CHARLOTTE N.C. — Jay Monahan has not faced a more difficult time as a PGA Tour Commissioner.
More than twenty-six PGA Tour members have switched to the LIV Golf circuit, which has been helmed by two-time Open Championship winner. Greg NormanFunded by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund.
LIV Golf has filed a federal antitrust suit against the PGA Tour and three of its players. They claim that it illegally suspended their participation in LIV Golf events and that it uses its monopoly power as a squash competitor. The U.S. Department of Justice also opened an investigation into allegations of a monopoly by the PGA Tour.
The PGA Tour responded by increasing its purses for 12 higher-level events. These will have an average purse of $20 million and will be held in conjunction with the $25 million Players Championship. The tours top players have agreed to play in 20 events, starting this season.
Monahan spoke with ESPN about the Presidents Cup at Quail Hol Club last week.
Some players believe that LIV and the tour should be combined. What do you think?
Monahan, Well, I think words are as important as actions. It is impossible when players sue the PGA Tour and their employer sues the PGA Tour. Its not on the cards. Its not in cards. Thats something I feel weve done quite consistently on.
Can LIV Golf and the PGA Tour coexist?
Monahan, I would give the same answer. Theyve followed their path, and I think they have been quite consistent in claiming that were following ours. I dont see that happening. I dont think so.
How do you see the sports health in mens professional golf?
Monahan, Well, I can talk about the PGA Tours changes and the progress we have made. You can look back over the years and youll see that we entered a new rights period domestically as we approached 22. We were in a brand new rights cycle internationally, with great media partners. Our business model is that we generate our revenue through sponsorships, media rights, and the activations we do in each market with our hosts organizations. Weve reviewed our schedule and made structural changes.
We are now in an alliance with DP World Tour and work more closely than ever before. I am a member of the DP World Tours board. If you look at our membership composition and the global nature our membership, I believe were going to continue to learn from the changes weve made.
Some of these changes include the increased events, concentrating the schedule, making sure our product is as strong as possible, and ensuring that our members have a platform. Its not only about media, its also about television distribution. Today, you can see Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We generate over 100 million video views each week. This allows us to continue to be the strongest competitive platform as well as the strongest brand platform for players. Given the values we hold dear, the impact that we have, and the impact that we have, We will keep focusing on what we can control and get better and more effective at it.
What did Greg Norman, LIV Golf commissioner and CEO, think about Greg Normans recent trip to Capitol Hill
Monahan, Weve been going up to Capitol Hill multiple times a years since before I started the PGA Tour. But I didn’t and I don’t make much of it. If you go back as far as July 2, 1974, the granting of the PGA Tour [nonprofit]Its something we are proud of and take great pride in. We have raised more than $3.3 billion for charities since then. We have also promoted the values and competitive spirit of the game. Every constituency and market on all our tours has benefited from that. [nonprofit] status. We feel strongly and take that responsibility very seriously.
Anyone can tackle it. We are very comfortable to share our story, and not just our story today but the ongoing incredible work that will benefit people and communities moving forward.
What can you tell players to convince them to stay with the PGA Tour.
Monahan says: I concentrate on where we stand and where our future is. And Im focused on two things: What income possibilities you have on the PGA Tour. [and]The PGA Tour is competitive from a competitive viewpoint. What I tell someone depends on their purpose. What are you trying to achieve? This is the foundation of everything. Then you have to respond. If you want to reach the highest level of the game, and win the most championships, then you have an amazing story to tell.
Then, you talk about the model. Make sure that a player fully understands the concept of independence, being able to choose your schedule, being able to identify companies and people you want to partner with, as well as how your life will change as a PGA Tour member.
Today, you might be a young star. You might get married or have children. As you reach superstar status and take on more responsibility, thats a key element of what it takes for you to be successful at the highest level. That has been a constant feature of the PGA Tour and is a crucial element to our success.
Im quick to add: Make sure youre speaking with other people. I am only one voice. While I am honored to have the opportunity to lead this organization, I believe that you must know with certainty what you are getting into. As I try to provide that certainty for our side, and make sure that players understand it when they think about any possible changes,
What did you think about Tigers meeting in Wilmington before the BMW Championship in august?
Monahan: It was Tiger & Rorys meeting. I couldnt be more proud because weve been battling here for a long time and that meeting was the culmination of many discussions and exchanges over the past few months. Its a great moment when two icons of the game are taking on the responsibility of bringing the guys together, continuing to think of ways that the PGA Tour can improve, make it stronger, and making commitments that have never before been made. 1968 is a topic that people often talk about. [when the tour spun off into an organization for professional players]People talk about 1994 as the year that PGA Tour was established. [when the PGA Tour rebuffed Normans plans for a breakaway World Golf Tour]. And that was the kind of moment I thought it was.
