When the curtain came down on the 2022 season, and easily the most controversial in the history of men’s professional golf, one of the more talked about topics was the lack of formal comment from the office of the PGA Tour Commissioner.
Talk to observers in golf and it was Rory McIlroy, as Players Advisory Chairman, doing all the talking from the PGA Tour & DP World Tour side of the controversy involving LIV Golf, including his now infamous verbal ‘we need an adult in the room’ hand grenade hurled at LIV CEO Greg Norman, ahead of last November’s DP World Tour season-ending event in Dubai.
Yes, it’s all been McIlroy leading the verbal fight against the LIV Golf rebels.
Well, embattled Jay Monahan has emerged from his Florida offices at Ponte Vedra Beach to meet with a handful of journalists, and in what good friend and colleague Alan Shipnuck described was ‘a small windowless conference room’ deep within the Plantation course clubhouse in Hawaii.
Shipnuck, as he pointed out, has been striving to speak exclusively to Monahan all season but was unsuccessful. Of course, the now infamous comments gleaned by Shipnuck from Phil Mickelson early last year are no doubt the reason, as Shipnuck explained in his FirePit Collective article: “Monahan has been thwarted talking me (Shipnuck) at every turn by the watch dogs in the Tour’s communications department”.
So, what did we learn from Shipnuck and others who met with Monahan last Sunday morning US Hawaii time on the final day of the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
Firstly, and as reported at the outset of this article, it has been McIlroy leading the PGA Tour verbal fight against LIV, with Monahan confirming it was McIlroy and Tiger Woods who arranged the mid-August meeting of PGA Tour players.
“That was a meeting that was called by Tiger and Rory,” Monahan said. “I may have made suggestions. I understood who was going to be in the room, but it was their meeting. I mean, I want to be very clear that it was their meeting.”
So, did Monahan have any input on how the PGA Tour was going to be reorganised?: “I think the reality is prior to that, I had a lot of conversations with Tiger at Rory,” Monahan said, “so I had a general sense of what they were talking about. Absolutely.”
Shipnuck mentioned one ‘news item’ to come out of Sunday’s meeting with Monahan was that the PGA Tour will allow a number of PGA Tour players be ‘released’ to contest the February 2nd starting Asian Tour sanctioned Saudi International, including defending champ Harold Varner III. This is normal practice between the ‘big three’ in men’s golf.
If this first meeting with accredited PGA Tour journalists for a long time got feisty, Shipnuck said it was when he asked Monahan, ‘if Norman called him tomorrow, would he take the call?’
“He hasn’t called me so…” Monahan said to Shipnuck
“But if he did?”
“You know me well enough, I’m not getting into hypotheticals.”
“Let me rephrase it: Why have you not had any contact with him throughout this whole process?”
“Now Alan, I think you’ve heard me say a bunch of times that we’re focusing on what we control. We’re at a point now where it’s product versus product. And we have our schedule, we’ve laid it out, we’re going to keep getting better and better and better. They have theirs, and we’re going to continue to be the most pro-competitive aspirational tour. What they have is very different from what we have. We’re going down our path and they’re going down theirs.”
Monahan had been talking with the assembled media for over an hour, with the Commissioner winding-up by answering whether the PGA Tour is now stronger than it was before the emergence of LIV Golf.
“I think the model of the PGA Tour is as strong as it’s ever been,” he said. “If you look at it from a player standpoint, I feel like we have made changes to our schedule, changes to our product that I think make us as attractive as we can possibly be to top players.
“I think for them, the most important piece in putting together a schedule for the players. Does it put the players in the best possible position to achieve at the highest levels of the game? I think we absolutely have done that and we’ll continue to do that. As it relates to strength, we’re growing, growing financially. Last year we had a 31 percent increase in comprehensive player earnings.
“I think this year we’re somewhere between 16 and 18 percent, and we have a solid group of sponsors, media partners, tournament organisations all coming together. And I feel like as you look out to the future, despite the challenges of the past year, we’re again the strongest we’ve ever been, and I’m going to do everything I can to make certain that continues to be the case.”