PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan says 'people are going to call me a hypocrite' over LIV merger

Tom D'Angelo
Palm Beach Post

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan's 90-minute meeting with players hours after announcing a merger with LIV Golf did not go well.

Monahan described the meeting in Toronto on Tuesday ahead of the Canadian Open as "intense, certainly heated" and later acknowledged — and accepted — he'll be labeled a "hypocrite" for his previous stance on LIV, which is financed by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund.

"I recognize that people are going to call me a hypocrite," Monahan said. "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."

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A point to where Monahan sat side-by-side Tuesday on a CNBC set with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of Saudi’s PIF, to announce "a framework agreement" that would combine their commercial businesses and rights into a new entity and Al-Rumayyan joining the board of the PGA Tour.

"This is an awful lot to ask them to digest," Monahan said about tour members, "and this is a significant change for us in the direction that we were going down.

"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 and grow the PGA Tour."

But PGA Tour players may not see this the same way. They are upset with the deal, feeling their loyalty to the tour and their decisions to turn down generational money from Saudi's sovereign wealth fund was not rewarded while those who defected from the tour will benefit the most.

With reports that Monahan faced calls to resign at the meeting, he attempted to present the deal as one that will benefit all players and is trying to convince those who remained on the Tour that they made the right decision.

"You know, it probably didn't seem this way to them, but as I looked to our players, those players that have been loyal to the PGA Tour … they've made the right decision," Monahan said. "They've helped re-architect the future of the PGA Tour. They've moved us to a more pro-competitive model.

"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."

Monahan said the two sides have been talking for seven weeks, including four in-person meetings (which included a round of golf in London) and many phone conversations and video calls. As for how the tour will look in 2024, that remains a work in progress although when asked whether LIV would coexist in its present form in 2024, Monahan said, "I can't see that scenario."

With the PIF committing billions to the new venture, Monahan said the costs, including legal fees, of the yearlong war with LIV will be mitigated.

"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.

"Ultimately to take the competitor off of the board, to have them exist as a partner, not an owner, and for us to be able to control the direction going forward, put us in a position as the PGA Tour to do and serve our members, and at the same time, again, get to a productive position for the game at large … 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."