Monday, February 18, 2008

The PLAYERS v. Finchem

John Hawkins, Golfworld standard bearer for reporting, writes a short piece summarizing the recent string of decisions by the PGA Tour and its player-represented Policy Board that have left the players complaining, clamoring, and barking for a player union.

Yes, the open complaining really seemed to take shape with the formation of the FedEx Cup and its payout structure that was a retirement bonus. (That has since largely changed.) Then, there was drug testing and the Rule 78 cut rule (that will probably be repealed at the Honda Classic in two weeks). Don't forget the 15 year partnership with the Golf Channel that turned a lot of heads.

If you have kept up with the news, you know all of that and the Hawkins piece is just a refresher. The interesting thing to keep in mind about all of these changes that the Tour has made - with the exception of drug testing - is that the Tour has acquiesced to the player complaints as soon as they become significant enough.

Consider this, though, from the Hawkins piece about the Commish:

The tour pros basically represent themselves -- not very successfully, some will tell you. Finchem, an attorney by trade whose bio heralds his abilities as a college debator, is a sharp tack with a history of subduing revolts of all shapes and sizes. Certain lieutenants on his staff may dance with two left feet when trying to win friends and influence players, but their boss is very adept at it. That's why he's still sitting in the big chair.
I don't see how that can be true given the recent string of changes. The payout for the FedEx Cup had to be modified. The cut rule is going to be modified and largely go away for all intents and purposes. He still has TGC as the broadcast partner and there will still be drug testing. It seems like he has a winning percentage in his battles against the players, but it also seems like he has to give in a whole lot.

The question, then, is whether or not Tim Finchem knows what he can actually get and proposes well beyond those means knowing that he will have to give something back. If he is that intelligent, then he deserves a lot more credit as a manipulator than he gets. If not, then he does deserve the lip service as such a spry negotiator.

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