LIV Tour

PGA Tour suspends players from LIV Golf Invitational Series

The PGA Tour had been threatening sanctions for those players who would turn their backs on the PGA Tour and participate in the LIV Golf Invitational Series events for several weeks. Some players – including Phil Mickelson, Martin Kaymer, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood – were not impressed by this and teed off on the first day of the LIV Golf Event in London. The PGA Tour’s receipt followed just minutes later.

Jay Monahan responds to LIV Golf

A two-page letter from PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan bans players participating in the first Saudi Golf League event, as well as players who plan to participate in future events in the series, from PGA Tour tournaments. The letter states, “Simultaneous to you receiving this memo, [those] players are being notified that they are suspended or otherwise no longer eligible to participate in PGA Tour tournament tournament play.” It is not yet clear for how long this suspension will last. Nor is it known if and, if so, how the players might return to the PGA Tour.

As if that were not enough, the players will also be removed from the FedEx Cup points list and will not be allowed to participate in PGA Tour events as non-members through a sponsor exemption or other eligibility category.

The suspension applies not only to participation in PGA Tour tournaments, but also to events on the other PGA Tour tours: the Korn Ferry Tour, PGA Tour Champions, PGA Tour Canada and PGA Tour Lationamérica. Last but not least, players will also no longer be able to participate in the Presidents Cup.

Jay Monahan explained the consequences of the PGA Tour’s decision: “As you know, [those players] did not receive the necessary conflicting event and media rights releases – or did not apply for releases at all – and their participation in the Saudi Golf League / LIV Golf event is in violation of our Tournament Regulations.” Neither player will be allowed to participate in PGA Tour tournaments as a non-member via a sponsor exemption or other eligibility category.

So far, 17 players have been affected by the suspension. Ten of them have already resigned from the PGA Tour before the announcement: Sergio Garcia, Branden Grace, Dustin Johnson, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Kevin Na, Louis Oosthuizen, Turk Pettit, Charl Schwartzel and Lee Westwood. The remaining players hit by the suspension are Talor Gooch, Matt Jones, Phil Mickelson, Andy Ogletree, Ian Poulter, Hudson Swafford and Peter Uihlein.

Quick reaction of the Saudi Golf League

The Saudi Golf League shows shortly after the statement of the PGA Tour visibly attacked. It also issues a statement on Twitter, albeit much shorter: “Today’s announcement by the PGA Tour is vindictive and it deepens the divide between the tour and its members. It’s troubling that the tour, an organisation dedicated to creating opportunities for golfers to play the game, is the entity blocking golfers from playing. This certainly is not the last word on this topic. The era of free agency is beginning as we are proud to have a full field of players joining us in London, and beyond.”

PGA Tour

A clear no: PGA Tour prohibits its players from participating in LIV Golf Event

It won’t be long before the LIV Golf Invitational Series kicks off. The first event of the tournament series, created by Greg Norman, is coming up. The first of eight planned tournaments will begin on June 9, 2022. For many months now, there have been heated discussions and wild speculations about the participation or non-participation of PGA Tour players in the Saudi League. Now the PGA Tour made a clear statement.

PGA Tour threatens immense penalties

From the beginning, the relationship between the established golf tours and the new Saudi League was an adversarial one. Some players from the PGA Tour and DP World Tour nevertheless now asked for the tours’ permission to participate in the first event of the Norman Series in London. The feedback from PGA Tour chief executive Jay Monahan was unequivocal: “We have notified those who have applied that their request has been declined in accordance with the PGA Tour tournament regulations. As such, tour members are not authorised to participate in the Saudi Golf League’s London event,” Monahan announced. “As a membership organisation, we believe this decision is in the best interest of the PGA Tour and its players.”

Initially, it looked like the PGA Tour would agree to tournament participation in the Saudi League that would not take place on U.S. soil. Now, however, the PGA Tour qualified that assumption on the grounds that “the event for which they have requested clearance is the first of an eight-event ‘2022 LIV Golf Invitational Series’ season, more than half of which will be held in the United States”.

PGA Tour players found to be in violation could face severe disciplinary action. In addition to suspensions, the punishment could even include revocation of PGA Tour membership.

Greg Norman: “We will not be stopped”

The PGA Tour’s announcement was promptly followed by a response from 67-year-old Greg Norman: “Sadly, the PGA Tour seems intent on denying professional golfers their right to play golf, unless it’s exclusively in a PGA Tour tournament. This is particularly disappointing in light of the Tour’s non-profit status, where its mission is purportedly ‘to promote the common interests of professional tournament golfers.” Norman calls the PGA Tour an “illegal monopoly” whose actions are both anti-golfer, anti-fan and anti-competitive. Undeterred by this latest setback, he says he and his team will not let the PGA Tour stop them.

PGA Tour

Premier Golf League: Tempting offer for PGA Tour professionals

Rory McIlroy, newest member of the PGA Players’ Advisory Council, received an email from the Premier Golf League (PGL) back on February 14, as reported by the Fire Pit Collective. The contents of that email could be another milestone in the recent evolution of professional golf. According to the mail, the PGL is planning 18 events, with prize money totaling $20 million and complementary team competitions with an additional $1 million in prize money for the winner. In addition, a prize of another 20 million dollars is to await the winner in a season-ending event. But that is not the end of the story.

A shower of money or empty words?

Rory McIlroy was confronted with this important issue on his first official day as a member of the PGA Player Advisory Council. As a member, it was his responsibility to present the issue to the rest of the players and PGA officials. The issue was not only future tournament schedules, but also a direct cash distribution to PGA, Korn Ferry and European Tour players. PGL’s proposal says they want to give 100 million shares to the PGA, Korn Ferry and DP World Tour. According to a breakdown by the PGL, 50 percent (valued at five billion dollars) would go to PGA Tour players, $750 million to the Korn Ferry Tour and $250 million to European golfers.
The PGL clearly distances itself from the Saudi Golf League. They don’t want to make popular players even richer, but rather support all players with an equal share. In the Fire Pit report, one PGL investor is quoted as saying, “They have stolen our idea 100 percent. They are not our partners, they are now our competitors.” PGL’s immense financial resources have no connection with Saudi Arabia, but come mainly from European sponsors, the FAQ on its website went on to say. Their goal, they said, is to work with the PGA Tour and build a partnership.

