After what he described as the ‘gut wrenching’ decision to cancel last year’s Players Championship PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan spoke of his excitement and pride in being back on the first tee this week for the return of the Tour’s flagship event.
As Monahan pointed out, it’s been 362-days since Friday, 13th March, 2020 – Golf’s Black Friday as it’s been referred to – when Monahan hosted a press conference to advise of a three-week shutdown of golf’s biggest stage.
Little did he or anyone know sitting in the temporary conference room at TPC Sawgrass that it would be three months before competition would return.
Monahan, in what is an annual address by the Commissioner, looked back on the events of nearly a year ago:
“Good morning, everyone. 362 days ago, on March 13th, seems like a lifetime ago in many respects, I sat with you and discussed the cancellation of our flagship event here at TPC Sawgrass.
“As gut wrenching as it was at the time for the Tour, our players, our fans and our community, it goes without saying that what we experienced that day would pale in comparison to what our world would experience in the coming days, weeks and months.
“That Friday morning, I had several parting thoughts, one of them being that, even though we had no clue what was to come, we would take what we were experiencing and turn it into a positive, something I feel our game does better than any other.
“I also said that we’ll take our commitment to northeast Florida very, very seriously, and we were ready to get to the work at hand to make sure that we continue to help our own community.
“Fast forward to today, and I’m extremely pleased to recognise those directly responsible for our response after The Players was cancelled, as well as our successful return this week.”
While the worldwide pandemic is far from over, Monahan’s demeanour was clearly vastly different to the overall mood, and that of everyone at TPC Sawgrass, a year ago.
And a first question to him from ‘the floor’ highlighted that when asked how he thinks he will feel standing on the first tee this Thursday as opposed to a year ago.
“I’m going to be excited. I’m going to be proud,” he said.
“I’ve always made it. I’ve always been there every single year for the first tee shot since I moved down here to serve as Executive Director of The Players, and that’s a special moment for our tournament chair, all the Red Coats, all the volunteers and all of our staff, because at that point in time the show is on.
“Last year, for obvious reasons, we were up at TPC Sawgrass in the boardroom where we spent the entire day. It was the one time I wasn’t there for it.
“I will be there on Thursday. I look forward to it. Just proud, most importantly, to be back here a year later, proud of our players, proud of all the caddies, everybody that has worked so hard to get us back to this point in time, and, candidly, to do so in a really inspiring way.
“I think this is an important week for us every single year but particularly so this year”.
But like any leading administrator, whether it be sport or business, Monahan stressed the Tour is not ready to confirm ‘it’s back to normal’.
“I think until we’re told that we don’t have to guard against the virus, we will be fully guarded,” he said.
“We’ve seen surges, we’ve seen the unpredictable, the uncertain nature of this pandemic and this virus.
“Yeah, I think, while we see light at the end of the tunnel and there are a lot with vaccinations and the progress that we’re making and the hope that’s in front of us, you take that, but you still have to remind yourself that you’ve got to focus on your plan and your protocols and make sure we’re doing everything we can to keep health and safety as our number one priority.”