Jay Monahan isn’t over a putt to win every time he gets out of bed now.
It’s more like he’s over a putt to lose.
And the putt keeps getting longer.
Nobody in golf is under more unrelenting pressure to succeed than the PGA Tour commissioner, nobody has more at stake and nobody is dealing with more uncontrollable variables.
Navigating through the coronavirus pandemic grows more daunting with each COVID-19 infection.
Make that six PGA Tour players now, with Tuesday’s news that first alternate Chad Campbell was withdrawn from the Rocket Mortgage Classic after testing positive. He joins Harris English and Dylan Frittelli among those with the virus who were pulled from this week’s event.
You thought the U.S. Open was a war of attrition?
Every PGA Tour event could soon begin to feel like that.
While six total player infections really aren’t that bad to date, nobody wants to see this trend up to match what’s happening nationally.
Monahan’s challenge is doing something so many states he is visiting aren’t doing. His challenge is preventing a debilitating spike within his ranks. He’s fighting the good fight, preaching a good message. He’s practically a front-line worker now.
The USGA, the R&A, the PGA of America, the European Tour and the LPGA are watching every step the commissioner takes as he tries to guide hundreds of players, officials and volunteers through invisible microbe clouds potentially more penalizing than any water “hazard” or pot bunker the game has ever seen.
It is clear that makes Monahan’s title way too confining.
He is more like the commissioner of all of golf now.
Heck, the NBA, Major League Baseball and the NFL are also watching him as they continue to prepare to play amid the pandemic.
“While we feel a responsibility to sport more broadly, we also feel a great responsibility to our peers in the [golf] industry,” Monahan told Golf Channel on Saturday.
The Open Championship has already been canceled. The Ryder Cup might be nearing a postponement, too.
If the PGA Tour can’t make it through July, it won’t be a surprise to see the PGA Championship, the U.S. Open and the Masters scrub their plans for 2020.
Count LPGA commissioner Mike Whan among those grateful Monahan’s leading. He will benefit from every move Monahan’s team makes, including the mistakes, with the LPGA scheduled to restart in another month.
“I don’t mind learning from other people who might be smarter than me, who might have more resources, to make sure that our plan, if it could be bolstered, is bolstered,” Whan said.
Monahan hasn’t said how many infections it will take to pull the plug on this restart, but the question grows more burdensome knowing so many other sports’ plans are lined up like dominoes behind him.
Still, the PGA Tour is ahead of Major League Baseball, with baseball continuing its plans to restart in a little more than three weeks, despite USA Today’s report that more than 40 players and staff have been infected with the virus.
The Phillies have reported 12 infections alone.
Some major leaguers are already “opting out” of the MLB’s short season plan.
“There’s still a part of me that isn’t quite sure we will actually play games,” Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun told the Los Angeles Times on Monday. “I’m optimistic that we will play games, but, obviously, if we look at what’s happening in the country, the COVID numbers are not good.”
If the PGA Tour’s infection rate begins to look like a spike, Monahan could see his own players opting out before he pulls the plug.
If stars like Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka and Tiger Woods are among them, a shutdown may be unavoidable.
If you’re a golf fan, you’re really rooting for Monahan.
If his plans prevail, we all prevail.
If he actually steers the Tour through the rest of this year without enduring a major outbreak or a shutdown, somebody should clear a space in the World Golf Hall of Fame and forgo the voting process.
If he can succeed making us all feel good about how he mitigated risk, he’ll be a Hall of Famer just three-and-a-half years into the job.
But more than golf and other sporting leagues are watching to see if Monahan call pull this off.
Virologists, epidemiologists, mayors, governors, congressional leaders and economists are watching.
If Monahan and his team can use social distancing, testing, contact tracing and other fundamental tactics in a coordinated effort that allows the PGA Tour’s micro-economy to succeed amid the pandemic, there’s added hope for the economy at large.
That’s what Monahan is right now, too.
He’s the commissioner of hope.
Even if Monahan can’t make this work, if the virus is spreading too rampantly to manage a working golf environment, it’s been a yeoman’s work. You can’t fault him for the ambitious planning to this point, for the determination to make science work.
Any father with young adult children still under his roof can relate to Monahan’s challenge. A bubble can feel like a prison to the most well-intentioned youth trying to do the right things over a three-month sentence. And Monahan’s “family” is so much larger to manage, with some members feeling a tad too invincible in the moving bubble.
There’s an old saying in journalism, “There’s no cheering in the press box.” But you can root for the story, and Monahan’s triumph would be a great story — maybe one of golf’s best ever.