Monahan: “I wake up every day assuming someone is trying to take my lunch”

Bernie McGuire

PGA TOUR Commissioner, Jay Monahan (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)

Bernie McGuire

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In his five-year reign as Commissioner, Jay Monahan has not before been put under the spotlight in a manner he faced this morning (local time) at the PGA Tour Commissioner’s annual conference at Ponte Vedra in Florida.

It’s been just five days shy of two years when Monahan sat in front of the assembled media on Friday 13th, March 2020 to announce the suspension of the Tour due to the impending Covid-19 pandemic that would bring a halt to sport around the globe.

But now as golf, in particular, is getting back to normal, the PGA and European Tour are being forced into damage-control mode of a different kind by the influence of the incoming Saudi-backed Super Golf League..

It also hasn’t helped the PGA Tour’s image that one of its long-time poster golfers in Phil Mickelson, a past winner of the Tour’s flagship event, has retreated into a self-imposed exile, and with not even Monahan aware when the six-time major winner will emerge after his highly-controversial and super-sensitive comments.

And it’s not just the Mickelson controversy that Monahan found himself having to duck-and-dive during the course of some 40-minute press conference with other topics including:

  • Will the PGA Tour end up in court with the breakaway Super Golf League?
  • Personal remarks directed at Monahan
  • Criticism of the Player Impact Program (PIP)
  • Suggestions by Rory McIlroy, as Chairman of the Players Advisory Committee, that the Tour should go public with fines or suspensions
  • Will the Tour distance itself from their own sponsors in John Deere and Coca-Cola who have both chosen not to distance themselves from the Ukraine War.
  • Spain’s push to have a PGA Tour-sanctioned event.
  • The future of the World Golf Hall of Fame

However, by far the majority of Monahan’s time dealt with fending-off Mickelson-related questions, with Monahan suggesting that Mickelson’s exile is, indeed, self-imposed and not a Tour suspension, with Monahan asked if he still feels he’s looking over his shoulder, given he’s not heard officially from Mickelson; saying also that Mickelson’s not made the effort either to contact him.

“I wake up every day assuming someone is trying to take my lunch. That’s the way I operate. That’s the way we operate as a team,” said Monahan.

“I have not talked to Phil since he made his comments and since he said that he was stepping away. Like I said, I think the ball is in his court. I would welcome a phone call from him. But it’s hard for me to talk about the different scenarios that could play out.

“Listen, he’s a player that’s won 45 times on the PGA Tour. He’s had a Hall of Fame career. He’s won here at The Players Championship. He’s inspired a lot of people and helped grow this Tour, his Tour.  He stepped away on his own accord, and he asked for time. He’s been given that time. We don’t comment on disciplinary matters, potential matters, or actual matters. But every player is accountable for their actions out here.

“So as difficult as it is to read some of the things that were said, ultimately a conversation will be had when he’s ready to have it, and I will be ready to have it, as well.:


JAY MONAHAN: Listen, our PGA Tour rules and regulations were written by the players, for the players. They’ve been in existence for over 50 years. I’m confident in our rules and regulations, my ability to administer them, and that’s my position on the matter. I can’t speak — say it any more clearly, that is — we’re confident in our position, and we’re going to keep moving forward as a PGA Tour and focus on the things that we control.

What’s most important is if you look at the PGA Tour today, and you’ve heard me say this before, we’re going to grow faster over the next 10 years than we have at any other point in our history. Our players have spoken. They are 100 percent behind the PGA Tour. They have expressed their loyalty and commitment in their own unique ways.

In 2021 and 2022, we have 13 title sponsors that are entering new title sponsor agreements. We’re secured through the end of next year. At the beginning of this year, we walk into our new media rights agreements with the partners I just mentioned through 2030. We have the backing of all of our partners. We’ve never been better positioned, and this is real.

We’re at The Players Championship. We’re back here, and we’re going to have full capacity, full crowds, the world’s best players, and we’re going to accelerate into our season of championships and continue to grow this TOUR. And when we do that, all that other stuff doesn’t matter because we’re in a position where no one can compete with what we have.