Kevin Kisner doubts PGL offer

Kevin Kisner, another member of the Player Advisory Council, doubts the feasibility of the promised windfall.  “Their proposal has been studied and scrutinized by an independent company to test its viability,” says Kevin Kisner, another player-director on the policy board at a members meeting earlier this month at the Players and Bay Hill. “The results were presented to all of us: Not feasible.” 

PGA Tour Top Tours

PGA Tour Statement on positive Covid-19 tests at the Travelers Championship

Commissioner Jay Monahan talked to the media on Wednesday afternoon after the news about several positive Corona-tests on the PGA Tour became known. He revealed plans to improve the measures the PGA Tour already took to prevent the spreading of the virus.

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan on the state of the Tour

THE MODERATOR: We’ll go ahead and get started. We’d like to welcome our PGA TOUR Commissioner, Jay Monahan, to our virtual press conference here at the Travelers Championship on Wednesday.

Jay, appreciate you taking the time with us. We’ve got several media members on the line who are eager to hear from you.

We will open it up to questions, but would first turn it over to you for a brief statement, PGA TOUR update, if you will, from you.

COMMISSIONER JAY MONAHAN: Thank you, Amanda, and thank you to everybody that’s on this call. I was eager to have this conversation with you.

So we have been working since March to develop a comprehensive health and safety plan that would be considered a best practice among professional sports leagues.

While we’ve been thorough in building and implementing a program that mitigates as much risk as possible, we knew it would be impossible to eliminate all risk, as evidenced by the three positive tests this week.

We need to use these developments as a stark reminder for everyone involved as we continue to learn from an operational standpoint. We’re making several adjustments to our health and safety plan as noted in the memo sent to players this morning, and we will continuously reinforce to all players, caddies, staff members and support personnel on property at PGA TOUR events to adhere to social distancing and other safety professionals that further minimize risk.

So for this week, as I said, we’ve had three positive tests: Cameron Champ, PGA TOUR player; Ken Convoy, caddie for Graeme McDowell; and Ricky Elliot, caddie for Brooks Koepka.

At the Utah Championship on the Korn Ferry Tour, we have had no positive tests.

I will also note that for positive COVID-19 tests with arrival testing complete today, we’ve had 2,757 total in market tournament tests over three weeks with seven positives.

Now just a quick overview of the withdrawals from this week’s Travelers Championship field:

Cameron Champ withdrew after testing positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday.

Graeme McDowell with grew out of an abundance of caution after his caddie, Ken Convoy, tested positive for COVID-19.

Brooks Koepka withdrew out of an abundance of caution after his caddie, Ricky Elliot, tested positive for COVID-19.

Webb Simpson withdrew out of an abundance of caution. He has been tested twice and has not tested positive for COVID-19 this week.

And Chase Koepka withdrew out of abundance of caution; neither he nor his caddie, Dan Gimbel, have tested positive for COVID-19.

So that’s where we stand as of Wednesday afternoon, and I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.

Q. One of the obvious questions — and you just outlined the numbers obviously, the percentage of positives is very low, and I know I did ask you this after — after — after Colonial when you came out with nothing. As — as there’s been a slight rise, is there a number that you have in mind that you consider an outbreak, or just a range, in other words, where it becomes a concern. You know, is — is today a concern or are you still looking at this as a positive; this is such a low number? And is there a number or a range of a number that you would — you would — you would begin to elevate concern?

COMMISSIONER JAY MONAHAN: Well, you’re right in that it is a low number, and it’s a low number on a percentage basis. But every number hurts.

So I think for us, as we look at where we are now, three weeks in and on the eve of our final round of the Travelers Championship, I think we all need to remind ourselves that we’re all learning to live with this virus, and we all need to learn to live with this virus, both as individuals, as family members and certainly within our businesses.

It’s pretty clear that this virus isn’t going anywhere. And so that’s why I go back to the weeks that preceded our return; the amount of work that we spend to develop our health, safety and testing protocols, to he had wait our players and constituents on them, to be here at this point in time, you know, we are excited to get into the Travelers Championship this week.

I tell you, Mark, and I addressed some of this in a memo to our players, we are just going to continue to refine and get better and better and identify ways where we can further mitigate my risk. That’s something I think I said when I was with you guys in Fort Worth, and it’s something that we continue to do.

Going back directly to your question, you know, we are playing in two markets today. We’ve had three positive tests this week. I think everybody should expect that you’re going to have more tests as we go forward and we are going to be very sensitive to the specifics of every single test. But going to be spending a ton of time making sure we reinforce the strong protocols we have.

Q. Quick follow. There was a report out there that Ricky Elliot had actually retested today and it came back negative. Are you aware of that situation, and because that was a positive, is that still considered a risk?

COMMISSIONER JAY MONAHAN: Ricky and Brooks are not going to be here this week, and I can’t get into the specifics of anybody — any individual test, but I wouldn’t — I don’t think any of us should be surprised based on the nature of the virus that someone would test positive and then test negative.

Our medical advisors, our medical experts, you know, have suggested to us that based on the timing and the incubation period, you could have scenarios like that.

So I wouldn’t be surprised to hear something like that that had happened, based on what we’ve learned from our medical advisors.

Q. Do you have a position even privately whereby it would not be viable to continue with this or other tournaments on the grounds of reputation, if not health and safety?

COMMISSIONER JAY MONAHAN: Listen, I think that there is — that’s something Ewan, that you’re mindful of every minute of your working life. The brand and safety of our players are — the safety of our players is our No. 1 concern, and our brand is our greatest asset.

