PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan agreed to the framework of a deal to merge commercial operations with the DP World Tour and PIF on Tuesday morning. It was such a stunning reversal of his former hard-line stance that Monahan stood before his players later that day in Toronto and also took questions from the media.
So many questions were raised but first off, how did Monahan get from refusing to meet with the Saudis for the past several years to getting into bed with them?
“We just realized that we were better off together than we were fighting or apart, and by thinking about the game at large and eliminating a lot of the friction that’s been out there and doing this in a way where we can move forward,” he said. “Ultimately it was looking at the broader picture and saying that I don’t think it’s right or sustainable to have this tension in our sport and to be able to organize and orient this in a way where we’re in a control position, we have an investor, a great and world-class investor, and 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. 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.”
Monahan shared more on the timeline, noting that secret conversations had been conducted over the last seven weeks. There were four in-person meetings and a number of video calls and phone conversations.
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“When you get into these conversations, and given the complexity of what we were dealing with, it’s not uncommon that the circle of information is very tight,” Monahan explained. “In our case, we kept that information very tight. There were two prominent Policy Board members that sat side by side with me, our chairman Ed Herlihy as well as Jimmy Dunne, and ultimately we got to the point where we finalized everything last night and had a communications plan that we started first thing tomorrow.”
Monahan pointed out that Saudi Arabia’s financial resources will allow the Tour to capitalize on a number of opportunities that will allow it to create “meaningful growth” for its players.
“Between our reserves, the legal fees, our underpin and our commitment to the DP World Tour and their legal fees, it’s been significant,” he said of the costs of fighting a civil war with LIV. “I’m grateful that when we looked to ’24, the response that we’ve gotten from our sponsors and our partners has been very positive, and those losses that we’ve experienced in ’23 will be significantly mitigated.
“We’ve been handicapped. We’re a pass-through organization. We’ve not been able to reinvest our dollars in growth businesses, and now this gives us the opportunity to do that. Being able to do that and recognizing the uncertainty generally in the commercial realm going forward puts us in a position where I can say today to our members that we’re going to experience meaningful growth as we go forward.
“This puts us in a position where we’ve got capital that we can deploy to the benefit of our members and through our tournaments, and it gives us capital to deploy in growth businesses that ultimately will generate a return that we’ll reinvest in our players.”
Monahan said it was too soon to determine the pathway back for LIV players but he said those members who remained loyal made the right decision.
“They’ve helped rearchitect the future of the PGA Tour. They’ve moved us to a more pro-competitive model,” he said. “I think 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. 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.”