JAY MONAHAN: I think people know me and they know how I play and how we operate and the values that we stand for, and I don’t think there’s any question that that’s not how I operate. I haven’t had a lot of people ask me about it because people know me. I’m right here.


JAY MONAHAN: We always take into account feedback we get from our players, and I would — I’m really proud of the first year of the Player Impact Program. It’s something that we conceived in late 2019, early 2020, and if you look at what we were trying to accomplish, one of the things that we look at is we were entering into our new media rights agreements that are through 2030. You always benchmark your sport against other sports, our athletes against other athletes. We had made tremendous progress in the years leading into these media rights deals.

But if you look out into the future, we want our athletes to be more ubiquitous in mainstream media, in mainstream consciousness, and the way to do that is to get behind their TOUR and to continue to promote and build it.

I look at what happened in 2021, and all the criticism, it’s a first-year program. To me, we’ve got to look at it over the long-term, and I look at those 10 players and you’ve got 231 PGA TOUR wins, 39 major championships, 7 of the last 15 FedExCups. So, when you talk about having a positive impact on the game and you talk about legacy, we’re rewarding the players that have had the most positive impact and have sustained that over a career and are contributing to the business in that year.

Is it a perfect system? It’s the system that we’re going to go with through the end of 2022. We’ll reevaluate it at the end of the year. We think it’s working, but we’ll be open to taking a hard look and making adjustments that we think will further the program.


JAY MONAHAN: Did Rory just say that?

I can read you the quote, but one of the things — he was asked to give you a report card, which was very good, by the way —

JAY MONAHAN: I would just say effective immediately, Rory McIlroy is suspended. (Laughter.)

No, listen, Rory is a member of our policy board. He’s a player director. That’s something that has been raised in the past, and if that’s something that a member of our board feels strongly about, rest assured it’s a conversation we’ll have with our Player Advisory Council and ultimately our board. That’s the way the system works.

It’s a criticism that has been lobbied against the PGA TOUR through the years, and I think we always have to be open to evolving. That’s something that we are open to.


JAY MONAHAN: I have not had conversations with those two companies, but I think when you look at the partners that we have on the PGA TOUR, every single partner is heartbroken by what’s happening in Ukraine and every single partner of ours shares the same values.

This is happening in real-time, and I suspect that all of our companies as — all of our partners as they’ve done in the past, will do the right thing. I firmly believe that. Everybody is going through their own processes right now, but ultimately that’s my very strong belief.

Not having a lot of conversations, but just knowing how the companies we work with, the leaders there, how they operate.


JAY MONAHAN: I’m glad that you brought up our strategic alliance with the DP World Tour. Listen, since we’ve acquired 15 percent of European Tour Productions, we’ve been focused on supporting the media side of the business. There’s tremendous energy on that front with the DP World Tour. You’ve seen us contribute on the commercial side to a number of partners, most recently Horizon stepping up as title sponsor of the Irish Open. There is just tremendous momentum behind the DP World Tour.

As we work more closely together, and I alluded to this earlier, the possibilities of what we can do as a Tour and then what we can do together are really, really exciting. So, I can’t comment on the specifics of what’s going to happen at Valderrama. Obviously, a great championship golf course, but I know Keith, Guy, and the team have nothing but great aspirations for what we continue to do there.


JAY MONAHAN: We’re excited about our induction ceremony tomorrow night. We’re committed to the World Golf Hall of Fame through 2023. We’re looking at all of our options as we go forward. We’re fortunate to have been in St. Augustine for 25 years and are proud of the presence that we’ve created there, but to your point, the business of the Hall of Fame and the way that people consume Hall of Fames has changed, and we just want to make certain that any decision that we make about the next 25 years maximises our ability to showcase the incredible careers and impact that every single member that’s in the Hall of Fame has had on our game.

After sitting through this ‘different’ annual conference, it’s little wonder Monahan fears someone taking his lunch!

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