The amount of time, Ewan, that we put into the plan that we developed; the plan we’ve executed; the dialogue we’re having with our board, our Player Advisory Counsel; the feedback we’re getting with our players; everything we are doing we are doing in concert with our membership; and based on our board call on Monday night; based on our Player Advisory Council call on Tuesday night; based on conversations that myself and our team members are having with our players, we feel a great responsibility to inspire people and to be in their living rooms on Saturday and Sunday — Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

We feel like we’re on a path that’s going to allow us to continue to sustain our return to golf, but rest assured, there won’t be many sleepless nights; there usually are. When you’re working in a world of uncertainty, these are the things you worry about. But also rest assured that the PGA TOUR will always do the right thing as it relates to our players, our fans, our constituents and make sure we create the safety environment possible.

Q. It sounds like the memo to the players, you outlined a couple of differences in the protocols. Can you tell us what’s different now going forward?

COMMISSIONER JAY MONAHAN: Yeah, so we, again, and in conversation with our player directors, chair of our PAC, Charley Hoffman and ultimately on our PAC call, we together all agreed that there were a few adjustments we needed to make.

One is when you’re part of the charter protocol, you obviously get tested on Saturday; you learn the results on Sunday night; you’re on the charter on Monday.

We’re going to add additional testing upon arrival in the following week’s tournament market so that everybody that’s arriving it going to the same testing protocol.

We will move our player instructors inside of our testing bubble, and they will be subject to the same testing protocols.

We will have our fitness trailer on site next week. One of the things that we’ve identified or we want to eliminate is players going to off-site gyms, having our physio trailers here will help that. All of our players entering those physio trailers will be wearing masks.

We have developed a program, a stipend program, for players on our tours, if they were to test positive during the week or during competition, and to be able to be eligible for those protocols, we’ve just reconfirmed for our players, you must follow our protocols in order to qualify for the stipend.

So those are four of the things that we’ve talked about. But I think it really comes back to, Bob, it’s like the game itself. You’ve got to always go back and look at, you know, work with your instructor.

In our case, look at the manual; if we can properly socially distance, if everybody when they are inside is wearing a mask, and doing all of the things we’ve outlined from the outset, if we continue to stay true to what we’ve set, we feel like, again, we are going to be in a position to sustain our return.

Q. Real quick. If you find that a player or caddie is not following your guidelines like you would like, I understand there is the ability for you to sanction them or fine or whatever it might be. What are we looking at there? What are those possibilities and how would that play out?

COMMISSIONER JAY MONAHAN: All of us have an extraordinary responsibility to follow those protocols. For any individual that does not, there will be serious repercussions, and I’m not going to get into the specifics of it.

But everybody knows and needs to know that our future, our ability to sustain this business and to impact the communities where we play and to create so many jobs is contingent on our ability to follow those protocols.

So when we have instances where someone hasn’t, they will be dealt with, and as I said, the consequences will be significant.

Q. I’m wondering how the national climate affects your decision-making, even if the TOUR numbers stay somewhat where they are, as you see cases are surging in various states that you’re going to be visiting or down the road, how much is too much, just within the United States as a whole, where you say, “We can’t sustain our bubble no matter how hard we try”?

COMMISSIONER JAY MONAHAN: Alan, so we are sitting here in Hartford, Connecticut, and in the weeks that preceded our arrival here, one, as I said throughout every market we go to, we are an invited guest.

As we come back to Hartford in an environment of COVID-19 with all of us dealing with COVID-19, our team had to work with local and state government and health officials to get our health and safety program supported and approved and ultimately to get the permit to be able to play here. We are doing that over the course of our schedule as we go forward.

And I mean, we all have to be looking at what’s happening market to market to market. That’s what we are doing, connected to both our tournaments, and obviously if based on where we are with I think now 27 states seeing a rise, it’s a concern that we’ll continue to closely monitor.

But for us, I go back to the fact that we’re here, and we’re here with the full support of local and state officials and I know that the government — the governor just a couple hours ago reaffirmed his support and is excited to see us get the Travelers Championship underway.

Q. Is it safe to say, though, that you’re concerned about what’s happening nationally?

COMMISSIONER JAY MONAHAN: Yes. I don’t think — I don’t think there’s anybody that isn’t taking a close look and has some concern.

But I’m also, as I said earlier, I think the reality is that we all have to live — you know, learn to live in an environment of COVID-19. I’m concerned but I’m also confident in the program and protocols we’ve put in place, and our ability to be able to sustain the PGA TOUR and give our players opportunities on both of these tours over the course of the year; so long as we continue to be as diligent as we intend to be.

Q. I know you’ve been reluctant to list a tipping point over the last couple of months, and even so far today, but is there a point when you get to enough positive cases within the bubble where you say, “Hey, look, we need to curtail this, we need to shut it down,” and if so, is there a specific number, or how do you determine that?

COMMISSIONER JAY MONAHAN: I think that we — Jason, on that front, where I go back to where we are right now, and the system that we have in place, and there are all kinds of scenarios that could play out.

We feel like we’ve tried to contemplate all of those scenarios in creating the program and the protocols that we have such that if you are going to have positive cases, there can — they are contained or they are containable, and we are going to avoid that scenario.

But if you start to — I mean, there certainly are scenarios where if you had a significant number of positive tests, or you could play scenarios where that would come into play and you’d have to be thinking along those lines.

But for us, we’re confident with the plan we have and we are very hopeful that we are not going to be in that position.

Q. I know that you’ve been very serious and everybody on your team has been very serious about dealing with this. Do you feel like everyone that’s been inside the bubble the last 2 1/2 weeks are as serious as you are?

COMMISSIONER JAY MONAHAN: Alex, I think that this has been a big adjustment for everybody and I think everybody’s intentions have been very, very, and everybody has taken their responsibility seriously. I don’t question that at all.

I think when you get into the environment of the tournament with no spectators here, with very few people here, with people that are around you having tested negative, I think over the first couple weeks, we’ve seen some instances where, let’s say we’ve gotten a little bit lax or away from protocol.

