CHARLOTTE, NC – Jay Monahan has never faced more turmoil as PGA Tour commissioner.
More than two dozen members of the PGA Tour have defected to LIV Golf Circuit, which is fronted by two-time Open Championship winner Greg Norman and is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.
The PGA Tour is currently facing a federal antitrust lawsuit from LIV Golf and three of its players, alleging that it illegally blocked and monopolized the LIV Golf Tournament. The US Department of Justice has also opened an investigation into allegations that the PGA Tour is a monopoly.
The PGA Tour has responded to the risk by raising the purse for 12 events with average purses of $20 million to go along with the $25 million Players Championship. The tour’s top players have committed to playing in 20 events starting this season.
Monaghan sat down with ESPN for an exclusive interview following last week’s Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow Club.
Some players have said that the tour and LIV should come together. What is your opinion?
Monahan: Well, I think words and actions are important. When you see some players suing the PGA Tour, their employer sued the PGA Tour. It’s not in the cards. It wasn’t in the cards and it’s not in the cards. I think we’re pretty good on that front.
Monahan: I’ll give the same answer. The answer to that is that they’ve gone their way and I think we’ve been pretty consistent that we’re headed our way, and I don’t see that happening. I haven’t, and I never will.
Where do you see men’s professional golf going in terms of the health of the sport?
Monahan: Well, I can speak to the PGA Tour and the changes we’ve made. We’ve gone back two years, and as we come to 22, we’ve entered a new cycle of domestic rights. We were in a new rights cycle with great media partners globally. And the way our businesses operate, we monetize our revenue from media rights, sponsorships and hosting companies in the way we’re active in each market. We looked at our program, we made structural changes to our program.
We are in an alliance with DP World Tour, working closer together than ever before. I sit on the board of the DP World Tour. You look at the composition of our membership and the global nature of our membership, I think we’ll continue to build on the changes we’ve made.
Some of these changes are higher events, focusing our schedules, making our product as strong as possible and the platform we offer to our members. And not just about the media, but our television broadcast. Today you look at Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram — we’re generating over 100 million video views every week and making sure we’re not only providing the strongest competitive platform, but also the strongest brand platform. Our impact is based on the values we stand for as an organization for our players. Let’s focus on what we can control and get better and stronger at it.
What did LIV Golf CEO and Commissioner Greg Norman make of his recent visit to Capitol Hill?
Monahan: Before I got to the PGA Tour, we were going to Capitol Hill several times a year, and I didn’t and I didn’t accomplish much. If you go back to July 2, 1974 when the PGA Tour was awarded [nonprofit] Level, is something we are very proud of. If you look back since then, we’ve raised over $3.3 billion for charities, promoted the value of the game, the competitive spirit of the game and all that. Constituency, here in all our visits every market has been used there [nonprofit] situation. We feel very strongly and take this responsibility very seriously.
So anyone who wants to attack it, we’re very comfortable telling our story and the incredible work we continue to do to benefit not only our story today, but people and communities going forward.
What are you telling players to convince them to stay with the PGA Tour?
Monahan: I focus on where we are and where we’re going. And I’m going to focus on two things: what’s going to happen from a revenue standpoint on the PGA Tour; [and] From a competitive perspective on the PGA Tour, because ultimately what I’m telling someone is based on what their goals are. What do you want to accomplish? That’s where it all starts. And then they respond to it. To me, if you want to get to the top of the game and win the biggest championships in the game, we have an incredible story to tell on that front.
And then you really talk about the model and make sure the player fully understands what it means to have your freedom, to be able to pick and choose your schedule, identify companies and people you want to partner with. with, and to think about how your life will improve as a PGA Tour member.
You may be a young player today. You might get married and have kids in the future, and when you’re a superstar and have a lot of responsibility, that’s a very important part of what it takes to reach the very top. That’s something that’s been a constant on the PGA Tour and is a very important part of success here.
I also say: make sure you are talking to other people. I’m just one voice, and I’m honored to lead this organization, but when you make choices like this, you definitely need to know what you’re getting into. And I try to bring that certainty to our side and make sure the players understand that when they think about things that might change.
What did you do at the Tiger meeting in Wilmington, Delaware before the BMW Championship in August?
Monahan: It was a Tiger and Rory meeting and nothing made me more proud because we’ve been fighting here for a long time, and this meeting was the culmination of many discussions and exchanges over the past several months. It was a momentous moment when two icons of the game took over and took charge of bringing the men together and continuing to think of ways to improve the PGA Tour, making it stronger and making promises that had never been made before. by the time. People talk about 1968 [when the tour spun off into an organization for professional players]people talk about when the PGA Tour was founded and people talk about 1994. [when the PGA Tour rebuffed Norman’s plans for a breakaway World Golf Tour]. And I think that moment is here.
