Jay Monahan. David Cannon
PGA Tour players offered a standing ovation when one of their peers called for new leadership during a meeting with commissioner Jay Monahan on Tuesday at Oakdale Golf & Country Club in Ontario, Canada, site of this week’s RBC Canadian Open.
That speaks volumes about how players received the news that Monahan had struck a deal, announced earlier in the day, whereby the tour had reached an agreement in principle that creates a collectively owned for-profit entity under which the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and the LIV Golf League will operate. Details remain to be finalised, but Monahan gave a broad outline to the membership in a meeting that lasted slightly more than an hour.
Reporting on Golf Channel, veteran Johnson Wagner, who listened into the meeting via a cell phone speaker, said players were largely unhappy with the news and that, in general, they felt betrayed by Monahan and tour leadership. At one point Monahan was asked if he had been transparent with the players, and he admitted that he had not. Wagner said his impression was that players were 90-10 against the proposed merger, which includes an agreement that ends all pending litigation between the parties.
“Look, I think Jay does a good job for us. I do,” said Ryan Armour, a member of the 16-member Player Advisory Council, which met via conference call after the player meeting attended by about 80 players. “I think he is a very smart man. The way he handled the challenges with Covid, got us through the crisis, he showed great leadership. But there’s a lot of disappointment today. What I have been told by my peers is that they feel betrayed right now. There must have been 20-25 guys who used that word. They feel backstabbed. And they feel slighted.
“The PAC call was a little less aggressive,” Armour added. “We’re taking a step back to see how this develops. But like I said, for a year and a half now, we have been told how evil certain golf leagues are, how evil their funding is and where it’s coming from. And now, no financials have changed hands yet, but the mood in the room is that guys feel used.”
“I’m glad I wasn’t Jay today,” Geoff Ogilvy said after the meeting. “There’s some grumpy players in there. I feel a little bit sort of, I’m not lied to, but just that the, the tour has sort of changed its position quickly like, and dropped it on us really fast. So maybe there’s a feeling of a lack of trust a little bit in the leadership. That’s not everyone in the room. It’s not me. It just feels like nobody really knows what’s happening and the players are out of the loop, but no one really ever likes being out of a loop. Everyone likes bit of information and especially when it’s your livelihood and your job and the sport that you love. So, it was an interesting meeting and sometimes meetings can get a little bit spicy.”
Spicy and then some, apparently. Some players called Monahan a hypocrite. “It was mentioned, yeah,” Ogilvy said. “He took it really well. I mean, that’s what the leader has to do though. The leader has to stand up and deliver good news sometimes and bad news sometimes.
“It was a tough meeting for both sides of things. I guess for Jay and all the players because nobody really knows what this is gonna look like in the end. And I guess one of the feelings is the players here just want the loyal players rewarded and not almost punished for staying.”
“I don’t like the word hypocrite. Jay put himself into a corner with some of the things he said over the last year,” Armour said. “The way some of the younger guys went at him, they brought up some of his quotes. There were some strong emotions in there.”
Now the question becomes, at least as it relates to what is in the minds of some players, is whether Monahan should be staying. He’s in the midst of brokering a deal that by all appearances will make the tour membership quite a bit richer. “He’s helping to make golf a major sport,” one player supportive of the commissioner said. “His sole job is to make money for the players. That’s his top goal.”
But others aren’t so sure that Monahan is the right leader beyond getting the merger with LIV Golf completed. Another player who listened by phone said that the subject of new leadership at the tour was brought up on four or five occasions.
“Sounds like our membership needs to start a search to find someone who is not in the PGA Tour, who better understands sports and marketing and who can make decisions that are best for the game and everyone in it and not just what’s best for today,” said one veteran player. “There are still a lot of details that we don’t know, but this is not the greatest look for the tour’s leadership to be so adamant in one direction and then just turn around and do something else.”