The story of 2023? June 6th, the day everything changed

Jay Monahan

Jay Monahan at the 2023 Tour Championship.

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Ah, 2023. The year everything changed … again. For the second straight year, we left 2023 with a drastically different perspective of professional golf than we entered. Now, as we look back at the year that was — with LIV major championships, Ryder Cup controversies and oh so many other stories — we’re remembering the 15 biggest moments that defined the year in golf. Let’s get digging.

Biggest Golf Moments of 2023 …
No. 15: Viktor Hovland’s arrival 
No. 14: Fowler, Day back in the winner’s circle 
No. 13: Brian Harman’s Open rout 
No. 12: The Michael Block Party 
No. 11: Wyndham Clark’s breakout 
No. 10: Lilia Vu’s rise 
No. 9: LIV Golf’s OWGR snub 
No. 8: The players regain control 
No. 7: Ciganda’s Spanish Solheim triumph 
No. 6: Tiger Woods’ 2023 return 
No. 5: Brooks Koepka’s PGA Championship triumph 
No. 4: Ryder Cup gets testy 
No. 3: Jon Rahm joins LIV Golf
No. 2: The USGA/R&A roll back the golf ball

Biggest Golf Moments of 2023 No. 1: PGA Tour agrees to forge a future with Saudi Arabia

By the time Jay Monahan and Yasir Al-Rumayyan appeared together, within the constraints of the same TV screen, broadcast around the world on CNBC, only a few dozen people knew why. There were the two major leaders in golf, both pictured on screen — they obviously knew — a handful of Tour executives and communications staffers, a small group who work on behalf of the Saudi PIF, directors of the PGA Tour’s policy board and a couple of the most important golfers in the world. Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Jon Rahm — you know the names.

In total, maybe 30 need-to-know people were ready for the shocking visual of two warring sides now standing side by side. That, and any Tour members who avidly check their email inboxes. 

Because of the sensitivity of negotiations and the vitriolic nature by which the PGA Tour and LIV Golf had co-existed to that point, a dominant majority of golfers on both sides had no clue that a deal between the two was coming. Collin Morikawa found out via Twitter. Mackenzie Hughes found out when a reporter texted him. Cameron Young found out even later, only when RBC CEO David McKay told him. Young had been blissfully working at a youth clinic for most of an hour before the news finally reached him. According to McKay, Young needed to see headlines on a smartphone before he even believed it. 

The shocking development arrived for most people just before 10 a.m. Eastern and kicked off maybe the weirdest Tuesday in the history of the PGA Tour. Monahan quickly departed from New York, where the interview with Al-Rumayyan was taped, and flew up to Toronto to face the music at the RBC Canadian Open. Most of the players in the field in Toronto were in attendance at a players meeting — about 100 in total — but many refused to stay for the full time. Tommy Fleetwood was among the group who left early, admitting that he wasn’t going to get any better information by hanging around. Martin Trainer was among the handful who declined to even show up at all, knowing how these player meetings can get, and also knowing that the golf course was basically empty that afternoon. 

For about 75 minutes, Monahan fielded questions and criticism from players. By his own admission, it was “intense.” Players wanted to know how he could flip 180 degrees so quickly, and without much of a discussion with the actual golfers who make up his tour. They also wanted to know what this meant for the 9/11 rhetoric Monahan had leaned on in public appearances in 2022. Other players who weren’t in Toronto were anxious as ever, but weren’t allowed to call in to the proceedings. One of those in the room, Grayson Murray, even stood up and called out aloud for Monahan’s resignation. 

As hostile as it may have been, one of the overarching points Monahan stressed was that the framework agreement signed by both parties was definitive in only a few ways. Primarily, it ended the litigation between the Tour and LIV Golf, which had reached an eight-digit cost over 10 months of legal maneuvering. As we would come to find out in the following months, the agreement was merely a deal to try to make a deal, the negotiations of which are painstakingly ongoing. 

Yep, that’s right. For those who thought on June 6 that the PGA Tour bought LIV Golf, or that LIV Golf bought the PGA Tour, or that Greg Norman lost his job, or that Greg Norman might be ultimately vindicated in his own 30-year battle for a startup tour — everything remains in flux. And in one week, on Jan. 6, some seven months removed from the announcement, much will remain in flux. According to a report from the Telegraph, the two sides are expected to extend their negotiation deadline until early April. 

What’s ironic now is how the questions that circled around Oakdale Golf and Country Club on June 6th, 7th and 8th were either spot-on or hilariously wide of the mark. 

Harry Higgs seemed positive that some players would be given equity stakes in the PGA Tour’s new, for-profit entity. That one is sure to become true.

Chesson Hadley seemed to think he (and others) might be entitled to a loyalty payment, as he was among the players who didn’t leave for LIV Golf. For the Xander Schauffeles of the world, perhaps. For the Hadleys of this world, it’s not likely. 

Would LIV golfers be allowed back on Tour in 2024? Jay Monahan promised players that day in June that he was not keen to allow LIV golfers to return to PGA Tour fairways without consequences to their actions. To date, no clear return policy has been struck. It is unlikely we will see a return of any sort until 2025 at the earliest. 

And so, only one moment in golf in 2023 could actually be the moment in golf this year. As the pro golf world, and also its golf-loving audience, pushes forward into 2024, June 6, 2023, remains a day that lives on as a Where Were You When moment. The kind that won’t be soon forgotten. And clearly won’t soon be settled. 

When that angsty players meeting finished on June 6, Monahan met with the media for 30 minutes before continuing to meet with the PGA Tour Policy Board, which pressed on after dark to discuss what laid ahead. McIlroy, who would soon call himself a bit of a “sacrificial lamb” for sticking his neck out for the tour against LIV Golf, didn’t leave the property until 9:30 that night. His pro-am tee time (followed by a press conference) and a very uncertain future were just a few hours ahead of him.

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