Earlier this month I called for PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem to resign for various reasons. Just yesterday, I received a call from Ponte Vedra Beach informing me that Tim Finchem has resigned, and recommended my name to be his successor. I have accepted their offer and in lieu of a press conference, this blog can be considered as my opening address. I’d have done it today, but She Who Is Really In Charge and my hounds are napping, and I don’t want to disturb them.
Ladies and Gentlemen-
It is a tremendous honor to be the third PGA Tour commissioner. Deane Beman and Tim Finchem have made the PGA Tour what it is today and I thank them for their hard work and service. However, the reality is that the PGA Tour must continue to look to keep itself relevant to not only its core audience but also with newer fans, sponsors, and business partners.
It is in this spirit that I announce, with immediate effect, the following changes-
1) The Tour will immediately begin announcing all fines, penalties, and suspensions. Any notable rules violations that occur will be announced via Tour video and the videos will be available on pgatour.com. The NHL does this with suspensions, and frankly they get it right. For now I’ve asked Jim Nantz, David Feherty and Gary McCord to rotate the announcements until I can find someone suitable.
2) Effective today, any positive tests for PED’s or illegal recreational drugs (as defined by WADA) will result in the following suspension- a first time offense will call for a one year suspension, a second offense is a three-year suspension, and a third offense will be a lifetime ban. Players will be tested at least four and not more than 10 times in a calendar year and will be tested at least once when they are not competing. I’ve spoken to the PGA of America, the European Tour, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, and the USGA and they have agreed to honor any suspensions handed out; in turn we will reciprocate.
3) Effective tomorrow all players are on a 40-second shot clock. Any player that takes more than 40 seconds to play a shot will be given one official warning. A second violation will result in a one-stroke penalty and any subsequent violations will also come with one-stroke penalties. Any player with more than four penalties will be ineligible for participation in the FedEx Cup playoffs.
4) Effective immediately distance measuring devices that do not measure slope, wind, or elevation are now legal; following the R&A and USGA rules allowing such. Any player caught using an illegal device will be disqualified and will be ineligible for participation in the FedEx Cup playoffs.
5) Following the lead of professional baseball and hockey, no putter may be longer than 39 1/2″ unless the player is taller than 6’9″.
6) Effective immediately the Tour will use video in the scoring tent on any questionable shots (i.e. grounding club in hazard, rules questions). The Tour will use rules officials on each hole who will let the player know of a possible violation and then communicate with the scoring booth. Any video evidence presented after the player signs their card will not be used as the basis of penalizing or rescinding a penalty.
7) Spectators will be allowed free admission on Monday and Tuesday practice rounds at all Tour events.
8) Mobile phones will be allowed on grounds, and can be used in designated “phone zones” at each tournament. Phones are not permitted to be used on the course during tournament rounds but fans are permitted to use their phones to take pictures during practice rounds. Fans violating this policy will be escorted off the premises. We know technology is part of our lives but we can’t have phones going off in someone’s backswing.
9) Starting in 2015 I’m announcing a “1 in 4” rule for players who were on the last Ryder Cup team, have won multiple majors, or are in the top 20 in the world. By that, a player who falls on one of these lists must play each event at least once every four years and must play any new events in the first two years. Any player who falls into these categories and accepts appearance money to play in an event opposite a PGA Tour event will fall into the “1 in 2” category. Our fans deserve seeing the best players in the world.
10) The minimum age for anyone to appear in a PGA Tour event is now 18. This includes sponsor exemptions, which after feedback from tournament directors, will be increased to 8 exemptions per tournament for events other than WGC events, and the Players Championship. Anyone accepting a sponsor exemption will be, at the tournament director’s request, be required to play their event up to seven times in a ten-year period. Players with no Tour status may accept up to four exemptions in a season.
11) I am pleased to announce that the winner of the Tour Championship will receive a 5-year exemption into all major championships. The European Tour will announce that their Tour Champion will receive the same exemption.
12) Beginning in 2016 the Presidents Cup will not be contested in Olympic years. The next two Presidents Cups will be contested this year (2014) and again in 2018.
13) Working with Mike Whan of the LPGA Tour, we will hold a LPGA-PGA Tour competition beginning in 2015. This event will occur in late March at Pasatiempo GC in California. The top 12 men and women (by each Tour’s ranking two weeks prior) will be drawn into two teams of six men and six women each. Captains will hold a televised selection show on The Golf Channel, and play for the Ken Venturi Cup, making alternating picks. This will be a Ryder Cup-style format. Players from the winning team will receive automatic births into their respective Tour Championship event which for the PGA Tour has been expanded to 32 players (from 30).
14) Effective immediately “lift clean and place” will not be used at any Tour event. If a ball is plugged a player can remove it but the ball may not be cleaned or dropped.
15) The Tour Championship has been expanded to five days of competition. Day 1 will be a qualifying round to determine seeding. Rounds 2 and 3 will be single-elimination match play, which will leave eight players in contention. Round 4 will be a single round stableford event, with the top four players advancing to the Tour Final. The Tour Final will be a 36-hole final, with the lowest cumulative score awarded the Tour Championship, $12mm in prize money, a five-year exemption into all major championships and be given a $5mm donation in their name to the charity of their choosing.
Thank you again for your time. I will have further announcements tomorrow.