Monahan talks Trump, schedule, Tour transparency


KAPALUA, Hawaii – Five days into his new gig as PGA Tour commissioner, Jay Monahan met with a group of golf writers on Saturday at the SBS Tournament of Champions to cover a wide range of topics.

Although the 46-year-old said his early days in office have been spent focused on more long-term issues, like growing the game and identifying the modern fan and the litany of ways the Tour delivers its product - from traditional broadcast partners to social media and new delivery platforms - the hour-long conversation included a number of new initiatives and issues.

•  With the U.S. presidential inauguration just two weeks away, Monahan was asked how the Tour’s relationship with president-elect Donald Trump may have been impacted by the circuit’s move away from Doral, which is owned by Trump.

“When you look back at that, the reason we’re not there is because we couldn’t find a sponsor,” said Monahan of the World Golf Championship that has been moved to Mexico City. “For me, I spent a lot of time trying to find a sponsor for that tournament. We weren’t just leaving Trump Doral, we were leaving volunteers that had been there 50 years.

“Like any relationship, we’re committed to finding a way to get back there.”

Monahan said the Tour continues to seek a new sponsor for the Miami stop, which has been a Tour stable since 1962, and that it’s “highly likely” that the circuit would return to South Florida.

As for the impact Trump’s presidency could have on the game, he was also optimistic.

“We see president-elect Trump as being probably the best golfer to ever sit in office and probably the most golf knowledgeable,” he said. “For the game, that’s a tremendous thing.”

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•  The commissioner also shed some light on the growing notion the Tour is moving toward a more condensed schedule that would end before the start of the NFL season and could include a dramatic reshuffling, with The Players moving back to March and the PGA Championship sliding from its traditional date in August to May.

“I’d say we are early in the process. If we were going to make any changes it’s going to take time,” he said. “We’ve heard from a number of people who have said it would make since that we complete the FedEx Cup before the start of the NFL season and we think there’s a lot of merit to that, but to do that requires a lot of shifting and moving.”

Monahan said no decisions on possible changes have been made and that the other players in the mix, most notably the PGA of America which would give up its spot as the year’s last major, would need to see the value of a possible makeover.

“It’s not as though we’re going to say this is the schedule, everyone has to adapt,” he said. “Our responsibility is to work very closely with the PGA of America and it’s got to work for everybody.”

Another piece of those changes would likely be a reduction of the number of FedEx Cup Playoff events, from four to three, and Monahan confirmed postseason contraction is a consideration. “If we were to execute the schedule that I just mentioned I think it’s likely,” he said.

•  One area where Monahan, who succeeded Tim Finchem, didn’t appear to have any interest in breaking from tradition is regarding the Tour’s policy of not disclosing player fines and suspensions (only performance-related violations of the circuit’s anti-doping program are made public).

“We implemented our anti-doping program in July 2008, and have given thousands of tests. We’ve had a few incidences and for us, more importantly, we’ve had few secondary incidences,” he said. “Whatever we’re doing is in a way that is helping our players.”

Although Monahan said the Tour will continue to look at the policy, just as they’ve always done, he added, “I think our system works. I know there is a desire to know everything that’s happened, but our job is we’re family and if there’s an issue in your family you deal with it.”

•  Monahan also expressed his concern over recent reports that the Olympic Golf Course in Brazil is already struggling to attract players and is in financial trouble.

“It’s very disappointing. We had four of our employees take 110 round-trip tickets to Brazil in five years to get that golf course ready,” he said. “We thought as a result of the Olympics and some of the commitments made to us that there wouldn’t be any question as to the future of that golf course.

“So to hear these continued questions as to the challenges to the golf course, which are very real, and honestly may not be solvable, it’s very disappointing.”