When questioned about Jon Rahm and Saudi no-deal, Jay Monahan gets peeved

Jay Monahan

Jay Monahan on Tuesday at the Players Championship.

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Jay Monahan said he understood the media’s potential irritation. 

Then he himself twice became bothered. 

The PGA Tour commissioner was talking Tuesday in his annual pre-Players Championship press conference. It was a somewhat state-of-affairs talk, though the state of affairs these days can be labeled nebulous at best. The future of the Tour’s fight with LIV Golf, now in its third season? Specific details on how the Tour will spend a billion-plus dollars from its deal with a group of sports owners? The status of a proposed deal struck last June with the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, the backer of LIV?

All unclear. Details would arrive, he said. But just not now. Sorry. 

“Like I said, we’ve made and continue to make real progress in our negotiations and our discussions with the PIF,” Monahan said in his first question about LIV and the PIF deal, on whether LIV pros could play on the Tour, should a deal be struck. 

“I recognize that this is frustrating for all of you, but it really is not in the best interest of the PGA Tour and our membership and for PIF for me to be talking about where we are with specific elements of our discussions.”

But what of Jon Rahm’s departure to LIV Golf? He left the Tour last December. What was Monahan’s reaction to the loss of last year’s Masters winner? Was he worried other stars would bolt?

And what if a PIF deal fell through? What does that world look like?

To follow-up questions to those topics, Monahan showed some weariness with the subject matter. 

About halfway through the hour-plus-long press conference, Monahan was asked how he believed that the Tour was performing strongly in light of player defections to LIV, and he gave a lengthy response. Two questions later, he was then asked this, with the exchange presented in full for clarity:

“Despite what you just said about the Tour, Jon Rahm clearly lost faith in some sense. What was your reaction? We haven’t talked to you since he left. Top three player in the world, reigning Masters champion, decides to leave. And also do you expect there to be more poaching of top talent while this negotiation is still ongoing?”

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“I’m focused on every single member of the PGA Tour,” Monahan said. “I’m focused on the Players Championship this week. I’m focused on the great season that we have ahead, and we’ve made tremendous progress with the SSG agreement that we have, putting ourselves in a position to invest back in our Tour, invest back in our fans, and I’m going to focus on the things that I control and we are as an organization and we are as a leadership team and we are as a board, so that’s when I’m focused on.”

“Are you concerned that more players are going while the negotiations are going on?”

“I just answered your question about what my focus is,” Monahan said.

Notably, Rahm’s name was not mentioned in the response.

Three questions later, Monahan was asked what would happen if the PIF deal fell through. He was brief in his response. Here is that exchange in full:

“If your deal is not concluded with the PIF, what does this sport look like, and what does the PGA Tour look like?”

“I guess I’ll answer that question if a deal isn’t concluded,” Monahan said. 

“Would you consider it?”

“Well I’m focused on moving the Tour forward, moving our discussions forward,” Monahan said, “and I’m hopeful that we’ll reach a successful outcome.

“Listen, I think that in any negotiation, both sides have to work together to reach that successful outcome, and if we can’t, I’ll continue my focus on all the areas I just outlined, and we’ll continue to compete and be as strong a Tour as we can possibly be, with a great new investor in SSG, with a lot of opportunity for that growth.”

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Later, another reporter followed up on the topic. 

“Is there a danger in not doing a deal with PIF, and if so, what might that be?”

Monahan paused for six seconds, then answered. 

“Like I said, I’m — it’s the same question asked a different way, right?” he said, pointing in the direction of a reporter. “And my answer’s the same.

“So, I’m always aware of — you always have to be open to not doing something while you’re trying to do something. In this case it’s trying to negotiate a deal. And so if we don’t negotiate a deal, then I think ultimately we’re back in the same posture that we’re in, and we haven’t unified our game and taken advantage of this unique point in time.

“But I don’t have anything further to add about what happens if we don’t. I’m focused on trying to see if we can.”

Was Monahan frustrated by the repetitiveness of the questions? Perhaps. Could he have offered more detail, though? Maybe.

As for when will he talk again?

It’s unclear. He usually has a press conference at the Tour Championship, played in August. Of course, advancement of the topics above could facilitate more communication at an earlier date.   

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