Finchem opens up in private video

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem

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PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem emailed a private video message to players and agents Friday morning, discussing what to expect in 2010 as the Tour copes with Tiger Woods’ absence and a poor economy.

The nine-minute video, a copy of which was obtained by Golfweek, appeared to have been filmed in the locker room at TPC Sawgrass. It was divided into three segments: "Business Update," "2010 Season" and "Tiger's Absence."

The video echoed many of the positive statements that Finchem made in Thursday’s news conference, but there were signs that despite his optimistic front, there are challenges ahead for the Tour.

In his news conference, Finchem rebutted reports that the Tour is having trouble securing sponsorship renewals. However, he said in Friday's video that he will travel to fewer events in 2010 as he focuses on securing those sponsorships.

“In 2010, this economy hasn’t gotten any better,” he said. “We have a lot more renewals for '11. My focus, my priority, is going to be the business of the PGA Tour. You may not see me out there as much.”

However, he did say that 2010 should be a “very, very solid year” for the Tour.

“We have a full schedule. We have playing opportunities that are very close to 2009. We will have prize money about the same, maybe a little higher than 2009. Our charity dollars will be up somewhat.”

(Note: Prize money will be down $3.9 million, according to the Associated Press.)

• • •

Regarding Woods, who has taken an indefinite leave, Finchem said, “I have every confidence in the world that Tiger will be able to do just that, deal with his issues. ... And while I think it’s going to take a lot of work, and a lot of effort, I’ve watched Tiger over the years and his work ethic, as you have, and I give him every chance of success.”

Finchem put a positive spin on the Tour’s strength sans Tiger, but said players will have to make an increased effort to compensate for the absence of the game's biggest star.

“I don’t want to misrepresent the facts. Tiger has a huge impact on the PGA Tour, make no mistake, but we can perform well, and perform adequately for our sponsors, in his absence,” Finchem said.

“ ... But in the meantime, we need to do a little more work. Again, as I mentioned earlier, it’s incumbent on all of us in 2010 to work hard, continue that effort we had in 2009, and roll into 2010 with an upbeat attitude.”

Finchem asked players to continue to increase interactions with sponsors, saying, “... this helped us a lot with our business in this downturn, and we need to do it again in 2010.”

• • •

Later in the video, Finchem basically said to players, Hey guys, Tiger is gone, now someone else can win, but not in those words.

“I would like to point out, as I did in 2008, that this is an opportunity with Tiger on the sidelines for a period of time, for us to create new stars,” he said. “In 2008, you had Camilo Villegas and Anthony Kim late in the year come on strong, and really come into the next year as additional stars to this Tour because of the way they performed in Tiger’s absence.”

Villegas and Kim couldn’t replicate their success with Tiger back on Tour, though. After both won twice and finished in the top 10 of the '08 money list, Kim finished 39th this past season and Villegas finished 45th in money earned. Neither won a PGA Tour event in 2009.

“When Tiger’s not playing, (other players) get a lot more media attention,” Finchem said. “We look forward to that same dynamic happening in 2010.”

However, that might not be the case next year. Tiger’s recovery from knee surgery in late 2008 garnered little media coverage, but his current situation is front-page news on a daily basis.

• • •

Finchem said he was “very, very pleased” that the Tour was able to secure “10 or 12” long-term extensions or new sponsors this year.

At Thursday’s news conference, he said the Tour also was close to an extension with Coca-Cola, which sponsors the Tour Championship, though he did not disclose the length of the contract. It appears it will be a six-year extension, after Finchem made reference in the video to a six-year extension with the sponsor of a FedEx Cup playoff event.

• • •

He closed the video by saying, "Let’s keep our heads up and get ready for 2010. I personally look forward to it."

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