When PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan returns to the job following “a medical situation,” he will face an immense challenge to take the framework agreement with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund from concept to reality if he wants to tap into “north of a billion dollars” in investment. But he has an even bigger job to address — especially if he wants to keep his job — winning back the trust and confidence of his players.
Monahan, who has been recovering from an undisclosed medical issue that was announced on June 13, sent a memo to players last Friday informing them that he would be returning to the job on July 17. When he does so, he will have to address a membership who have used words such as “betrayed” to describe their outrage with the announcement that the PGA Tour had struck a secretive deal to form a commercial entity with Saudi Arabia’s PIF, the financial backer behind the rival LIV Golf League. Monahan has admitted that he comes off as a hypocrite for his about-face, but he will need to show more contrition to win back the trust of the players — if that is possible.
During his Wednesday press conference in North Berwick, Scotland, Xander Schauffele, the defending champion of the Genesis Scottish Open, confirmed that his level of trust in Monahan has taken a hit.
“If you want to call it one of the rockier times on Tour, the guy that was supposed to be there for us, wasn’t. Obviously, he had some health issues. I’m glad that he said he’s feeling much better. But yeah, I’d say he has a lot of tough questions to answer in his return, and yeah, I don’t trust people easily. He had my trust and he has a lot less of it now. So I don’t stand alone when I say that,” Schauffele said. “Yeah, he’ll just have to answer our questions when he comes back.”
Schauffele recounted how on the morning of June 6, when the framework agreement was announced at 10 a.m. ET on CNBC, Schauffele was laying in bed with his French bulldog when his wife informed him of the news.
“I just remember laying there and I wanted to go back to bed, and then I was kind of like laying there, one eye (open), then my phone just started going off,” Schauffele said. “Unfortunately, I had to wake the little guy up and had to get my day started.”
Schauffele was asked if the news brought any peace and harmony to him.
“I would say peace and harmony is definitely the opposite of what the announcement brought to us players for the most part,” Schauffele said. “But like I alluded to or said earlier, I think in any tough situation, something good will happen. It may not seem like it when you’re stuck in, knee-deep in some of that. But for the most part, I do expect some good things to come from everything that’s happened, and hopefully, it’s some of our players getting more of that transparency that we have been asking for, for quite some time.”
Jordan Spieth seconded the notion that more transparency about the deal is needed.
“Honestly, we’re very much in the dark on it,” said Spieth, a three-time major winner and former player director on the Tour’s board. “You talk to a lot of other players, it’s been quite a shock from the get-go… I guess Jay is returning Monday and I’m sure as he starts to speak with you guys, maybe things have gone further. Clearly, I think we would probably [have] liked to have seen him at the Senate hearing (on Tuesday, July 11) if he was able to do so, just as a representative of the Tour. But I don’t know if there’s anything that concerns me. I just hear, if you name one factor of it, I’ve probably heard yes and no on either side of it on about every piece of it.”
Asked to address the trust issues Monahan will have to navigate when he returns, Spieth said, “Yeah, quite a bit, just based on conversations I’ve had with players, and I think he realizes that. I’m sure he’s preparing for a plan to try and build it back.”
Also on Monahan’s to-do list? Filling the empty seat on the Tour’s board after the resignation of independent director Randall Stephenson. The former AT&T CEO and Chairman served 12 years and also has been a mentor to Spieth, who has been an AT&T ambassador for a decade.
“I think he did as much as anybody to help put (the PGA Tour) in the right place,” Spieth said. “I think it’s a huge asset that we lost.”