KAPALUA, Hawaii — PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan hosted his annual sushi dinner for players Friday night and was on hand to see Jon Rahm’s remarkable comeback from as many as nine strokes back during Sunday’s final round of the 2023 Sentry Tournament of Champions.
Before the final putt dropped, Monahan also took time to meet with members of the media to make his first public comments since the Tour Championship in August about the Tour and its ongoing legal skirmish with LIV Golf.
“I’m focused on what we control. We’re at a point now where it’s product versus product. And we have our schedule. We’ve laid it out. We’re going to keep getting better and better and better,” Monahan said. “They have theirs. And we’re going to continue to be the most pro competitive aspirational tour in men’s professional golf. We’re going to keep getting better. What they have is very different than what we have. We’re going down our path and they’re going down theirs. So there really isn’t — and they have been very clear about that.”
Here are some of the other noteworthy comments from the commish.
Q: Were you disappointed with the Masters' decision to let the LIV golfers play?
JM: I wasn’t at all surprised at the Masters’ decision. To me, obviously it’s an invitational and they follow their criteria and I wasn’t surprised in any way with the decision that they made.
Q: When you talk about the Tour product, is it important that the designated events, the WGC's, have cuts to further distinguish what you're offering versus LIV?
Jon Rahm and PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan pose for a photo after Rahm won the 2023 Sentry Tournament of Champions at Plantation Course at Kapalua in Lahaina, Hawaii. (Photo: Harry How/Getty Images)
JM: I think that’s an important consideration. Yeah, I always think that, I’ve always felt that the cut is an important element to this Tour. And too, if you go back to what is the most, you know, what is the most pro competitive and if you’re going to have the best players together, depending upon where we end up in field size in ’24, I think that’s absolutely an important consideration.
Q: Is there a way back for (LIV players)?
JM: My position on that hasn’t changed. I think that those players have made their decision and they’re there. Again, to me, it’s, I’m doing everything I can with the guys, the players that are, you know, members of the PGA Tour and committed to this Tour. But nothing’s changed on that front. I don’t have anything new to add.
Q: For as long as I can remember the Players has had the strongest field in golf. That's probably not going to be the case with the LIV players being ineligible this year. Are you concerned that that could impair your flagship event?
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan at the trophy ceremony following the 2023 Sentry Tournament of Champions at Plantation Course at Kapalua in Hawaii. (Photo: Harry How/Getty Images)
JM: I’m not. You know, I think we’re, I think you look, I look at everything on a long-term basis. I think, by any objective measure, when we get to March and we get to TPC Sawgrass, given the investment we continue to make in the (course and facility) and given the investment we continue to make in the event and in my conversations with all of our players, including our top players, I think that event only continues to grow in stature.
So I think that as it gets, as we get to ’23 and beyond I think the Players Championship is only going to become stronger and stronger and stronger.
As it relates to where we are on a relative basis I would, now that we have the new Official World Golf Ranking ranking system and everybody can understand, empirically and agnostic to any tour what the strength of field is, I think you’ll see that that, I think we’ll be in a really good spot there.
Q: Would you say the Tour is stronger or weaker than you were a year ago at Kapalua?
JM: I think that we’re, I think the PGA Tour, the model of the PGA Tour is as strong as it’s ever been. And I say that because it depends on what perspective you’re looking at it, but if you look at it from a player standpoint I feel like we’ve made, you know, we have made changes to our schedule, therefore changes to our product that I think make us as attractive as we can possibly be to top players.
I think for them the most important piece in putting together a schedule is, does it put players in the best possible position to achieve at the highest levels of the game. I think we absolutely have that and have done that and will continue to do that.
As it relates to strength, we’re growing, we’re growing financially. Last year we saw a 31 percent increase in comprehensive player earnings. I think this year we’re somewhere between 16 and 18 percent. And we have a solid group of sponsors, media partners, tournament organization, all coming together.
To me that question is a longer-term question. I feel like as you look out to the future, despite the challenges of the past year, we’re, again, as strong as we’ve ever been. And I’m going to do everything I can to make certain that continues to be the case.
This and that
Monahan confirmed that he signed off on every conflicting event release to allow Tour members to compete in the Asian Tour’s Saudi International next month. Once again, players will have to play the PGA Tour event they miss in future years. “January of last year I think we laid out the rule very clearly as it relates to the number of times that they would have to play either of the next two or three years, and those rules apply. Nothing’s changed on that front,” he said.
Monahan said he expected the fall schedule to be roughly the same number of events “plus or minus one.”
Monahan declined to confirm that four of the designated events would be rotated to different tournaments next season. “I think what we have to decide as it relates to ’24 is what is the right number, what is the right balance,” he said.
Monahan said his team has met with the USGA and R&A on the Distance Insights Report and plans to meet with them shortly. “Depending on what it is that they communicate to the public at large, I would be happy to answer that question at that point in time,” he said.
Asked if the Tournament of Champions, which began inviting several non-winners who finished in the top 30 of the FedEx Cup, needed a new name, he said, “Listen, if you were on the PGA Tour and you made it to the Tour Championship I consider you to be a champion. It’s a double entendre.”