Friday, September 21, 2007

R.I.P. British Mid-Am

This just in from the R&A


The R&A has elected to discontinue the British Mid-Amateur Championship and remove it from its championship calendar. The British Mid-Amateur, first played in 1995, restricts entry to male amateur golfers aged 25 and over. Despite various reviews of the championship over recent years, small fields for the event and a subsequent lack of quality in depth, mean that the event is no longer viable.

Commenting on the decision The R&A’s Director of Championships, David Hill, said: "The British Mid-Amateur has produced some notable champions beginning with Gary Wolstenholme in 1995 but it has struggled to establish itself as a sufficiently distinctive event in the British men's amateur golfing calendar.”

Matthew Cryer will be the final player to have his name engraved on the Mid Amateur trophy, having won earlier this year at Alwoodley Golf Club. A place in history awaits the Englishman as the trophy is destined for the British Golf Museum in one year’s time.

The drug policy press conference

The players...

Jim Armstrong, Augusta National
Carolyn Bivens , LPGA
Peter Dawson, R&A
David Fay, USGA
Tim Finchem , PGA Tour
George O'Grady , European Tour
Joe Steranka. PGA of America

Q. So spring of 2008, is that a realistic chance that drug testing will take place, say, the Masters or even earlier than that?

TIM FINCHEM: Well, the question of testing protocols with regard to each of these organizations is a function of a determination by the individual organizations. What I mean by that is that we will be recommending testing protocols which we think will have credibility that will be over the course of the year, etc. Now, whether or not Augusta National at the Masters wishes to have testing at all, or testing using PGA TOUR doping agencies or whatever is a determination that they have to make. And you know, I can't answer that question yet. I suspect that having conversations with and certainly these organizations, the USGA, the R&A, the PGA and Augusta National can speak; they are all on the phone. But my sense is that they are waiting to see what the testing protocol plan will be for the PGA TOUR before they determine whether, A, if it's in any way necessary; or B, it's desirable to include any kind of testing protocols the week of their tournaments.

Q. I guess we'll pose that question to Augusta National if there's a representative on the call.

JIM ARMSTRONG: Yeah, this is Jim Armstrong. As Tim said, this is all in development, the protocols, and we'll be looking at the entire issue, we'll be watching what the PGA TOUR and the other Tours do before determining just how we'll proceed.

Q. Tim, you just said that you'd begun the process of deciding what penalties for the PGA TOUR; can I ask George if it's the same with Europe?

GEORGE O'GRADY: We are well down the line on the recommendations, but as I said in other press conferences at the end of last year, we will do if all the world agrees, is far better than one side going off on its own. I think this is still a work in progress.

Q. Is the plan for random testing, after competition testing, everything that other sports do?

GEORGE O'GRADY: It's the whole full-scale policy. As I said before, this isn't some quick move and thinking as we go. This is the whole basis, well thought out and what we've got today is all sides agreeing and working together to make sure this is really a fully thought-out policy that we will all be on the same side of. We haven't got all of the answers today, but we are well down the road.

Q. We saw during the FedExCup how a lot of players didn't really focus in on a lot of the details and the whole ins and outs of it until too late or certainly later than you guys had wished. How do you avoid that happening again with this drug testing policy to make sure that all of the players get involved and understand completely exactly what is going to happen here?

TIM FINCHEM: Well, first of all, this is a different kind of subject matter. This is a subject matter that does relate to rules of the game from the standpoint of performance-enhancing drugs and the violation of which can trigger -- will be able to trigger significant penalties. So I don't think there's going to be -- we don't have too much concern about players focusing on it. However, we are not going to leave anything to chance and we will be out with consultants and have a multiple number of player meetings and consultation sessions, probably six or eight in the first couple of three months of the year. We will probably have consultants out with us to answer questions. We'll have a 24-hour consultation line for questions from players, their agents, their fitness trainers, etc. And we will not just be talking about the rules, the substances. We will educate players on how these substances can get into your body; things that you need to watch out for; as well as, of course, bringing them up to speed on what they could expect if they get to a tournament and we are doing testing. So it's a comprehensive effort. We are not going to just have a player meeting and 30 players come and call it a day. We will be out sitting down with players aggressively and we will have a lot of people involved in that process. We're just not going to leave anything to chance.

Q. If you don't mind me paraphrasing, you've always said that there was no evidence of any performance-enhancing drug use, and the honor system of golf, etc. All that said and wherever you are today, do you consider this a landmark day for golf or a sad day for golf?