Full disclosure: I’ve done it myself, and I think that’s the kind of tightening that we need to do in order to make sure we continue to be in a good position to move forward.

Given the number of people, the number of players and caddies that we have, you know, it’s hard to generalize where we are. There are some conversations we’ve had to tighten things up, but I feel really good about the level of commitment and support.

I’ll tell you, we were — I mentioned our policy board call and our PAC call on Tuesday night, and you know, our four player directors and Charley Hoffman penned a letter to our players, I thought very — in a really direct and powerful way, just talking about both the opportunity we have and the responsibility we have, and I think we are all — like the game itself. The rules of the game, the values of the game, I think it’s being applied to the way we are handling our testing program. And that’s the standard we’re going to hold ourselves to.

Q. Just to follow up. In about three weeks for the first time since this all happened, the Memorial is going to have fans, even though it will be a reduction from what they would normally have. Are you still comfortable having 8,000-plus fans at a golf tournament knowing what you know now about COVID?

COMMISSIONER JAY MONAHAN: Alex, I will tell you that our team working closely with Dan Sullivan and the Memorial Tournament have been — Dan has done an outstanding job architecting and developing a plan that is, you know, very thoughtful in the way that we would introduce fans to that venue; so thoughtful that it’s been supported by local and state officials.

We’re confident in that plan, but like every tournament going forward, we’re continuing to look at what we’re learning now and start to think forward of how we are going to plan for all the subsequent events.

But we are looking forward to reintroducing fans at the Memorial tournament, but rest assured, we are only going to do it if we think it’s a health — a healthy and safe environment for our players, our caddies, our staff, and also for those fans that would be attending, and we think we’ve considered all those factors.

Q. Two quick questions. First, are you awaiting any more test results this afternoon that could potentially impact the field of this event?

COMMISSIONER JAY MONAHAN: We are not awaiting any additional test results.

Q. Secondly in conversations with health officials or experts, what does this look like exponentially, you know, X number of days or weeks from now for the TOUR in testimony of what the statistical data tells you; in other words, where, you know, within the last six days, there have been a handful of positive tests, be it caddies, players or people within their quote, unquote, bubble. I’m curious how you look at it two, three, four weeks down the road from now?

COMMISSIONER JAY MONAHAN: We tend to look at it day-to-day before we get into several weeks down the road, because while we’ve completed our testing protocol so far this week, obviously we have other measures that our players, caddies and staff will take between now and the end of play on Sunday. That’s something that we will continue to be focused on executing.

And then as it relates to going forward, I think it’s important that you understand and that we convey that our team, myself, we are spending a lot of time talking about where we are.

You know, when you go through the contact tracing and when you think about individuals that tested positive, and you think about the environment, you know, what are some of the additional things we can do to mitigate risk, and you’ve heard me say that probably too many times.

But that has been our focus, because if we focus on that, we feel like we put ourselves in a position where we can have a controllable number of — we can have a controlled environment or a controlled number of cases or positive cases going forward.

We can’t wait for the number. We have to be proactive in doing everything we can to keep that positive number as small as possible, and that really is just about executing our health and safety program.

Q. Along those lines, did you anticipate further changes than what was outlined, just given the nature of all of this?

COMMISSIONER JAY MONAHAN: The way we operate as a business is we are always seeking improvement and seeking ways that make everything that we do better, and you know, we have said from the outset that this plan that we developed in close concert with our medical experts was a plan that we thought was, you know, that is as safe and responsible as we can probably be.

But yeah, we will probably continue to make adjustments. That’s why we are here on site. We are talking to players. We are looking at things with our own eyes. We are talking daily as a team about what we are learning. When we complete our event, we are reconvening our board. We are talking to our PAC.

We are trying to — we are doing this together. You know, we are all in this together. And so I think I think it if it’s — correctly executed, we think it puts us in a better position. But the changes we made this week we feel are a very good step in addition to what we’ve already identified.

Q. I was just curious, Justin Thomas sort of opened the door or suggested the idea today of stricter enforcement around things like social distancing — curious if you get to a point where you will issue players warnings and penalties for players who are not adhering to these safety protocols.

COMMISSIONER JAY MONAHAN: You broke up for some of that, Luke, but I think I got gist of your question.

Justin is one of the 16 members of our Player Advisory Council, and I think that we have full support from our Player Advisory Council and our board to make certain we are doing everything we can to enforce the protocols that we have established, and I have every intention of doing exactly that.

Q. If it’s true that Ricky Elliot tested positive and a second test then came back negative, does that raise the question whether the tests themselves, the testing procedure, is good enough?

COMMISSIONER JAY MONAHAN: No, it doesn’t put that into question at all. We’ve spent a lot of time with our medical advisors and experts, and as I said earlier, testing really is a factor of where you are in the incubation period.

So if that, in fact, were to have happened, that is something that we would be — we would have expected versus be surprised by.

Q. We’ve seen the players fist-pumping, high-fiving, standing next to each other on the tee box. Do you think — did I break up there?

COMMISSIONER JAY MONAHAN: Yeah, you did. Sorry. You started with fist-pump.

Q. We’ve seen the players fist-pumping high-fiving, standing next to each other on tee boxes; going out to dinner, we hear, as well. Do you feel let down by the players?


Q. Back when the PGA TOUR announced the restart, it was acknowledged that the optics of all this was going to be really important. You wanted to set an example and show that sport — have you felt satisfied with the optics so far that you’ve seen, and do you feel you’re presenting the example that you would want to the rest of sport?

COMMISSIONER JAY MONAHAN: You know, I think you’re never satisfied, but — and I would say, David, that we’re three weeks in. Really, two and a half weeks in, and this has always been about a sustained return.

So I am very comfortable, very pleased, very confident in the health and safety program that we have, even though we’ve had positive tests. In this world, I think that that’s an expected outcome. We’ve learned a lot. We are continuing to refine, and to the point you’re making about a responsibility, anybody that’s leading a business, whether you’re in sport or any other business, any other industry, it’s all about trying to live in this world and be able to sustain your return in a world of COVID-19.

