PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan spends Players Championship week zigzagging his way around TPC Sawgrass for countless meetings, which explained why on Saturday when he sat down with GolfChannel.com for an exclusive interview, his voice was soft and hoarse.
“Hopefully it’s just talking too much,” he smiled. “I don’t want to get sick.”
In a wide-ranging interview that covered a variety of topics from the 2018-19 Tour schedule to this week’s decision to pair Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, Monahan – who took over as commissioner in 2017 – made a clear statement that he was pleased with the direction of the circuit.
• At the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in March, Monahan said he was “hopeful” the 2018-19 schedule – which will include The Players moving to March, the PGA Championship moving to May and a pre-Labor Day finish to the season – would be ready for public consumption by this week’s Players Championship. It was not.
“It was our hope to announce it at The Players, but things are moving well,” he said. “The challenge is when you’re trying to solve a problem and then you think you have the problem solved and you have to get all the right pieces in a row. You might settle these issues but it might take some time to get everyone aligned.”
• One of the final pieces of that puzzle appears to be the Tour’s annual stop in Houston, which lost its title sponsor last year and continues to search for a replacement.
“We have the situation in Houston and we’re doing everything we can to get that solved,” he said. “The optimist in me thought there was a good chance we might have it solved by now. While we’re having good discussions it’s not yet complete.”
• This will be the final Players Championship played in May, with next year’s event moving back to March for the first time since 2006. For Monahan, the decision to move was two-fold as it applies to what’s best for the overall Tour schedule and the event.
“Having The Players here at TPC Sawgrass, in March, coming off, just look at the energy that was created in January and February this year,” he said. “To bring the best field in golf here, early in the season and to be able to use this platform and have tent-pole events, big events, every month March through July and get the playoffs to a position where we’re really excited about where we’re going, that’s good for the overall schedule.
“When you look at how we make this product [The Players] better, this product works in May, this product works in March. You need to pick the areas where you need to improve.”
• And finally, the commissioner talked about this week’s decision to pair Woods, Mickelson and Rickie Fowler for Rounds 1 and 2, which was the first time Tiger and Phil had been paired together for the first two days in a regular Tour event since 1998.
“There were a lot of people out here watching, not just those groups but the groups around them,” he said. “The three of them together, it was fun to see and watch.
“Tiger has returned to the game, he’s playing at a high level. Phil has won this year, it’s neat to see their relationship evolve and they’ve won this championship, like Rickie, let’s put them together.”
Monahan said he didn’t know when Woods and Mickelson might find themselves in the marquee group early in the week again, but explained The Players was the perfect spot to group them together.
“You’re not going to do this every week, but this is a great opportunity to do so,” he said. “When that will happen again, I don’t have a crystal ball. But we think long and hard about that process.”