TIM FINCHEM: Well, I think that as everybody else has spoken, it's a day where we are going to be proactive in light of the realities of what's happening in sport. But for the problems in other sports, I doubt we would be at this point. But certainly the problems in other sports have created a growing perception among fans that athletes generally in many cases, in the minds of many fans who utilize substances that in other sports are banned. Now we don't ban substances in our sport, but when you combine that in the reality that for example, in the case of The European Tour, they have to undergo testing protocols because governments are requiring that they do; as does the LPGA in some instances, all of these things argue for moving forward. I think it doesn't mean we like it and it does mean we are concerned about shifting the culture of the sport from one where you know the rules and you play by the rules, and if you violate the rules, you call a penalty on yourself; to if you engage in testing, perhaps creating the specter that an organization doesn't trust what the player says, which is certainly not the case. So we are going to have to work hard on that point, but we are where we are given the way of the world and I think it's a positive day for golf because we are, A, together; B, we are spending a lot of energy to do it right. We are learning from watching what the other sports have done that in some cases have not been perhaps the right thing to do. It's taken them awhile to get it right, and we've been quite deliberate about where we're headed. And all of these things I think are positive. I think that's a positive message for the game.

Q. I was wondering if Peter Dawson, David Fay and Joe Steranka could weigh in. Are you going to sit back and see how it plays out with the testing on tours in the Europe and the U.S. before deciding on whether you'll test individually? Because obviously you have the autonomy to do that.

PETER DAWSON: It's Peter Dawson here first. As far as The Open Championship is concerned, we've taken a policy decision that The Open will fall into line with whatever drug testing regime the tours and specifically in our case, The European Tour, develops. So The Open Championship will be just as another week on Tour.

JOE STERANKA: Same for the PGA of America. We see the PGA TOUR carrying the biggest load and we plan to coordinate our activities to fall in line. We're supportive generally of announced testing, so that would mean that no single event would be known in advance that it would be a sight for testing.

Q. David, you have obviously the Men and Women's Open.

DAVID FAY: That's right. We'll be following very carefully the PGA TOUR policy, The European Tour policy because players in the Open, Senior Open come from various tours. And of course, we'll be working very closely with the LPGA for the U.S. Women's Open.

Q. But no plans to do any testing of your own?

DAVID FAY: No, not at this point. I think that as Joe said, the professional organizations have been taking the lead on this, and this second stage which will include the medical waiver procedures, the testing protocols, penalties and the like will be developed and we'll be taking our cue from that.

Q. If I could, one final question for George and Tim, do you guys have any idea what the approximation on cost is going to be for something like this on an annual basis?

TIM FINCHEM: Well, there's two levels of cost really. One is the administration of the program, including testing. And then the other is no sport has gotten into testing without litigation arising in some fashion or form, and that's a whole other level of cost, but we're not worrying about that right now. We anticipate, I think we've said this, but we're going to spend a million to a million and a half dollars a year most likely in that range, and the first two or three years, we're looking to pass that right now with respect to administering the program; it's not an inexpensive situation to get involved in.

GEORGE O'GRADY: And from our side, we've made an announcement what we're going to compute what the cost of every individual test is going to be, and you multiply that around; that's an easy one that you can quantify. The thing is, if we haven't got everything thought through and the education program to our players really has gone straightaway, we have no desire to spend the rest of our life living in a courtroom. So this is an education ensuring that the game is as clean as

Q. Joe, you have the club pros; David, you will qualifiers who could be from almost any background and not a member of a tour or college player where there is testing of college athletics. Are there any plans on what to do in the cases of qualifiers for your events who are not members of a professional tour?

JOE STERANKA: On behalf of the PGA of America, we'll be reviewing that with our board. We conduct not only the Championships, but host a number of tournaments at the national section and chapter level, and some amateur competitions, our Junior PGA Championship Series and Junior Ryder Cup and McGladrey Team Championship. So we see this as the banned substance list to becoming almost another rule of golf in which we'll administer tournaments, and then the protocol that we'll have in administering that throughout all of our competitions is yet to be determined and is something that we'll spend the rest of the year focusing on.

DAVID FAY: And that's pretty much our position, and talking about it with our board, we expect close to 9,000 to 10,000 entrants in the U.S. Open, so it's a slightly different kettle of fish. And I think education is clearly going to be, as mentioned before, a very key component. Because getting past any possible performance benefits, the possible side effects of many of the substances, detrimental side effects are real, and players should be made aware of that.

TIM FINCHEM: Let me just chime in that I don't think that there is no set of testing protocols that will come forward that will create a situation will every single person that plays in one of our events will be tested because we have Monday qualifiers. We have sponsor exemptions, and candidly, I don't think the public or we are particularly concerned about a player that plays in one tournament a year, anyway. I think it's the people that are competing, really the core competitor group, in our case is a couple of hundred players on the PGA TOUR, and then more on the other two tours. But we'll be addressing all those kind of details downstream. Thank you for joining us today, and to those who asked questions, we appreciate it. Obviously each of our organizations are available to answer follow-up questions regarding our own situations or the collective focus. And I would say finally that there will be an opportunity during the Presidents Cup next week where a number of the directors from the World Golf Foundation will be together to make some comments about, not on this subject perhaps, although questions would be answered, but on the direction of the World Golf Foundation going forward, which we look forward to probably next Wednesday in Montréal. And to the media, we encourage you to come to Montréal. I know most of you are planning to be there, and to everybody else on the call, I look forward to seeing you next week. Have a good day.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Tiger's Tour Championship press conference

Excerpts from Tiger's post-victory press conference...

