Tim Finchem praises state of PGA Tour

PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem appeared at East Lake on Tuesday to deliver his traditional late-season “State of the Tour” remarks.

The message of his address centered, as do many such commissioners’ addresses, on the vitality of his organization.

Such vitality can be seen in a generation of young, athletic players — such as 20-year-old Jordan Spieth, here as the youngest ever to compete in the Tour Championship — coming to the fore, he said. “The percentage of tournaments won by players under 30 has grown the last four years,” Finchem said.

And the fans are watching, he added. “The interest level, in terms of cumulative (TV) numbers is, we think, the highest it’s ever been.” He said that 165 million Americans tuned in to a tournament at least once this season.

Two issues were brought up when it came time for questions.

One was the possibility of alterations to the FedEx Cup points system, which awards the winner five times more points in the closing playoff events than in regular-season tournaments. “The question is, if you have the much volatility in the first couple weeks of the playoffs, does that throw (the system) off a little bit? You want the season to mean a lot. So, that’s what we’re looking at,” Finchem said.

The bulk of the questions concerned another rules controversy concerning Tiger Woods — in which he was assessed a two-stroke penalty last weekend after enhanced slow-motion video footage showed his ball moved ever so slightly while he was removing debris. That was brought up after Woods completed his round, after a review of a videographer’s close-up shot of the moment.

“What’s a reasonable point to accept outside information? Is it better to have some time limit (on such reviews)?” Finchem wondered aloud. “All the other sports close their books a little quicker than we do, so to speak.”

And, yet, he added, “On the other hand, sometimes it’s pretty interesting to the fans.”

Payne Stewart Award goes to a pal: In the 1980s, the no-hit wonders Jake Trout and the Flounders featured Payne Stewart on harmonica and Peter Jacobsen on vocals. In 2013, Jacobsen won golf's award for character and sportsmanship named after his late accompanist.

“He was a good friend of mine,” Jacobsen said of Stewart, a two-time major winner who died in a 1999 plane crash. “We did a lot of things together with our families. We competed against each other. We laughed. And we had a lot of fun, played some music together — some really good music together.”

A seven-time PGA Tour winner and a two-time Champions Tour winner, the 59-year-old Jacobsen is one of the more colorful figures in the game. He will be a part of the NBC broadcast of the Tour Championship.

For the record, the Payne Stewart Award winner has no problem with players being tripped up on rules violations by alert fans or focused videographers.

“When we have fans calling in after watching it on TV, it strengthens the rules of the game and strengthens how good we have to be,” Jacobsen said.

Johnson very, very happy to be here: When he skipped the first FedEx playoff event to attend his brother's wedding, Zach Johnson couldn't be sure if he would recover enough points to make it to the Tour Championship.

The winner of last week’s BMW Championship, Johnson not only overcame the absence, he rose to one of the favored top five positions in the FedEx points standings.

He arrived Tuesday sounding like a public-service announcement for the tournament.

“I’m excited to come back here,” he said. “This is arguably one of the best tournaments we have, if not the best.

“And it’s East Lake. I love East Lake. I love everything this course demands.”

Very quietly, Johnson has won 10 times in his 10 years on Tour.

“If anything, it just drives me to get better and hungrier to try to win more,” he said.