PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said on Wednesday that he will meet next week with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan, while also strongly asserting that other investors will come on board to “help take the PGA Tour to another level and help us take share from other sports and even be more competitive.”
Monahan spoke at the New York Times DealBook Summit, covering a number of topics from the tumultuous past year that included the continued threat of losing players to LIV Golf; the tour’s surprise framework agreement with PIF in negotiations unknown to the players, and the subsequent leave of absence Monahan took to address his own mental health issues.
Monahan, the tour’s commissioner since 2017, returned to his job in late July but has faced withering criticism from some players for the lack of transparency during the PIF negotiations and the concern expressed by some that he is no longer the best person to lead the tour.
Monahan, 53, did not address those concerns in his talk on Wednesday; instead, he portrayed himself as a key player in the continued negotiations with PIF and other potential investors. A deadline of Dec. 31 was set for a deal to be finalized in the original framework agreement.
“We’re having conversations with multiple parties,” Monahan said. “The deadline for our conversations with PIF, as you know, is a firm target. I’ll be with Yasir next week. And we continue to advance our conversations. And I think it’s pretty well known that there’s a large number of other interested parties that we’re also pushing to think about.”
Fenway Sports Group and KKR & Co. investment firm co-founder Henry Kravis have been among the entities that are reportedly interested in a tour stake.
“When this gets finalized,” Monahan said, “the PGA Tour is going to be in a position that … the athletes are owners in their sport, and you’ve got not only the PIF, but you’ve likely got another co-investor, with significant experience in business, in sport and brand that’s going to help take the PGA Tour to another level and help us take share from other sports and even be more competitive.”
In the aftermath of the stunning announcement on June 6 about the PIF agreement, Monahan felt barbs of criticism from numerous sides, and that situation came to a head when, a week later, it was announced that the commissioner was taking a leave of absence from the tour for health issues. Monahan revealed in August that he was suffering from anxiety related to the PIF situation that caused him physical and emotional distress.
“I think what’s happening to me in my head around that timeframe was not too dissimilar to what was happening to me in my head in the months prior to it,” Monahan said on Wednesday. “This had been an extended conflict.”
It clearly pained him to leave at such a critical time in the tour’s history.
“I knew I’m the first person to run into a fight,” Monahan said. “Anybody that knows me will tell you that. And I knew the perception was that I was running away from a fight. And that was excruciating. That hurt me to my core.”
In his most insightful comments since his absence, Monahan called himself “a work in progress,” while noting that he’s taken steps in his life, both mentally and physically, to rectify some of his past problems in dealing with stress.
“You’ll hear people talk a lot about ‘I focus on the things I can control.’ I wasn’t doing a good job of that,” Monahan said. “I was confusing that. I am fully focused on the things I control. And so, you have to realize that it’s part of life, it’s part of who I am, it’s my truth. And I am a work in progress. And I’m just every single day trying to improve.”
Having said all of that, Monahan continues to believe that his decisions during the year have put the PGA Tour and its players in a better position for the future.
“People have made far more consequential decisions than the one that I’ve made and ultimately, the one that we’re going to make,” Monahan said. “You have to look out over the horizon, you have to believe in your heart of hearts that what you’re committing to is the right decision. And you have to be willing to take all the criticism, and there has been a lot of it, and it will continue to be more.”
Image: Jason Allen/ISI Photos