PGA Tour: Tiger Woods, congratulations. We've got a couple of nice big trophies here for you. First and foremost, winning the TOUR Championship for the second time in your career and winning the inaugural FedExCup. Maybe some opening comments about a great week and a great year for you. You finished the year with seven wins.

TIGER WOODS: Well, I really played well today. I mean, I hit a bunch of good shots. I think the putt at 3 today was a big putt. I needed to make that putt, didn't want to lose two shots back-to-back and give the guys ahead of me all the momentum. You know, that was a big putt to make. And then from there I really played some good golf, got on a birdie run there in the middle part of the round and basically put it away.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Maybe some thoughts on your season. Right now your scoring average is going to be identical to 2000, so obviously those years are pretty comparable.

TIGER WOODS: Yes. You know, I made a lot of improvement. It's interesting how people questioned whether I should try and improve or not or try and change my game, and here we are.

Q. Not to dwell too much on the money, but $11.26 million just got deposited into someplace with your name on it. Is that even jaw dropping to you, given your endorsements and all that? That's a pretty healthy chunk of change and accomplishment.

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, you know, for me I don't look at what the purse is or prize money. You play, and when you play, you play to win, period. You know, that's how my dad raised me is you go out there and win. If you win, everything will take care of itself. You take great pride in what you do on the golf course, and when you're able to win events, that's when you can go home and be very proud of what you've done.

Q. Where would you say your confidence level is right now? And have you seen it grown over these last two years? Was there ever kind of a turning point for you?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think the last couple years has been -- I've made a bunch of changes obviously on my swing. But last year as we all know, I think the Western in the second round I really played well. Finally I went back to just playing golf again. I got over all the things that happened earlier, my dad passing, and I finally got back to just playing golf again, didn't have to -- that mourning period was finally -- I felt I was done with it. Once I got back to playing golf, I felt I was back in my rhythm again. And from then on, if you look at my results since then, it's been pretty good.

Q. You've gone 1, 1, 2, 1, 1.

TIGER WOODS: Right. I think my driving has gotten better. I feel as if I'm able to shape the ball in there and actually work the golf ball better both ways than I did early in the year. My trajectory control has been about the same, been pretty good, but being able to shape the ball both ways and being able to land the ball on the number has been good.

Q. You've won 61 TOUR titles. Do you think you've reached your prime?

TIGER WOODS: I don't think so. Well, I don't know when it's going to be (laughter). What do you want me to tell you, it's like January 5th of such-and-such a year? I mean, you don't know. The whole idea is to try and keep improving. When all is said and done, when you rack the cue and go home and retire, you can honestly say these were my best years, when I was at my peak. But when you're in it, you're always trying to improve that a little bit to get to the next level.

Q: How would you assess winning the first FedExCup?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think that overall the FedExCup was a success. I think that there need to be tweaks, yes, there needs to be some tweaks, but I think overall it provided a lot of drama towards the end of the season, especially post-PGA when most of the guys shut it down. You know, post-PGA it's either Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup and that's basically all anyone ever talks about, now that the Bridgestone has moved to the week before the PGA especially.

Q. You said again today that you never imagined this victory at this stage of your career. When you were just starting as a pro, what did you envision as a successful career at this stage?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think that if you have gone through your 20s with just a few majors, it would be a huge success. Most golfers reach their prime in their 30s. Hopefully you can carry that momentum from your 30s into your 40s, especially now that guys are working out and their longevity and their standard of play is longer than it used to be, you feel like you can carry it into your 40s. I didn't see winning this many times in my 20s and now in my 30s. I never would have foreseen that.

Q. You talked about tweaks. Do you have any comments on what tweaks you would consider to make the tournament better? And what's it like, the final tournament for you this year, to go out with such a big bang?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think -- what I described earlier to Fergie here, a couple days ago, I think that when you have 125 exempt players on TOUR and your first event is 144 guys, I thought a playoff was play all year for a smaller field, you're supposed to narrow it up, not have more players. Especially when we have limited field events, invitationals that have smaller fields, more elite, and I just think that the playoffs should be that many players. I think the playoffs you narrow the field down, and when you have 10 percent over what you do on the exempt player list starting off the first event, I think that's too many.

