‘I’m glad I wasn’t Jay’: What we know about the ‘heated’ PGA Tour players’ meeting

Members of the media await the arrival of Jay Monahan, Commissioner of the PGA TOUR, to a players meeting prior to the RBC Canadian Open at Oakdale Golf & Country Club on June 06, 2023 in Toronto, Ontario.

Things got "heated" at the Canadian Open Tuesday.

Getty Images

PGA Tour players wanted answers Tuesday.

Most, if not all, were blindsided by the shocking announcement that the PGA Tour and DP World Tour would be merging with the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, the primary backer of rival LIV Golf, to create a new commercial entity.

At the RBC Canadian Open, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan held a players-only meeting for those looking for answers. And, by many accounts, the players left with even more questions.

“We didn’t learn that much other than there’s going to be an alliance and the business structure is going to change, and I don’t know if it’s all going to be happy families,” 2006 U.S. Open winner Geoff Olgivy told multiple outlets in Toronto. “I’m glad I wasn’t Jay today. There’s some grumpy players in there. I feel a little bit sort of, not lied to, but just that the Tour has sort of changed its position quickly and dropped it on us really fast. So maybe there’s a feeling of a lack of trust a little bit in the leadership.

“It just feels like nobody really knows what’s happening and the players are out of the loop. But no one really ever likes being out of a loop. You know, everyone likes a bit of information, and especially when it’s your livelihood and your job and the sport that you love.”

According to Golf Channel, the 75-minute meeting at the Oakdale Golf and Country Club, site of this week’s RBC Canadian Open, was attended by about 100 Tour pros who were in the field this week as well as several others who listened in either by phone or Zoom.

Monahan described the meeting as “intense, certainly heated.”

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“Obviously, it’s been a very dynamic and complex couple of years, and for players, I’m not surprised that — this is an awful lot to ask them to digest, and this is a significant change for us in the direction that we were going down,” Monahan told reporters immediately following the meeting.

Likely contributing to the “heated” nature of the meeting was a now-widely reported incident between World No. 3 Rory McIlroy and Grayson Murray. McIlroy has been somewhat of a spokesperson for the PGA Tour in its battle against LIV Golf over the past two years. He helped call the players’ meeting back in August 2022 at the BMW Championship between the Tour’s top remaining players that helped lead to the creation of the designated events.

McIlroy had taken a notable step back in recent weeks, saying at the Players Championship in March that he’d “love to get back to being a golfer” and just last month at the PGA Championship declining to answer any questions about LIV Golf.

According to the UK Telegraph, McIlroy was quiet until Murray, the World No. 227 who has won on the Korn Ferry Tour this season, started shouting for Monahan to resign as commissioner in the wake of the merger agreement.

Both the Telegraph and Golf Channel reported McIlroy yelled back, “Just play better, Grayson,” which got a “bad response” from the room of players.

Murray reportedly told the four-time major winner to, “F— off.”

Wesley Bryan later disputed the reports of the exchange, tweeting they were “not even close to how it went down,” but that McIlroy did tell Murray to “play better.” He also said that McIlroy and Murray were “cordial and pleasant post-meeting” and the two had no issues with each other.

McIlroy gave his account of the meeting, which was attended by players mostly outside the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking, at his pre-tournament press conference on Wednesday. Players, McIlroy included, did not find out about the merger until Tuesday morning, many only seeing the news on Twitter.

“Look, it was heated. People were surprised. People felt like they were in the dark about all this,” McIlroy said. “Look, most of the gripes come from the guys that are, you know, trying to hold onto their cards. And they feel like things have already been taken away from them this year with the designated events and smaller fields and no cuts and weighted FedExCup points for the larger events with the stronger fields. So they were already feeling somewhat vulnerable.

“Then, whenever this news is brought about, there’s only going to be one reaction to that. And I understand that. And, honestly, it’s hard for me to relate to those guys, because I’ve never been in that position. I try to empathize with it, but it’s hard for me to — it’s hard for me to relate to them fully, but I certainly empathize with their point of view.”

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Other than the exchange with Murray, McIlroy reportedly didn’t say much else during the meeting, while approximately 30 of his colleagues took the floor, some even receiving standing ovations for calling for new Tour leadership. According to Golf Channel, Doc Redman received praise for calling out Monahan for announcing the merger with PIF not long after saying the Tour was in a great spot.

Murray wasn’t the only player to call Monahan a “hypocrite” at the meeting, either, according to the Telegraph. Monahan addressed the accusation during his call with reporters.

“I recognize that people are going to call me a hypocrite,” he said. “But anytime I said anything, I said it with the information that I had at that moment, and I said it based on someone that’s trying to compete for the PGA Tour and our players.

“I accept those criticisms. But circumstances do change.”

Johnson Wagner listened in on the meeting over the phone and went on Golf Channel, which he now contributes to, and said he thought the negative/positive split in the room was about “90/10.” However, Bryan, who was present at the meeting, also disputed this on Twitter, saying the estimate was “way off.”

Perhaps the most appreciated voice in the room was that of Maverick McNealy. Both Bryan and Cameron Percy publicly expressed support for his comments during the meeting and by Wednesday morning, McNealy posted a letter on his Instagram page explaining his thoughts.

“I asked some very poignant questions during the player meeting yesterday about the structure of the deal, organizational restructuring of professional golf, and the incentives and loyalty of the new governing entity of professional golf,” he wrote. “And it is also true, the membership and I did not get thorough or convincing answers.”

However, in his letter, he also explained that he felt the people making the decisions knew far more than he does and all Tour members, including him, do not yet have the full picture regarding how the merger will play out.

After some time to think about it after Tuesday’s meeting, Mackenzie Hughes took a more open-minded stance as well during his pre-tournament press conference, noting that many players reacted with shock initially and a part of the meeting was spent on gathering information.

Then there was some progress made.

“There was a lot of good discussion in there yesterday and a lot of things on both sides that were said that I think will lead to good decisions going forward,” Hughes said. “Golf has just never been disrupted like this before. We’re dealing with a lot of stuff right now. So I think once we get kind of past the initial phase of this or the initial part of this.

“Like I said, it could be a great thing for golf. We just — we don’t know.”

MORE PGA TOUR-LIV MERGER COVERAGE: Player reaction | 21 burning questions & answers | 10 shocking revelations | How the merger came to be | Brandel Chamblee sounds off | Rory, Tiger left in the dark | PGA Tour-LIV Golf timeline | Can this happen? A legal expert weighs in | Jay Monahan defends decision | McIlroy stresses details of merger

Jack Hirsh

Golf.com Editor

Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is a 2020 graduate of Penn State University, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and recently returned to the program to serve as head coach. Jack also still *tries* to remain competitive in local amateurs. Before joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as a Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather. He can be reached at jack.hirsh@golf.com.