PGA Commissioner Jay Monahan on LIV Merger: I Know People Will ‘Call Me a Hypocrite’

PGA Commissioner Jay Monahan on LIV Merger: I Know People Will ‘Call Me a Hypocrite’ article feature image

David Cannon/Getty Images. Pictured: Jay Monahan the Commissioner of The PGA Tour.

In the eyes of many impacted by the announcement Tuesday that the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and Public Investment Fund (PIF), which owns and operates LIV Golf, will merge commercial operations – including PGA Tour members who met with PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan during a closed-door meeting – the news came down to three little words.

Royalty over loyalty.

The PIF is chaired, of course, by Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, whose involvement in the world of professional golf incited ceaseless criticism – perhaps from nobody more than Monahan himself, who so often over the past 18 months crowed about the wholesome, traditional, play-for-your-pay structure of his tour, while castigating the rich-get-richer system immediately employed by LIV to attract some of the world’s best players.

In response, Monahan often implored the PGA Tour membership to continue doing the “right” thing, to not sell out for foreign riches, to not make a deal based entirely on the bottom dollar.

Ironic now, isn’t it?

Well, the irony doesn’t conclude there, as the man who preached loyalty for the past year-and-a-half has essentially traded it in for what he calls a “framework agreement” which will allow the merged parties to better “reinvest in growth businesses.” All of which signifies an abrupt about-face from those previous sentiments.

“I recognize everything that I've said in the past and in my prior positions; I recognize that people are going to call me a hypocrite,” Monahan said in a conference call with media members. “Anytime I said anything, I said it with the information that I had at that moment, and I said it based on someone that's trying to compete for the PGA Tour and our players. I accept those criticisms. But circumstances do change. I think that in looking at the big picture and looking at it this way, that's what got us to this point.”

During the closed-door players-only meeting with Monahan at the RBC Canadian Open on Tuesday afternoon, the commissioner was asked by PGA Tour members on multiple occasions to step down from his current role and resign, an appeal which yielded an ovation from the assembled players.

There was also some discourse about boycotting this week's tournament, though it was quickly realized that such an act would hurt the title sponsor more than the PGA Tour itself.

And at one point, a player brought up Monahan's answer to a question prior to last year's Tour Championship about whether LIV players would ever be allowed to compete in PGA Tour events again: “No, they've joined the LIV Golf Series, and they've made that commitment. For most of them, they've made multiyear commitments. As I've been clear throughout, every player has a choice, and I respect their choice, but they've made it. We've made ours."

Asked to react to his own comment based on the latest news, Monahan reportedly said (paraphrasing), "I don't feel very good about it."

That’s going to be a bitter pill to swallow for the elite-level players who had an opportunity to jump ship but instead ate up the rhetoric about integrity and devotion.

Monahan admitted that the player meeting at Oakdale Golf & Country Club, site of this week’s RBC Canadian Open, was “intense; certainly heated” and acknowledged an understanding of such feedback from the membership.

And yet, his initial response to this reaction doesn’t seem wholly satisfying.

“It probably didn't seem this way to them, but as I looked to our players, those players that have been loyal to the PGA Tour, I'm confident that the move that they made — they've made the right decision,” he explained. “They've helped rearchitect the future of the PGA Tour. They've moved us to a more pro-competitive model.”

The analogy might not be perfect, but it’s akin to expecting a holiday bonus and receiving a gift card to the jelly-of-the-month club.

If the PGA Tour’s proletariat class has felt jaded over the past year when their more talented players have private meetings to determine their fate in a Wilmington, Del., ballroom, it can take solace in the fact that there’s an apparent solidarity to this latest news, a strength in numbers that hasn’t always been evident.

Early reports are that even Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, the two most vocal leaders of the circuit, both publicly and behind closed doors, didn’t know anything about this merger until it had become a done deal.

Again, the echo from their commissioner is that he’s doing it for their own good.

“Any player that has stayed is going to realize that the money that they're going to make, the strength of this platform, all the things that we talk about are going to put them in a really strong position,” Monahan continued. “They're going to win. They're going to continue to grow, and we're in a control position on their behalf as we move forward in this structure.”

Ever since the outset of LIV Golf, those within the PGA Tour executive branch lectured about taking the moral high ground, about remaining loyal to the tour to which they’d always belonged.

In the end – if this is indeed the end – they learned yet again that loyalty is nice, but massive amounts of money are apparently much nicer.

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