I sincerely feel like we are on the right path in that regard, and you know, there’s a tremendous level of attention and intensity to our actions, and it will continue to be so. We never said we were perfect. Some of the things that you’ve seen, you know, I thought myself — we just have to keep getting better and better and better as we go forward, but it is not from a lack of attention, a lack of communication or a lack of collaboration we have with the great players that are on the PGA TOUR and Korn Ferry Tour.

Q. Given the developments over the last five or six days with testing, what keeps you guys from testing every day?

COMMISSIONER JAY MONAHAN: Well, there’s two things. Just the practical side of it is, you know, one of the things that we committed to, Doug, when we committed our testing protocol was to not take away resources from every community where we are moving to and where we are playing. And so there’s a finite number of supplies we could get at that point in time.

Secondly, when you go back to our medical advisors, as we have done, and this is something we continue to talk to them about, and you look at CDC guidelines and you look at the expectation of any businesslike ours that’s reopening, testing every other day is a sound and accepted protocol for the environment that we’re in.

Q. And secondly, should the public or anyone be surprised when there’s more tests and they come back positive next week?

COMMISSIONER JAY MONAHAN: No, listen, I think this is the reality of what we’re all, you know, we’re all living under. For us, we are doing everything we can to make that not be the case.

But I don’t think — I don’t think anybody should be surprised. I’m certainly hopeful we won’t. But to be able to say that we’re going to not have any cases, and to be able to look you in the eye across the television screen orphan and say we’re not going to have any cases would be disingenuous because we are all learning as we’re going.

But again the team that we have around us that’s guiding us is putting us in a position to make us stronger — take a strong program and make it stronger and stronger.

THE MODERATOR: That concludes today’s press conference with the Commissioner. We would like to thank the media on the line and Commissioner Monahan, thank you so much for your time today.

COMMISSIONER JAY MONAHAN: Thank you, everybody.

PGA Tour Top Tours

PGA Tour: Jay Monahan talks to the media about the Tour’s return

PGA Tour Comissioner Jay Monahan talks to the media about the PGA Tour’s restart at the Charles Schwab Challenge in Colonial Country Club in Texas and what his conclusions are about the first week back.

Jay Monahan about the return of the PGA Tour

Q. Jay, if you’re being really honest with yourself, what was your biggest concern as everyone started showing up in Fort Worth for the week?
JAY MONAHAN: Biggest concern? I think the biggest concern given the amount of time that we put into our testing and safety protocols was that even though we felt really good about the plan we had in place, if we saw the number of tests that were positive or we got into a situation where we were dealing with a number of positive tests, that’s something, candidly, that I lost a lot of sleep over in the weeks that preceded coming in there.

A lot of challenges, but I would say that would probably have been the biggest concern because it’s the one that we’ve all been dealing with, wrestling with, trying to understand and trying to prepare for.

Q. I just was wondering, obviously we don’t have a winner yet, but where we stand right now, is there a favorite moment you’ve had this week and what is it? Even if it was just what you just talked about, having those tests cleared right off the bat, that first tee on Thursday?
JAY MONAHAN: Yeah, I think — I would say it’s hard to pick a favorite moment because there’s so many along the way. I think just everybody being back together and being on property on Thursday, recognizing that the PGA TOUR was returning, and to see our players, to see all of you, to be back together in the environment of a PGA TOUR event, knowing the incredible amount of teamwork that went into getting there, and I think seeing players interact with each other, players and caddies interact with each other. It’s almost like when you went away for school for the summer and then you come back in the fall, those first couple days, seeing people that you haven’t seen in a while, it’s that good feeling you have as a result of that. I think that was the thing that was to me really, really powerful and meaningful.

And then when you add on top of it the 8:46 moment, and I look at the caddie bibs and I see the respect that we as an organization were paying to the front line healthcare workers — I mean, just a lot of things that roll up into it. But I think that Thursday morning was really, really a meaningful moment.

Q. If I could just ask you, is there anything that maybe you learned this week that you adjusted going forward as far as the plan, the things that you probably didn’t know about a month ago when you came up with the plan?
JAY MONAHAN: I’m sure there are, and we’re going to be on the phone later today and further tomorrow to talk about some of those things, but yeah, I’m sure there are adjustments that we’ll make. That’s a commitment that we made going into it. But I wouldn’t say — I would characterize any change that we’re making as probably slight adjustments to a plan that we feel has worked very well thus far.

Q. I was wondering, is the feeling as you play out this week a sense of relief or a sense of excitement that everything is back and now you go forward?
JAY MONAHAN: I think it’s a sense of excitement. You know, you can’t have one without the other, I guess, in this environment. But we’ve got five or six holes left to go here and a great championship, and players have really played exceedingly well and handled this environment so, so well. So I’m excited to see how this concludes.

Our work, there’s more work to be done. As I said to you guys earlier this week, this is about a sustained return, but I think as we sit here late in the day on Sunday, there’s no question that this has been an exceptional week.

Q. I know you told us earlier this week that you heard from some of your peers in other sports wishing you good luck. I wondered if you’d heard from any of them this weekend or today, and I wondered also if they’ve expressed a desire for you guys to share notes from what you’ve learned during the lead-up and this week?
JAY MONAHAN: You know, I’ve heard from some of my peers, and I think as I mentioned as we go forward, we will share — we’ll share everything that we’ve learned and how we’re applying our protocols, and I would imagine some of those calls will happen over the next several days. But I know there are a lot of people that when you’re in an industry and you’re in an important time like this where we’re all trying to take our own respective sports and make sure that we’re doing — we are prioritizing the health and safety of our athletes and all of our constituents, really that each sport is different, I think that there is — I know there’s a lot of people that are watching us, and hopefully they’re proud of what’s been done here.

