SAN FRANCISCO -- PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has been more visible than ever at tournaments this year, meeting with sponsors and even playing (three rounds) at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Now, Finchem is about to embark on his longest trip in years.
He will be at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, where the PGA Tour has a vested interest because it is a World Golf Championship. That will be part of an 18-day trip to five cities in Asia, where he plans to meet with current and potential sponsors.
"I haven't been to Japan in three years, and we have a lot of existing customers," Finchem said. "We have a WGC in China. There are other things I need to do in China and Korea. I would say 80 percent of the trip is seeing existing customers and potential customers, partners, possible sponsors, possible official marketing partners."
The European Tour already has established itself in China, the most appealing new market in golf, and it announced an alliance with the Asian Tour in July. Finchem said expanding a U.S. tour presence is "not a primary focus of ours right now."
"We wanted to get a piece of the World Golf Championships in Asia to balance them, and it's just another step to help golf grow in China. If we're doing enough stuff to grow golf in China where we're comfortable with it ... that's our major focus right now."
Finchem spoke two weeks before golf was added to the Olympics.
"If the Olympic vote goes positive, we may get a little more aggressive in some of these areas," he said.
Finchem could not remember a longer trip since he became commissioner 15 years ago. On the itinerary is a reception at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo for the tour's current customers, which he has not done in 12 years.
"It's a fair amount to do, but it made sense to pull it all together and do it over that period of time," he said. "I look to get a lot out of the trip. But it's a killer."