Monahan is Mr. Want-to-Know-It-All

By Rex HoggardJanuary 12, 2017, 12:03 am

HONOLULU – On Monday, as he made his way through the Waialae clubhouse, a 1970s ranch deal with arguably the best views on the PGA Tour, Jay Monahan stopped every few steps to glad-hand.

There were the predictable encounters with the occasional A-lister - Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, et al. - that one would expect from the newly minted Tour commissioner; but it was the other stops, to talk with the occasional caddie or tournament official, that stood out.

Monahan is many things to many people – from passionate golf zealot who grew up in a “golf family” to unapologetic taskmaster who never turns off his day job; but as the 46-year-old made his way through the locker room it was another label that seemed to define the new guy – engaging.

Whether it’s the minutiae of some esoteric Tour policy or a broader discussion on growing the game while maintaining its traditions, Monahan is driven by information.

It will be a key component of Monahan’s leadership style, not necessarily one of consensus building but instead an insistence on making the most informed decision possible.

Immediate comparisons between Monahan and Tim Finchem, whom he replaced as commissioner on Jan. 1, are quickly evident. In an hour-long conversation with a handful of media last week in Maui, Monahan began the conversation with a curious commitment.

“I’m going to try and be as open and transparent as a I can be,” he said.

It’s not as though Finchem was ever dishonest or misleading, but he was never one to volunteer information or freely elaborate. Where Finchem has been described as steady and patient, some might even say deliberate, by comparison Monahan admits he’s not a patient person.

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“I can be anxious,” he admits. “Hopefully, it’s not apparent I’m anxious, but there’s not an idle moment.”

For Monahan, who was appointed deputy commissioner in 2014 and has been handling the day-to-day dealings of the Tour for some time, there is no detail too insignificant and no option too outlandish as he prepares for his first player meeting later this month at the Farmers Insurance Open.

That attention to detail is evident just by the routine Monahan keeps. Each day when he arrives in his office he will find a list of 10 priorities for the day, a second list of people he needs to talk to and a third list of things he needs to learn.

“That’s how I go about every day – try and have a fresh look at the things that are right in front of us,” he said.

From the day Monahan took office, those lists were filled with moving parts, from the possibility of a dramatically reworked Tour schedule to ongoing negotiations with the circuit’s television partners and potential sponsors.

The details of just one of those issues could overwhelm even the most structured chief executive, but it’s a telling moment when Monahan is asked the biggest challenges facing the Tour. He doesn’t slip into an overly complicated explanation of linear growth or a detailed conversation on the fundamental aspects of an influence matrix, but instead boils the road ahead down to two talking points.

“The world is so dynamic, the rate of acceleration and change is unlike anything we’ve seen,” he said. “For us to grow it starts with the fan and really understanding the fan, not just in the U.S. but throughout the world.”

Many have made the distinction over the years between Tour growth, which is healthy, and the growth of the game, which is struggling, but Monahan is quick to point out the two notions aren’t mutually exclusive.

“We have an important role that we are doing everything we can that we are part of the leadership in that regard,” he said.

To be fair to Finchem, who held the job for more than two decades, these are the same issues and priorities he had for years, but even this early in Monahan’s tenure it’s clear the new guy has a much different modus operandi.

It’s no surprise, for example, that one of Monahan’s first trips as commissioner-elect late last year was to Silicon Valley to meet with the heads of many of the top players in social media. In a refreshingly blunt style, he admits that the Tour hasn’t moved fast enough on this front.

“They told us to be more open, produce more video, and let your players speak more freely,” Monahan said.

If Finchem’s leadership style felt a tad risk-averse at times, Monahan seems to have embraced a notion of trial and error on many fronts, including social media which golf has been slow to embrace. It’s a side that the Tour’s membership has already come to appreciate.

“He’s very personable and all of us are very excited with Jay’s role as a guy who can be a sounding board for us as well as the guy who can make executive decisions,” said Spieth, who met with Monahan this week at Waialae.

Finchem’s reach still looms. In fact, Monahan said he’s already called his old boss on a number of issues, but as the commissioner went over a litany of topics last week in Maui the most revealing distinction between new and old came 57 minutes into the hour-long conversation when he declined to comment on his first, and only, question.

Fifty-seven minutes of no sidestepping or spin control. That's a good start.

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Stricker shares first-round lead in South Dakota

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2018, 12:48 am

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Steve Stricker shot a 7-under 63 on Friday to share the first-round lead at the Sanford International.

The 51-year-old Stricker was 8 under through 17 holes at chilly, rain-softened Minnehaha Country Club but closed with a bogey to fall into a tie with Jerry Smith, Brandt Jobe and David McKenzie.

Stricker only got to play seven holes in the pro-am because of rain that prevented the field from getting in much practice.

''You've just kind of got to trust your yardage book and hit to the spots and then try to make a good game plan on the way into the green, too, not really knowing where to hit it or where to miss it up there on the green. Sometimes it's good, too,'' Stricker said. ''You go around and you're focused a lot more on hitting it to a specific spot and not knowing what lies ahead in the course. So I guess today was the ultimate 'Take one hole at a time' because we didn't really know anything else, what was coming.''

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Stricker has two wins and has not finished worse than fifth in six starts this season on the over-50 tour as he continues to play a part-time schedule on the PGA Tour. Next week, he will be one of U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk's assistants at the matches outside Paris.

McKenzie, a 51-year-old Australian, had two eagles on the back nine, holing a wedge from 116 yards on the par-5 16th.