Q. I just wanted to get your take on what you thought of Colonial and Fort Worth and coming back here, and especially when you look two years ago this tournament was kind of in jeopardy without a title sponsor.
JAY MONAHAN: Well, I think the club has always been exceptional. I mentioned to you that right away the club and Charles Schwab raised their hand and said, when you reset the schedule, not only do we want to be back, but we’d like to be considered to be the first event. You saw Mayor Price was out here earlier in the week. We’ve had her support throughout. That has been very, very meaningful.

When you play at a venue like Colonial every year consecutively since 1946 and you have the rich history and tradition we have, and it’s such a great golf course, to me it’s the perfect course to come back to when you’ve been out 91 days. You know, I think we’re really thankful for the partnership that we have with Colonial.

It’s very different for them. Not only do they get to host this event every single year, but in that town and over the course of the week, it’s an opportunity to showcase the beauty of their club and to be around their fellow members and friends, and a lot of that didn’t happen, but it did not in any way take away from the energy, the commitment and the enthusiasm from the leadership of the club.

Q. I’m guessing you’re watching the telecast right now; what’s your take watching it without any fans? Is it different to you or does it seem the same?
JAY MONAHAN: Well, I’m not watching it now because I’m talking to you guys and I can’t do two things at once, but I would say it’s — listen, it’s different. It really is different, but I look at the work that Golf Channel and CBS have done, and again, I think what they’ve been able to produce and present to our fans is remarkable. It’s different.

I also don’t think — to me what I really have focused on is the intensity of the competition and the intensity that you see and experience from the players, and whether it’s those opening tee shots the last couple days, the close of the round yesterday, throughout the course of the day here, I get the same level, I get the same feeling in my stomach as I’m watching these players compete for a PGA TOUR win on Sunday.

But to not have the fan roars, to see the way players are responding when they’re making birdies and there’s not noise, I mean, that’s just all of our — that’s a new reality for all of us. But I still as an obvious fan, I feel the intensity, and I think that’s what fans are experiencing, as well.

Q. Given all the challenges that we’ve spoken about all week, is this everything you could have possibly asked for this week? Is there anything that could have gone better for you other than obviously not having fans here?
JAY MONAHAN: Listen, there is more work to be done, but this is a phenomenal start to our return. There’s no question about it. A lot of people that deserve a lot of credit for that, our players certainly at the top of that list for all of their involvement in the weeks leading into this, and the way that they’ve come back and adapted to these new protocols, again, going back at that our partners at Colonial, our partners at Fort Worth, our partners at CBS, our partners at Golf Channel. A lot of us came together to be able to put the PGA TOUR and Korn Ferry TOUR back in play, and I think as we leave here with the first — concluding the first week of a new safety and testing protocol, to not have had any issues, and for players to adapt to that system so well, and for us as a collective to be focused on what’s actually happening inside the field of play, watching competition, I think it’s gone — yeah, to answer your question in a long way, I think it’s gone about as well as we could have hoped for. I’m proud of our team for that.

Q. When we talk about a successful week, which it seems like on our end, as well, is the real measure not until next week when everyone turns up at Hilton Head? And kind of on that note, have you gotten any test results back from the boys who had to do it yesterday getting on the charter?
JAY MONAHAN: Yeah. You know, I think that’s right. I was asked what’s a successful week look like. It means us getting to the RBC Heritage and having another successful week next week. I was on the phone with our team earlier today up at the RBC Heritage, and I feel very good about the setup there, and we’re ready to go again.

As it relates to testing from yesterday and the charter flight tomorrow, I don’t have those results back. That flight leaves tomorrow. But all indications are that we should be in a good spot for that.

Q. One more thing on fans that was brought up because it was kind of cool to see people erect tents behind like 15, 16, 3, people sticking their nose through the fence, which is probably good optics. What about next week? Is there any concern security-wise of all the homes that line the fairway and how many people will try and spill out on to the course, or on the perimeter anyway?
JAY MONAHAN: You know, I think that — listen, I do think that next week — we’ve all experienced Harbour Town and seen the houses that line those fairways, and I suspect that you’ll see, as we’ve seen in the past, a number of people in the back yards that are rooting on our players. I was out watching the final group today on the back nine of the Korn Ferry challenge and saw a lot of people out in their back yards rooting on the players today. I think we’ll see a lot of that tomorrow, and obviously as a partner in that community and working with Steve there, I know they’re going to be communicating the importance of social distancing even on the perimeters.

PGA Tour

PGA Tour: Commissioner Jay Monahan Speaks at Annual State of The Players Press Conference

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan speaks at annual Players Championship press conference, speaking on the legacy of the late Pete Dye, charitable donations and the future of the tournament.

PGA Tour: Commissioner Monahan addresses the media prior to the beginning of the 2020 Players Championship

LAURA NEAL: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to THE PLAYERS Championship. I’d like to introduce our PGA TOUR commissioner Jay Monahan for his annual state of THE PLAYERS Championship Press Conference. I know you have some opening remarks and then we will open it up to the media for Q & A.

JAY MONAHAN: Good morning, everybody, and I do have some opening remarks. It’s great to be with you today as we kick off THE PLAYERS Championship 2020. We have more than 900 credentialed media with us this week, and we certainly appreciate what you do in covering our sport and the PGA TOUR throughout the year.

I’d like to start by taking a moment to reflect on the brilliant life of Pete Dye, who designed this golf course with his wife Alice and helped elevate this championship into global prominence. When he passed away on January 9th, golf lost a visionary, a legend and a creative force. Pete’s designs always challenged a player, perhaps more than any architect in history, between the ears, and his courses always demand your best efforts on every single shot.

I encourage you to take in the various tributes to Pete around the golf course this week as we pay our respects to his World Golf Hall of Fame legacy. And as we recognize Pete, I’d like to recognize several individuals here with us today, who were instrumental in the birth and growth of TPC Sawgrass and THE PLAYERS Championship.

