United States PGA Tour boss Tim Finchem stopped short of committing to a regular tour event Down Under today, but gave arguably his strongest indication yet that Australia was firmly in its plans.
Finchem, the outgoing commissioner who’ll leave his post after more than 22 years on January 1, said the PGA would establish a permanent office in Australia, most likely in Melbourne.
Asked in his pre-World Cup press conference at Kingston Heath whether an Australian event could be added to the growing Asian swing, Finchem said it would not happen in the short term.
But he said with the 2019 Presidents Cup and the strong likelihood of another World Cup back in Victoria before 2022, a full-time presence made sense for the tournaments’ chief organising body.
“We're always looking at opportunities and the things we can do. We've determined to position staff here in Australia on a full-time basis, actually open an office here,” Finchem said.
“That will give us an opportunity to work more closely with the golf organisations in Australia to see if there's anything we can do to be of assistance in growing the game generally and actually working with them in terms of perhaps the tournament.”
Asked if that meant the Florida-based Tour would extend help to either or both of the Australian Open or PGA Championship, Finchem said the tour wanted to collaborate with domestic administrators.
“It depends on those organisations and what they might want us to help them do,” he said.
“It could be as simple as exchanging ideas; it could be perhaps collectively reaching out to the business community and potential sponsors in a more efficient way, working with what we do with the Presidents Cup at the same time that we're helping these other events.
“So it could take on different forms. I wouldn't try to assume it would necessarily be anything, but I think we would want to make ourselves available.”
Finchem reaffirmed the outstanding nature of the tour’s long-time relationship with the Victorian government.
“We really developed a wonderful working relationship here in Victoria over the past 20 years.
“I know when we first came with the Presidents Cup in 1998 to Royal Melbourne, it was a terrific start to that. To be able to come over and play Kingston Heath now as well adds to that.
“But the reception that we've always got here is very, very positive.
“Certainly there is no metropolitan area in the planet that is more sports-oriented than Melbourne – (it’s an) incredible focus on sports by everyone here. The investments that have been made by Victoria in the venues in all sports here is incredible, and to be part of that mix is, we think, very important for golf and golf on a global stage.”
But he said the PGA Tour needed to make a better ongoing effort to capitalise on the big events it has hosted in Australia.
“One of the things we've perhaps not done as good a job at as we would have liked since '98 is when we have been here with the Presidents Cup or the World Cup, (to follow up).
“For whatever reason, because of the (magnitude) of the task of staging these things at the level we try to do, we haven't put enough energy and resources perhaps into how you translate the popularity of those events to the event structure that's already in existence here, or maybe add to that.
“That's one of the key things we would like to focus on going forward.”