Dear Jay . . . sorry, Mr. Commissioner,
The keys to the kingdom await on Monday, though not that many beyond the ivory walls in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., will notice. It will happen quietly in what is essentially a procedural vote that has been preordained for months, if not years.
Tim Finchem has been ready to step down as commissioner of the PGA Tour for some time, lingering just long enough to clean up some “loose ends,” presumably the new fall event in South Korea and the early stages of the television negotiations.
In September at the Tour Championship, when Finchem sat in for what was billed as his last time addressing the media as commissioner, it was the circuit’s cryptic way of saying the time has come for you, Jay Monahan, to take over the game’s most lucrative product. On Monday when the year’s final policy board meeting is held, the nine player and independent directors will rubber-stamp the new normal.
But you know all that. You’ve been groomed for this, having served as the Tour’s deputy commissioner and chief operating officer since 2014. Prior to that you tried your hand as the chief marketing officer, executive vice president and executive director of The Players.
Finchem’s uncanny ability to turn lemons into lemonade on the sponsorship front will not be easily duplicated. Whatever your opinion of the outgoing boss, his business acumen is nothing short of All World.
In 2007, the Tour had 47 official events. In ’09, in the wake of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the circuit had 47 official events. While other businesses scrambled to withstand the economic headwinds, Finchem & Co. maintained the status quo. He did this despite a competitive swoon by Tiger Woods, who played the Tour-minimum 15 events just three times since 2008. He did this despite declining participation numbers and struggling equipment sales.
But you were hand-picked as Finchem’s successor because of your ability to handle just those kinds of tough lies.
“I've worked with him closely now for a good period of time, and he's absolutely the right guy to deal with all that,” Finchem said in September. “He doesn't have a negative moment in his day. He is a total glass-is-half-full individual, and I think you'll see that as we go forward.”
No, the real challenges for you, Mr. Commissioner, will be much more nuanced.
You’ll have to embrace an evolving media landscape that delivers the product, your product, in vastly different ways – from social media content to live streaming and fan interaction.
You’ll also face evolving dogma.
Where Finchem clung deeply to the notion that the fans weren’t interested in dirty laundry, recent examples in other sports suggest otherwise.
Although it’s an extreme comparison and we’re not saying this sort of thing occurs on Tour, the media maelstrom caused last month when New York Giants kicker Josh Brown admitted to abusing his wife is an interesting lesson in transparency. While Finchem has long held that the public didn’t much care that the Tour didn’t announce fines and suspensions (other than those associated with the circuit’s performance-enhancing drug policy), the “don’t ask, don’t tell” game plan just doesn’t work in a hashtag society.
Along those lines, it might also be time to break with the notion that slow play isn’t a Tour problem. Although officials will say the circuit’s pace-of-play policy works, rounds that regularly approach 5 ½ hours beg to differ.
And this is a problem beyond the confines of Tour events as recreational players model their games, their pre-shot routines, after what they see on TV; and what they see are rounds that last far too long and are hurting the growth of the game.
Speaking of growing the game, although it’s not specifically mentioned in the Tour’s mission statement it’s time for you and your lieutenants to take a more active role in bringing new players to the game and keeping them playing.
The Tour is the engine that moves all wheels in golf, at least in the United States, and the circuit’s continued success and growing the game are not mutually exclusive concepts.
People who play golf are more inclined to watch golf, and vice versa, which would make a more detailed, more dedicated, more focused grow-the-game initiative in the Tour’s best interest.
Finally, you’ll need to address the emerging transatlantic elephant. Your European Tour counterpart Keith Pelley has been aggressive in his plan to make his circuit the center of the golf universe on certain weeks, and most agree that a stronger European Tour is good for everyone involved.
In his media farewell, Finchem mentioned globalization, or global, a dozen times in a not-so-subtle nod to the impending reality of a world tour. It won’t be easy, it won’t be seamless, but it will be something that needs to be addressed. Just saying.
By all accounts, you’re the right man for the job – thoughtful, focused, energized. But then what else would one expect considering Finchem’s attention to detail in everything else he’s accomplished?
Welcome to the new office, Mr. Commissioner. Now get to work.