For me, at the end of the day, and I feel like this is making me feel blue in the face, but the competitive framework and the integrity of that is so essential. And thats exactly what these players want to protect. To me, its the right way to approach things. Its not like that. … It was part a process, but it was an extremely important part of that process, if I understand you.
How important was Tigers leadership to the tour?
Monahan says: Its very important. Monahan: Ive stated it publicly and will continue to say it: You win out here 82 times, you win 15 major championships and you host the Genesis Invitational. Also, you can look at his TGR Foundation. When you look at all the players out here, and you ask them the question, almost all of them will answer the question. One reason theyre here is because they idolized him and looked up to him. His voice and his off-course presence are matched by him on the golf course. They look at him not only as a leader on the course but also off it.
A really important voice. It has always been very important and will continue to be. You can see Mr. [Jack]Nicklaus is here [at the Presidents Cup]. Hell be on the Presidents Cups tee. He has captained four teams. Jack hosted the 2013 event, and Jacks presence and voice are still a huge part of this game. Itll continue the same way when Tiger reaches that age. This is what makes our sport unique.
LIV, I believe, has been about the evolution of the game and its newness. What can you guys do to make the game more exciting? Competitive golf is competitive golf. But what can you do to make the fan experience better or offer new and exciting things to fans?
Monahan: I believe that change can be achieved from two perspectives. Ones the opponent and ones the friend. Weve talked about the changes were making in the competitive aspect of things. We will continue to learn from that. I believe that this benefits the fan as it lets them know at the beginning of each year where the top players on the PGA Tour will be playing and also ensures that there are more stars, more stories, and more breakthroughs during what is currently a short season. When you look at the major moments in our game, I believe well create even more interest. Then, theres the presentation of our product.
We are on ESPN+ right now, 4,300 hours. More than 50% of those people are there [watching]are younger than 35. We invest in all of our platforms to build the brand of our players. Were investing and were partnering with concepts such as Tomorrow Golf [with Woods and McIlroy]They are certain to appeal to younger audiences and will serve as a platform to foster innovation that will be a big part of our work over the next ten years. The place we end up will not be what we started with. Youll see significant progress on that front. If you look at the DP World Tours alliance, you will see that the game is viewed from a global perspective. As we reset the schedule, weve been to a number other markets.
Is there more we can do than what we have done? I thought last year was a good start, with the Genesis Scottish Open. The Barracuda, Barbasol, gaming nFTs, First Tee. Connecting young people on a life-cycle, bringing more diversity to the game. When you look at the whole of what weve done and will continue to do it, I believe that that will lead to us reaching a larger and younger audience.
One of the things that is being said about us is that our target audience is older. We do. But television is reaching an older audience. Television has seen an average age increase of 10% over the past 20 years. OK? The PGA Tour audience has also changed. When you look at other sports audiences, they are more than 20% older. Continuing, the more diverse your audience is, the more you can capture the whole spectrum of people, from the young to the elderly.
Why will LIV Golf outlast the PGA Tour?
Monahan says: Because the highest levels of the game are about aspiration. Its all about context. Its all about context. And every youngster today, every kid who will be playing the game in the future, will want to win some of the biggest championships or tournaments. We will continue to improve and become stronger in every area of this spectrum or on that journey.
The game will evolve as entertainment, but it wont be about entertainment. Its about how to achieve what. Tiger WoodsHas achieved, or Jordan SpiethOr Jon RahmOr Collin MorikawaOr Patrick CantlayOr Xander Schauffele? I could go on and continue. And the players right now on the Korn Ferry Tour, which are going be here in two years time, who will be among the top five and top 10 in world golf.
This is what the organization has stood for and strived to be stronger and more efficient at. I believe there is an important element to this: purpose. We talked about this earlier. What is your purpose in playing the games? What are you trying to achieve? What are your goals? The world needs more purpose.
The PGA Tour is a wonderful platform that does so much for the communities where it plays. We leave it better that we found it. We do so much good. Through First Tee and other programs, we invest back into the game. We see a system that is only going to get better through partnerships such as the DP World Tour, and stronger global presence and partnerships with other tours.
How can you make Presidents Cup more competitive?
Monahan, We invested in Junior Presidents Cup back 2017. On Tuesday, I was there and the internationals were three ahead in singles. The U.S. team won the match. But it was close and I believe that bodes well to the future of Presidents Cup.
Wow, thats 550,000 square feet of construction! [in Charlotte]. The Players Championship is the closest thing we have. It is more than 400,000. Each day, you have 40,000 participants. The events were sold out [on] Friday, Saturday, Sunday. To me, the staging is extraordinary. I believe we are playing a challenging golf course that will generate a lot of drama. Youve also got more international supporters than we have in the past to support this event. I believe we are on a very good path and on a very good trajectory. Were getting great support and strong interest in this property.