Jay Monahan returns from merger absence with explosive memo to players
How about this for an entrance?
On Wednesday evening, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan returned to the public eye for the first time since taking medical leave with an explosive memo to players detailing a series of updates on the Tour’s future in the wake of the bombshell agreement with the Saudi Public Investment Fund.
The biggest developments to come from Wednesday’s memo, which was obtained by GOLF.com, surround negotiation on the framework agreement with the PIF, which Monahan said is “ongoing.” For the first time, the Tour provided players with a series of new details about the deal, including some of the key elements that could come to determine its eventual ratification by the PGA Tour’s player advisory board.
In the memo, Monahan said the Tour was working to present a “Player Benefit Program” believed to be aimed at providing Tour loyalists with a “financially significant” system of repaying players for not defecting. Such a program has been a topic of particular intrigue among players, some of whom turned down eight-and-nine-figure offers from the PIF-backed LIV Golf last year to remain with the PGA Tour.
“This program, should we reach a Definitive Agreement, will be financially significant in total and incremental to our planned compensation package,” Monahan said in the memo. “More details to come as we … determine how players from across the membership would benefit.”
Another significant piece of negotiations, as written by Monahan, is that the Tour has appointed a “task force” aimed at “developing potential pathways back to the PGA Tour for LIV players who wish to reapply in the future.” It remains to be seen if the task force will impose penalties upon those who do, or how those penalties will look if they are imposed. The task force is being led by PGA Tour’s chief tournaments and competitions officer Andy Pazder alongside newly minted “chief player officer” Jason Gore and EVP/vice counsel Neera Shetty.
These groups will work in addition to a new “third-party special advisor” to players, Raine Group’s Colin Neville, who has been appointed in the wake of the framework agreement. Neville will help streamline communication between the Tour and players during a “complicated and time intensive” negotiation with the PIF, Monahan said.
Sharp golf fans will recognize Neville’s name; he was one of the first people involved in the formation of a new rival golf league way back in 2020. In many ways, LIV is Neville’s brainchild — he helped to conceive of the idea for the “Premier Golf League” that was later coopted by the Saudis and used in the creation of LIV.
Buried further in the briefing, Monahan announced the PGA Tour would not be supporting the USGA and R&A’s joint golf ball rollback proposal. Monahan said the PGA Tour was “not able to support” the rollback after there was “significant belief” among the Tour membership that the proposed rule was “not warranted and not in the best interest of the game.” That development comes as a major blow to both governing bodies, which have proposed the rule in the hopes of reigning in the professional game’s increasing distance gains.
The memo comes at a time of increased scrutiny for Monahan and much of PGA Tour leadership, which struck the framework agreement with the PIF without the knowledge of its players. The final — or “Definitive” — pact with the Saudis must be agreed upon by the end of this year, but that must come with a majority of player support. These announcements would seem to be made at shoring up support among whatever holdouts remain among the player membership.
Monahan returned to his role atop the PGA Tour on July 17, about a month after announcing he was temporarily stepping away from his post with an undisclosed medical condition.
Monahan still has not publicly addressed what caused him to step away from his role at the height of the controversial agreement with the PIF. A choice line at the top of his memo, though, indicates he isn’t planning on going anywhere.
“I have fully recovered,” he said. “And feel stronger than ever.”