PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan speaks to the media during a practice round for the 2019 Players Championship. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
By Brian Wacker
Snafus, spats and endless kvetching. That, in short, describes the rollout of the new Rules of Golf from the USGA and R&A in 2019, with no shortage of controversy and outcry for change.
Don’t expect any of it, however, to lead to the PGA Tour creating its own set of rules. At least not anytime soon.
“We have two fantastic professional governing bodies of the game,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said Wednesday on the eve of the Players Championship. “We have always played by their rules, and we will continue to play by their rules. And we are not going to be playing by our own rules. We think that the game is best served with everybody playing by the same rules and the same standards.”
The rift between players and the game’s governing bodies appeared to come to a head two weeks ago during the Honda Classic when Justin Thomas blasted the USGA and R&A over a new rule on caddie alignment after Adam Schenk became the third player to be penalized for the infraction as he played out of a bunker on the 17th hole at PGA National.
The USGA responded to Thomas’ tweet with one of its own from its PR account, accusing Thomas of having “cancelled every meeting we’ve planned” and saying they “needed to talk.”
The two sides eventually took the discussion offline but the damage had been done. More players continued to speak out, with some saying the tour should make its own rules.
In a memo to players after the Honda, Monahan stated that the tour had been involved in the rules modernization process since the USGA and R&A began initial discussion seven years ago and that it would continue to voice questions and concerns when appropriate. But it was not looking to go in its own direction on the matter. However, the start of 2019 had raised a different issue that he hopes will be addressed in the near future.
“I think what’s happened here the last few weeks has just exposed a weakness in our working relationship, which happens when you got a lot of different organizations,” said Monahan, who said he spent two hours with members of the R&A, USGA, PGA of America, European Tour, LPGA and Augusta National on Wednesday morning. “We’re going to tighten that up, and we’re going to move forward in a way that is going to be good for the game and certainly is going to get us to the right place over time with these new rules.”
What that tightening up will be and what it will ultimately lead to, however, remains unclear. But it won’t involve bifurcation.