Former PGA TOUR Commissioner Deane Beman, former PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem, Vernon Kelly, former president of PGA TOUR golf course properties, Bobby Weed, neighbor, protege and lifelong friend of Pete and the inaugural winner here of THE PLAYERS at TPC here in 1982, Jerry Pate. I’m sure you’ll enjoy speaking with them today about Pete Dye and what he meant to the game of golf and their own lives.

So in preparing for today’s press conference, I went back and I looked at the 2017 transcript from the first time I spoke with you here at THE PLAYERS as commissioner. At that time I spoke a lot about the path to securing the TOUR’s foundation for the future, and many of you had questions about the future of our media rights, the FedExCup, the schedule, the stature of THE PLAYERS, and yes, pace of play.

In revisiting these topics, I’d like to remind you about our business model. This is a player-led organization, and as a membership organization, it’s a great honor and it’s awesome to have our members here back at TPC Sawgrass.

Our players are entrepreneurs, and they inject that spirit into everything we do as a TOUR. Yes, they have independence, but they are also world-class athletes who have a desire to bring their talents to a growing global fan base and impact the communities in which we play. That’s how we’re able to modernize the PGA TOUR at every turn, because of that entrepreneurial partnership and culture we’ve built with our members. We listen, we respond, and we grow the reach of our TOUR.

Our players want and expect us to listen, to not only them but as importantly, to our fans. What do they want from the TOUR and how do we deliver world-class golf to them in new and different ways.

Look no further than some of the changes we’ve made in recent years: The schedule, the FedExCup structure, the TOUR Championship format, our Discovery global media partnership, the domestic rights agreements we announced yesterday, the launch of PGA TOUR Live, every shot live this week at THE PLAYERS, gaming opportunities and our emergence on that front. These past few years have been transformative for our TOUR, our players and our fans, and we are not slowing down.

It’s clear to me that we have a winning formula. It’s worked for our players, our sponsors, our fans, communities, media partners for 51 years. We’re growing in virtually every metric, and it’s not because that winning formula remains the same. We listen, and we respond. That allows us to broaden our reach internationally, allows us to diversify our fan base, allows us to provide new and innovative ways to reach our fans, and allows us to showcase our great athletes to the world.

I’d like to address just how much progress we’ve made on these items and more give you an idea of where we’re headed.

In 2017 year at THE PLAYERS, I was asked about the future of media rights and how this would help us better deliver the PGA TOUR to our fans. Yesterday we were thrilled to announce that we will continue our long-standing broadcast partnerships with CBS and NBC and with The Golf Channel while establishing a new relationship with Disney and ESPN+.

These partnerships put us in a position to significantly increase player earnings, deliver more value to our tournaments and sponsors, and ultimately allow us to grow our charitable footprint. It also should be viewed as a major victory for our fans, based on the elevated commitment from all four partners to help us grow and innovate that content and its delivery.

At the end of the day, when you add in our Discovery/GolfTV partnership, we now have domestic and international media rights secured through 2030, with unquestioned industry leaders. On behalf of our players and our team, thank you to these partners in responding to the PGA TOUR’s desire to evolve and innovate.

We’re also pleased to successfully negotiate media rights for our strategic partner, the LPGA, through 2030. With this new rights agreement, the LPGA will continue as anchor programming on The Golf Channel and will also receive expanded exposure on CBS and NBC.

Right here at THE PLAYERS in 2017, we announced a 10-year extension with our largest partner FedEx as we headed into the second decade of our season-ending FedExCup Playoffs. With this long-term agreement in place, we were able to make significant improvements in 2019 to our schedule, the FedExCup Playoff structure and the TOUR Championship scoring all to create a more compelling and engaging product for our fans, both new and existing.

It also allowed us to prioritize securing long-term relationships with our partners. We currently have 18 sponsors in place with agreements of seven or more years, and we anticipate that number will grow as we move forward. For our members, these additions meant significant growth in total compensation, with bonus money doubling from $35 million to $70 million.

We’re pleased with our progress but by no means are we finished. Our existing partnerships combined with our new domestic rights agreements will allow for significant growth in our members’ earnings in the coming years, and deservedly so.

In 2017, I also outlined the many significant course and infrastructure changes to TPC Sawgrass already completed, and I detailed a multi-year plan of putting all the elements in place as we continue to elevate what is one of the most significant events in the world of golf. This plan included a continued growth in the purse, which we were pleased to announce at $15 million with $2.7 million awarded to our champion later this week.

THE PLAYERS Championship has the strongest field in golf, an iconic and fan-friendly venue in TPC Sawgrass that favors no particular style of player, evidenced by Rory McIlroy edging Jim Furyk by one stroke last year, and a finishing stretch that certainly ranks amongst the most exciting for fans.

Each year our PLAYERS Championship team led by executive director Jared Rice, TPC Sawgrass director of operations Jeff Plotts and the competitions pillar led by Mark Russell and Stephen Cox, continues to elevate this championship.

That elevation continues to positively affect lives in northeast Florida, evidenced by a record $9.3 record in charitable impact in 2019.

This impact is possible through the support from our players but also from our three proud partners: Optum, Morgan Stanley and Grant Thornton, and the more than 2,000 volunteers who work tirelessly throughout the year and as well as our incredible fans.

We have a fan-first mentality in everything we do as we strive to engage existing fans while creating a new and diverse group of PGA TOUR followers. Innovation through content and new ventures is a significant part of this process. This week at THE PLAYERS, every shot will be live-streamed on NBC Sports Gold to PGA TOUR Live subscribers, allowing fans to follow any player in the field for all four rounds. That’s more than 32,000 shots over the course of the week, captured by more than 120 cameras throughout the course.

Our vision is to bring every shot and every PGA TOUR tournament live to our fans, and this is the first step in making that a reality.

Something else you’ll see for the first time this week: The use of a drone-operated camera that will offer views of many of golf’s most famous holes, giving fans a distinctly unique perspective on the action. I know NBC Sports legendary producer Tommy Roy will take full advantage of this technology, and our fans will be the beneficiaries.