At the end of the day, for me, and I feel blue in the face of this, but the competitive framework here and the integrity of that is very important. And that’s what those players are trying to protect. And for me, I understand, honoring history, honoring tradition, at the same time, thinking about how we can evolve, is absolutely the right way to go about things. And it wasn’t like that for me. … That was part of the process, but it was a very important part of the process, if you know what I mean.
How important was Tiger’s leadership to the tour?
Monahan: It’s very important. I’ve said it publicly and I’ll keep saying it: You’ve won 82 times here, you’ve won 15 major championships, you’re the host of the Genesis Invitational and look at his TGR Foundation. If you ask all the players here, you’ll see that almost all of them are out here, and one of the reasons they’re out here is because they’ve shown him and seen him. Attendance on the course is matched by attendance outside the course. And so, not only him, I think his peers look at him as a leader, a leader on the golf course, but a leader off of it as well.
Again, a very important voice. So it has always been very important and always will be. I think they look at mr. [Jack] Nicklaus is here. [at the Presidents Cup]. It will be the first race for the Presidents Cup. He led four teams. In the year He hosted the show in 2013, and Jack’s presence and voice continue to be an integral part of this game. A tiger would be the same at that age. This is what is unique about our sport.
I think the biggest part of LIV is changing the game, its innovation. What can you guys do? I mean, competitive golf is competitive golf, but what can you do to make the fan experience different or something new and exciting for the fans?
Monahan: Change for me comes from two directions. One player is one fan. You and I talked about the changes we are making to the competitiveness of things. We will continue to lean towards that. And for me, this benefits the fan because at the beginning of the year, knowing where the best players on the PGA Tour are playing and knowing that you’re going to get more stars, more stories, more achievements now in the offseason. I think we’re going to be more interested, especially when you see the tentpole in our game. And then, you will see our product presentation.
Now we’re on ESPN+, 4,300 hours, more than 50% of those individuals [watching] They are under 35 years of age. We are investing in all our platforms to build the name and profile of our players. We are investing and partnering in concepts like tomorrow’s golf [with Woods and McIlroy]They certainly serve as a creative platform that appeals to a younger audience and will be a big part of what we do in the next 10 years. What we started is not where we end. I think you will see a lot of progress on this front. I think those who looked at our partnership with the DP World Tour and thought about the international base of the game. We have been in several markets outside of the US when we relaunched the program.
Is there anything we could have done better than we did? I think last year was a good start with the Genesis Scottish Open, Barracuda, Barbasol, Gaming NFTs, First Tee. Bringing more young people into the game and connecting them across the life cycle creating more diversity in our game. You look at the totality of what we do, have done and continue to do, I think that leads us to reach a broader, younger demographic.
Ironically, one of the things that is said about us is that we are reaching an older demographic. We do, but we reach an older demographic through television. And if you look at television in general, over the last 20 years the general population has aged by an average of 10%. all right? So is the PGA Tour audience. They watch other sports, and those viewers are over 20% older. So going forward, the more you expand your pipeline, the more you cover the entire spectrum from the younger to the older demographic.
Why is the PGA Tour better than LIV Golf?
Monahan: Because the game is about ambition to a great degree. It’s about context. And every young kid today, every kid who plays the game forward wants to eventually win the big championships, the big tournaments and put themselves in a place and a path in their golf journey. To the PGA Tour and again to reach the top. We continue to evolve and expand in each area of that spectrum or that journey.
And the game itself will continue to evolve from an entertainment perspective, but it won’t just be about entertainment. How can I achieve what Tiger Woods achieved or Jordan Spieth or Jon Rahm or Colin Morikawa or Patrick Cantlay or Xander Schaufele? I can go on and on. And the players currently in the Korn Ferry Tour, who will go here in two years, will be five or top 10 in the world.
I think that this organization has always stood for it and is always striving to strengthen and improve. And then I think there’s an important element of purpose here. And we talked about this before, but what is your purpose in playing the game? What do you want to achieve? But also, where do you want to be aligned objectively? And the world needs more purpose.
The PGA Tour is an incredible platform that does so much good for every community in which we play. We leave it better than we found it. We do a lot of good for a lot of people. We invest back into the game through First Tee and other programs. And it’s getting stronger as a system through partnerships like the DP World Tour and a stronger global presence and partnerships with other tours.
How can you make the Presidents Cup more competitive in the future?
Monahan: We invested in the Junior Presidents Cup in 2017. I was out on Tuesday, and the Internationals were three ahead going into singles and the American team came back and won. But that was as close as it got and I think that bodes well for the future of the Presidents Cup.
And talk about 550,000 square feet of fun to build [in Charlotte]. The closest we have is the Players Championship, which is over 400,000. You have 40,000 people a day. The events are sold out [on] Friday, Saturday, Sunday. The platform for me is unique. We’re playing a golf course that I think creates a lot of drama and excitement. And you have more international fans than ever to support the event. I think we are on a really good path and in a good direction. The envelope we are getting and the interest we have in this property is extremely strong and competitive.