-spinning, HGH, and Actovegin,’ I intend to straighten up and have a better look.

photo

Tiger Woods acknowledges the crowd after the final round of the Tour Championship.

“(I hear) that combination, those three things, and I immediately think about doping. At best you look into it.”

“That’s what clean athletes expect,” said Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. “You believe what they say, but also, you have the responsibility to verify.”

Of course, the last thing Finchem needed to hear after TMZ became part of the golf vernacular was Woods’ name linked to a doctor who is under arrest on drug charges. So, sure, you want to sympathize with the commissioner, who probably hasn’t had an easy day since that last bite of turkey. But it sort of comes with the job description to confront the bad news first and place the fluff on the back burner, only we got the opposite in his first public comments on a blazing hot story.

Was there good news to report? Sure, it was positive stuff to hear that sponsorships with Accenture, BMW, Zurich, Bridgestone and Travelers have been extended, that Waste Management has agreed to take over the Scottsdale, Ariz., tournament, that Greenbrier has come onto the scene and so has SBS. But, come on. These deals were all signed, sealed and delivered weeks before that black Cadillac Escalade went 0-3 against a curb, hydrant and tree. You can’t tell us the landscape hasn’t changed in the last 20 days, that CEOs and business leaders who’ve embraced the PGA Tour aren’t wondering what’s going on. Heck, corporate support is being pulled from beneath Woods, who used to be the surest thing in sports.

On any given year, it would be fine for the commissioner in late November or early December to give his “state of the Tour” address, but this is not “any given year.” Far from it.

The stretch of time going back to the Friday after Thanksgiving has been unprecedented in golf – in sports, really – and the game has been front-page news, but only because of negative stories associated to a guy who happens to be the face of the game and the engine that drives the PGA Tour.

Reaction and comments on all of that should have been up front and perhaps the only topic of discussion. Yes, it’s that big. It was no time for the “spin” that some feel can make us overlook things. It's impossible to do that and it would have been nice to hear that Finchem and his staff were investigating on their own, asking questions and planning a meeting with Woods, if for no other reason than to ask him about these meetings with Dr. Galea.

That’s not privacy, that’s part of a drug policy all players agreed to, Woods included.

Oh, and one more thing. “The Presidents Cup was a phenomenal success?”

Is it possible to ask if this sentiment was run past anyone from Australia, South Africa, Argentina, Colombia, Japan or Korea?

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