''We got told ... to play faster on No. 16, and so my caddie just said, 'Hit it in the hole so you don't have to putt it,' so I just did what he told me,'' McKenzie said.

Smith had eagles on Nos. 4 and 12.

''Honestly, I was just trying to hit some good shots and I really wasn't with the irons,'' Smith said. ''I just really didn't like the way I hit them today. You know, just the putter was the big difference for me. I just felt good with it all day, especially say outside of 10, 15 feet, where I felt like I was a lot.''

Scott McCarron, Lee Janzen and Paul Goydos were one shot back. McCarron came in second in the Charles Schwab Cup money standings behind Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is not playing this week.

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Glover (64) leads Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2018, 12:12 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover shot his second consecutive 7-under 64 on Friday to take a one-shot lead at the Tour Championship.

The 38-year-old Glover, who won the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, can still regain his PGA Tour card through a medical extension if he fails to earn enough money in the four-tournament Tour Finals. But a high finish this weekend at Atlantic Beach Country Club would take care of everything.

''I've got a lot to fall back on regardless of this week, but any time I tee it up, I want to play well,'' Glover said. ''Tomorrow won't be any different. Sunday won't be any different.''

Glover had arthroscopic knee surgery in June and will have eight starts to earn 53 FedEx Cup points and keep his card. He earned $17,212 in the first three Tour Finals events. The top 25 money winners in the series earn PGA Tour cards, and the final card went for $40,625 last year.

Glover was at 14-under 128. Denny McCarthy, who has already earned enough money to secure a return to the PGA Tour, was one shot back. McCarthy, a former Virginia player, has a shot at winning the Finals money list, which would guarantee him fully exempt status and entry into The Players Championship.

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

''There's no secret about it. I'll come out and tell you I'm here to win this tournament and get that No. 1 spot,'' McCarthy said. ''I've been hungry for a while. I have a pretty hungry attitude and I'm going to stay hungry.''

Tour veteran Cameron Tringale, who has earned just $2,660 after missing two of the first three cuts, was 12 under after a 67. Last year, Tringale entered the Tour Championship at 63rd on the Finals money list and finished tied for fifth to get back onto the PGA Tour. He struggled again this season, though, missing 19 cuts in 26 starts.

''Yeah, I was hoping last year was my last time here, but I do have a comfort at this golf course and I'm excited to keep pressing,'' Tringale said.

The four-tournament series features the top 75 players from the regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top 25 finishers on the regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals.

Sepp Straka and Ben Silverman were three shots back. Each would likely need a top-5 finish to earn his card.

Peter Malnati, who regained his card with a second-place finish in the opening finals event, followed his opening-round 74 with a 9-under 62, shooting an 8-under 27 on his second nine.

Four-time PGA Tour winner Aaron Baddeley was among those who missed the cut. He was 22nd on the finals money list going in and likely will fall short of earning his card.

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Thomas (69) only three back with 'C' or 'D' game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 21, 2018, 11:56 pm

ATLANTA – Justin Thomas was tied for fourth place following his second-round 69 on Friday at the Tour Championship, which considering the state of his game on Day 2 was an accomplishment.

“I wish I had my 'B' game today. I would say I had my 'C' or 'D' game today,” he laughed.

Thomas’ struggles were primarily with his driver and he hit just 6 of 14 fairways at East Lake, but he was able to scramble late in his round with birdies at Nos. 15 and 18 to remain three off the lead.

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“I drove it so poorly today, this is probably in my top 5 rounds of the year I'm most proud of just because I easily could have shot 4- or 5-over par today and not had a chance to win the tournament,” he said. “I hung in there and birdied two of the last four, and I have a chance.”

Thomas was slowed the last two weeks by a right wrist injury that limited his preparation for the finale and said the issue with his driver is timing and the byproduct of a lack of practice.

Thomas made up for his erratic driving with his short game, getting up and down four out of seven times including on the fourth hole when he missed the fairway well left, punched out short of the green and chipped in from 81 feet.

“[Rory McIlroy] just kind of said it looked like a ‘3’ the whole day and I kind of laughed because I played with him at The Players and I chipped in three times that first round with him, so I guess he's good luck for me,” Thomas said.

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McIlroy two behind Woods, Rose after 68

By Rex HoggardSeptember 21, 2018, 11:46 pm

ATLANTA – Maybe it should be no huge surprise that Rory McIlroy finds himself back in contention at the Tour Championship. It is, after all, a Ryder Cup year.

In 2016, McIlroy won the finale before heading to Hazeltine and posting a 3-2-0 record. In ’14, he finished runner-up to Billy Horschel and went 2-1-2 at the Ryder Cup; and in ’12 he finished tied for 10th place at East Lake and went 3-2-0 at Medinah.

“I was on such a high a couple of years ago going into Hazeltine after winning the whole thing, and I felt great about my game that week and played well. I won three matches,” McIlroy said. “I guess it doesn't matter whether it's a match play event or whatever. If you're playing well and you've played well the week before, I think most people can carry it into the next week, whatever that is.”

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McIlroy’s performance this week certainly qualifies as “playing well.” He charged out on Friday with birdies at two of his first three holes and bounced back from a pair of late bogeys to shoot a 68 and was in third place and two strokes off the lead held by Tiger Woods and Justin Rose.

“I've made 12 birdies in 36 holes, which is really good around here, and that's with not birdieing either of the par 5s today,” he said. “So yeah, just tidy up the mistakes a little bit.”