Q. Steve Stricker said he found the last couple of weeks very exhausting, and he almost reached the end of his rope today mentally. How mentally tiring has the last few weeks been for you?

TIGER WOODS: Very. Very. That's one of the reasons why -- people questioned why did you take the first week off. I won the PGA and the Bridgestone event, a World Golf Championships and the PGA, those are big events. When you're in contention, it takes a lot out of you. I wanted to be fresh coming into these events. It takes a lot out of you when you're in contention. I think that's what Steve was probably alluding to. It's one thing to play, and if you play four days and you don't play well, it's really no big deal. But when you're in contention, it wears on you all the time. It's not like you can go home and get away from it because you're right there with a chance to win a tournament. It definitely drains you. You know, four weeks of it, for me it was three weeks of it, four for Stricks, it takes a toll on you, not necessarily from the physical side but definitely from the mental side.

Q. You've driven the ball beautifully over the last month or so. Do you think that is the main key to this nice run of four wins and a second? And was there a time when you felt that the driver really kicked in because of the swing change or whatever?

TIGER WOODS: Well, not necessarily, because I didn't really drive it very good at the British Open. I think it's just -- as I said, I was able to shape the golf ball both ways and still hit the ball -- the number I wanted to hit it. I think that's where I needed to make some improvement, and obviously when you start feeling confident and are able to work the golf ball either way, off the tee, into the greens, and you're able to land the ball wherever you want to land it, you start feeding off of that.

Q. Zach came in here and said that dangling any more carrots in front of you was bad news for the rest of the guys in the field. Do all of these things when you add them all together, Player of the Year, Money List, FedExCup, majors, do all those little carrots add up in your head? Does it drive you even more to win them all?

Q. After The Presidents Cup, you've got an extended break and some quality time with your wife and daughter. Just wondered if there was anything in particular you were really looking forward to doing?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, putting the clubs away, not picking them up, not swinging a club, just getting away from it. Like Stricker said, I can't wait to go hunting. For me, I'm the same way, I can't wait to hop in the water and go driving.

Q. As much as Tim was kind of leading you in that direction, I noticed you didn't kiss the Cup on the green. Do you have a policy on which trophies you kiss?

TIGER WOODS: Damn, Fergie (laughter).

Q. Claret Jugs only?


Q. We've got pictures of that, yeah.

TIGER WOODS: There you go.

Q. Secondly, as you look forward to next year, you're defending champion of BMW and here, and Deutsche Bank supports your foundation. Do you see any way around playing four in a row next year?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it's going to be extremely hard, hard on the body and hard on the mind. We'll see what happens. First of all, I've got to qualify (laughter).

Q. For the Ryder Cup or for the Playoffs?

TIGER WOODS: For the Playoffs (laughter).

Q. Running the numbers, you didn't even have to show up this week to still win the FedExCup. I know that wasn't the intent, to miss events, at least the TOUR didn't plan it that way. Do you think the schedule needs to be rejiggered to allow guys like yourself to play two in a row, then have a week off and play two more?

TIGER WOODS: It's not just four in a row, it's playing Firestone followed by the PGA and then you have that week off, and then next week four in a row plus one more, so it's five in a row. Seven out of eight weeks is a lot to ask of guys. They're all big events. Some guys have hometown events and they can go out there and have a great time. These are big events, a World Golf Championships, a major, followed by our new Playoffs system, followed by a Ryder Cup. You can't take an event off. So I think that's what guys were having a complaint with, is that because they're all such big events with such big meaning to them, it's going to be hard for all the guys to play all the events. It'll be easier for the international guys next year because they won't have to play the Ryder Cup.

Q. How important is that when you think about these four events?

TIGER WOODS: Well, they're all big events, like I said. I think that's where the guys would like to have a break, to get recharged, mentally recharged and ready to go for all those events. We have a few Europeans that play on our TOUR full-time, and I'm sure a few of them will probably play in the Playoff system, but not their entire team. We have our entire team playing the Playoff system, which adds to the fact that it's going to be a little more difficult for us to do and then compete in the Ryder Cup the very following week.

Q. You had referenced sort of the light coming on at the Western, putting your dad and the grief behind you and the streak you've been on. You've won 13 of 22 on the U.S. TOUR ending today. I'm wondering, given what you did in those earlier years, '99, 2000, eight-win, nine-win season, where you think this stretch, 14 months, fits in in terms of your best-of list, and if you're as good or better than ever, how you would evaluate it?

TIGER WOODS: I think you would probably say I didn't win as many majors through that stretch, but World Golf Championships along the way. I think that I have a better understanding of how to play the game now by far than I did back then, and I certainly have a lot more shots to get me around golf courses than I did then. That's just seven to nine years of more experience, just understanding all the mistakes I've made and how to improve and how to get myself around the golf course. My course management skills have certainly improved over the years.