It?s been a pretty incredible year for you. Tell us about it.
I think it?s been an amazing year to see what has happened, we are so excited. I think it?s going to make for a great event, all the changes have been positive and it makes me laugh you know, sometimes you look to change things year-to-year to freshen something up ? well this year we have gone overboard! We have changed the logo, the date, the course ? inside and outside the ropes, the clubhouse, and even the parking facilities. It couldn?t be any more exciting for us.
Is it now the fifth best tournament in the world?
I know one thing, I would put this event up against any other from the standpoint of the field and the golf course ? the finishing holes speak for themselves and it has stood the test of time. It manages to give ever player a chance, from Tiger Woods to Fred Funk, any player can win on this golf course. Then you have the purse ? it has the highest purse out there.
As such can it be called a Major Championship?
I think it is difficult to figure out this Major status thing and that?s not really for me to worry about. When you start to talk about this event and where it stands, it?s kind of like a modern Major ? we are young, in our 30s but we have grown up considerably.
The PGA Tour surprisingly doesn?t own a Major ? is this a big issue?
The PGA Tour is a very strong body in organising professional golf tournaments ? the USGA and the PGA of America both have a Major but the players playing those events do not own a Major but they do own the TPC. And I think it is important that people realise that. There are a lot of people who don?t know this. We sanction the events week-in-week out and then this event is the players?. The players themselves employ us. Tiger Woods is our boss at the TPC. I think that this helps people understand the importance of this tournament ? why would it be important if Tiger Woods wins the TPC ? well it?s his own championship.
What else does the TPC need to do?
I think it needs to continue to grow on an international and national basis and the one thing that will happen to us, especially here in the States, is that we are going to get a much greater exposure in the media. The reason for this is that we are not going up against NCAA Basketball, which used to hit us hard ? it?s a huge tournament and we were competing against it. So when you used to open up a Detroit paper say, you were not reading about The Player?s Championship but about how the local college basketball team was doing.
So the new date in May is vitally important for the TPC?s standing?
The May date is a prime week in the sports world and this should help internationally as well ? there isn?t too much going on, but the ?sports season? has started. Here in the USA we come just after the Kentucky Derby and there is no NASCAR on the Sunday so we don?t have to go against that. It?s great for us. The other thing that is important is that in the past it was almost impossible for any player in the TPC not to say that he was tuning up for the Masters and obviously we don?t have it anymore ? it?s a great tournament on its own right.
And it creates a Major?s season?
The Major season is a feature, you know it puts us it in a position where a lot of people can better understand what this tournament has become ? in the eyes of the PGA Tour players for sure and in the eyes of the industry ? you know there are a lot of people around the industry who say that the TPC is the one of the best events around. But then again lots of people don?t understand these things, especially internationally. It is a building process, it?s another step this year, albeit a very big step.
Is the field is one of the tournament?s greatest strengths?
It is real simple with us ? the PGA Tour is made up of the top 125 guys on the money list, all of them get in, you have earned your right. You get in if you have won a Major tournament in the last five years, and that is pretty typical of most big events. The final way in is through the top 50 in the World Golf Ranking ? that is normally 12?20 guys. We just keep adding people ? the rules are simply put in place to ensure the strongest possible field. So for instance anyone who is in the top ten of the current money list but has not qualified via any other route will be offered a place ? this is what happened to Camillio Villegas in 2006.
How important is the international feel of the event?
It is a great way for us to highlight the PGA Tour and especially its current international flavour ? a lot of the stars on Tour are international now ? a poster will have Tiger on but then it is going to have the likes of Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia, and Vijay Singh as well. It?s fun for us to know that this event is broadcast in 140 countries worldwide. We have sold out for the past 18 years at about 40,000 spectators per day and we are trying to grow this by 10,000 this year. Hopefully we will have a more international crowd this year, having put packages together and increased the spectator facilities.
Can the tournament grow its own history and tradition?
One thing that was really exciting for us was when Adam Scott won a couple of years ago he said he could remember as a kid watching Greg Norman tear up the course and he had always wanted to come to a Sunday and win the TPC ? that is so exciting for us. You know because we are so young that just hasn?t been happening yet ? Greg Norman certainly hadn?t grown up watching the TPC. But these guys now on Tour have a bit of a taste of the tournament.
Is there any way of short-cutting your route to becoming a Major Championship?
If Tiger came out and said it was one of his top five aims of the year that would make a big difference for sure. And funnily enough people do come out and say that kind of thing after they have won it! But interestingly, if it wasn?t for the Tiger Woods era it might have been easier for the TPC to be a fifth Major. But you know the history of four Majors and with Tiger chasing Jack Nicklaus? record what do you do? You can?t suddenly create a fifth Major and have an asterisk on Tiger?s record. But if we continue to put together a great event, ensuring that the players are up for it and their competitive juices are flowing then we will see what happens.
It?s been a pretty incredible year for you. Tell us about it.