Jay Monahan may still be in charge of the PGA Tour, but how can anyone believe a word he says?

Monahan had his reasons for merging with LIV Golf. Convincing PGA Tour players he made the right move is his next challenge.

Eleven months ago, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan was asked on CBS about a coalition of 9/11 families that “expressed their outrage” at golfers — namely Phil Mickelson — who had left the PGA Tour for Saudi Arabian-backed LIV Golf.

Monahan pounced on the opportunity to paint his tour as the morally superior option, noting that “I have two families that are close to me that lost loved ones” in those terrorist attacks.

“I would ask any player that has left, or that would ever consider leaving, have you ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour?” Monahan asked.

Well, they might have to now.

Monahan on Tuesday announced that the PGA Tour would merge with LIV, although “merge” is a polite way of putting it. The PGA Tour may control the board that oversees the golf operations, but it’s the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund that is the sole investor in the new company.

Basically, the Saudis now own the PGA Tour. They essentially own the entire sport.

Monahan’s words on CBS that day, and across a year and a half of the PGA Tour-LIV business battle, will be difficult, if not impossible, to shake. How do you go from bringing up your murdered friends on national television only to make that deal within a year?

How does anyone trust that? How does anyone trust him? How does anyone — most notably the players who stayed loyal to the PGA Tour even at the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars — follow him now that the Saudis have, conveniently, promoted him to CEO of both the PGA Tour and LIV Golf?

“I recognize that people are going to call me a hypocrite,” Monahan said Tuesday.

He’s right about that. Various reports from a players-only meeting at the Canadian Open on Tuesday cited 90% disapproval and plenty of people calling for his resignation.

Monahan has always claimed the Tour was a “player-driven” organization. At this point it seems the players want it driven by someone else.

The thing is, the Saudis don’t. Certainly this is not a group that cares that Monahan sounds like a despicable soul for using 9/11 survivors as a cheap public-relations tool before discarding them like a crumpled up piece of paper once the negotiations got serious. More importantly, they need him to lead the new organization because he represents not just a familiar face, but a face of continuity and surrender.

See, this isn’t a takeover. It is a “merger.” It is a “partnership.” It is an “investment.” If it wasn’t, then why is the former guy still around?

So now comes the challenge for Monahan, trying to lead a group of well-heeled, well-established and apparently bitterly angry athletes whom he just secretly double-crossed and embarrassed.

It’s not just that in order to supposedly save the PGA Tour they followed him and turned down incredibly lucrative LIV offers — reports had Tiger Woods capable of commanding $1 billion from the Saudis. It's the fact that they became the front-facing defenders of the Tour. It’s that they followed Monahan’s lead in attacking not just the credibility and competitiveness of LIV but the patriotism and principles of the defectors.

They did his bidding. They spread his propaganda. And then he stabbed them in the back and made them look like naive fools for ever believing, let alone repeating, a word he said.

TORONTO, ONTARIO - JUNE 06:  Jay Monahan, Commissioner of the PGA TOUR, arrives to a players meeting prior to the RBC Canadian Open at Oakdale Golf & Country Club on June 06, 2023 in Toronto, Ontario.  (Photo by Mike Wolfe/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)
Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, arrives to a players meeting prior to the RBC Canadian Open at Oakdale Golf & Country Club in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Mike Wolfe/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

Monahan and the small cadre of PGA Tour leaders who negotiated the deal had their reasons. Most notably, they were caught up in a protected business and legal battle with an entity that is far wealthier.

The PGA Tour is a real business, with fiscal realities and responsibilities. LIV is a promotional arm of the $600-plus billion PIF. It could lose money for years to come, rack up legal bills, overpay for aging stars and it wouldn't matter. It could bleed out the PGA. The result here was inevitable. LIV was eventually going to win.

So maybe Monahan got the best deal he could and the PGA Tour players will now get to play essentially the same tour they already do, only for bigger prize money.

Can he — of all people — sell that, though?

One of the cited reasons that Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas and Tiger Woods and Jordan Speith and the others stayed with the PGA Tour is because they didn’t view money as everything. Maybe they wanted to preserve the history of their tour. Maybe they didn’t want the association with the Saudis. Maybe they found Mickelson and Greg Norman reprehensible.

The thing is, Mickelson and Norman won.

For the rest of their careers, McIlroy and the like will be teeing it up with the LIV defectors, knowing they missed out on the money because they foolishly trusted Jay Monahan, for naively believing that the PGA Tour actually had morals and wouldn’t eventually sell out.

They’ve been humiliated. They got played like fools. And the guy who played them is still the boss.

“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,” Monahan explained Tuesday. “I accept those criticisms. But circumstances do change. I think that in looking at the big picture and looking at it this way, that's what got us to this point."

Essentially, he’s saying he did everything he could to fend off LIV, including making outlandish statements and using 9/11 widows as props. In the end, though, money always wins in this world.

He may not be wrong. Will any of the players go with that, though? Will the stars? Can Rory, perhaps the most beaten down of them all, forgive and move on?

That’s Monahan’s challenge now. This wasn’t just business. This was personal. And while he’s still in charge, how can anyone believe a single word he says?