Gaming: It certainly presents another significant opportunity to grow fan interest and engagement. With 21 states now having approved legalized gambling, we’re ramping up engagement opportunities through our partnership with IMG Arena for data distribution globally, DraftKings for daily fantasy, DraftKings, by the way, is standing up a tiered products for PLAYERS the first time this week, and as well as our newest partner the Action Network through GolfBet, which serves to help educate and simulate the betting market throughout the U.S. and overseas.

You asked me in 2017 about pace of play and I appreciate you keeping me honest on this topic in 2018 and 2019, as well. While there was a lot of external discourse regarding pace of play during the FedExCup Playoffs last year, we had been in the process of reviewing this aspect of pace of play for the better part of 2019 and asking ourselves and our Player Advisory Council, is there a better way to do it.

We’re very pleased with the additions to the policy that focus on the individual habits of players, aided by ShotLink technology, that will take effect at the RBC Heritage. Again, we listened and adapted. We think the policy will help keep the focus on our athletes and their incredible skill levels, and will present a better product for our fans, both onsite and on television.

Now, impacting lives in the communities in which we play and efforts to promote diversity, growth and health of the game, they are not side projects for us. They are part and parcel to our business, and we are committed to their success.

Charitable impact is part of the PGA TOUR’s DNA and something we, our tournaments and our players take great pride in. To the tune of more than $203 million raised last year to more than 3,000 organizations. And in January we celebrated a $3 billion milestone thanks to the tournaments across our six tours.

On the participation front, the PGA TOUR has doubled down on its support of the First Tee, now in its 23rd year, as we continue to work towards ensuring those playing the game are a diverse and inclusive reflection of society. Our industry partners are doing the same with their own successful programs.

From a global perspective, we’re at 93 international PGA TOUR members, from 28 countries and growing. We have highly successful PGA TOUR events in Asia, Mexico, Canada, Bermuda and the Dominican Republic, and our three international tours continue to flourish in Canada, China and Latin America. And building on the momentum of golf’s return to the Olympic Games in 2016, we expect further international growth and interest with the playing of the Tokyo games this summer.

So with this winning formula, working in tandem with our players, we made a lot of progress in the last three years as we continue to build a more exciting product for our existing fans, and we’re set up for success and growing and diversifying our fan base in the future. We will never stop pushing to improve all facets of our TOUR, but we’re certainly proud of what we’ve accomplished.

Now, that was a lot more than you expected to hear from me, but I wanted to take this moment to share my thoughts in advance of answering any questions you have.

Q. Could you address further the — some of the things that will be changing on a weekly or daily basis — the impact of the coronavirus on the future schedule? Do you have any plans to assist other organizations with possibly moving their championships to TOUR venues?
JAY MONAHAN: Well, I think from our perspective, the way to look — in asking that question, I would tell you that it started out as a task force. It’s now essentially a business unit, where we have two leaders, Tom Hospel, our medical director, and Alison Keller, our chief administrative officer, who have organized a large team to fully understand the coronavirus and its implications on all facets of our business. I think it goes without saying that the health, safety, well being of our players, our fans, our tournaments, everybody that’s involved in our ecosystem is of utmost importance.

So for us, we are relying heavily, as other leagues and sports and entertainment venues are, relying heavily on the World Health Organization, the CDC, but primarily given the fact that we’re playing 175 tournaments over six tours, this really is about a market-to-market exercise and truly understanding what local public health officials, local government officials, what’s happening on the ground through our tournament directors in every single market where we play.

Suffice it to say it’s a very dynamic situation, but I’m really proud of the amount of effort and thought that’s going into not only where we stand today but the commitment to continue to gain as much information as we can, and candidly the contingency plan for a lot of different scenarios, given that this is an unprecedented situation.

And as it relates to other tournaments and looking across our schedule, I would just say that we’re working very closely with each of those organizations. They’re part of the work that this team is undertaking, talking to those organizations every single day, on the same conference calls with various health organizations, and I think as it relates to any other tournaments and what other organizations are doing, I can’t speak to it, you would have to speak to them, but at this point I think everybody is planning on moving forward full speed ahead, exercising their tournaments, but also keeping an open eye and an open mind to the information that’s coming their way.

Q. So much chatter the first few months of the year have been on this Premier Golf League. I’m just curious how many of the top players have you spoken to, can you characterize the feedback you’ve gotten, and can you say one way or another if a player verbally pledges support of this new league, would they be no longer TOUR members immediately?
JAY MONAHAN: So three questions? Listen, I think it’s my job and it’s my responsibility to be talking to our players every single day, every single week. I do the best that I can. Being out at our tournaments and making myself accessible and listening and responding. That’s what my predecessor did. That’s what I do, and that’s how I really — that’s my commitment as a leader of this organization.

And as it relates to the team golf concept, I certainly have talked to a number of our top players. I’ve talked to players across our membership, and as you recall, this is something that has been rumored for several years, so it hasn’t just started of late, it’s something that we’ve talked to our players about for several years.

If a player pledged — you and I have a long history of hypotheticals and me not answering hypotheticals, but I would just tell you that we’re encouraged by the response that our players have had in our discussions. I think that the value that we provide to our players, to our tournaments, to our fans, the news that we’ve just talked about, securing $12 billion in revenue through 2030, the strength and security and foundation of this TOUR has never been stronger, so that’s what we’re focused on. We’re focused on the excellence that we want to continue to achieve with our players, and our commitment is always one to listen and to respond. That’s a bridge we would cross when we get there, but going back to my earlier comments, this is a player-led organization, 51 years running. Our governance system has been driven by our players and our board, and we have regulations in place that allow us to protect the interests of our media partners, our sponsors and all of our constituents, and if we got to that point in time, we would take measures to vigilantly protect this business model.

Q. With the stuff that you’ve just announced obviously and the new TV deal and whatnot, how much do you feel like that strengthens you? You’ve talked about the fact that the PGL and the team golf thing has been around in the ether for the last few years, but it seems like it’s gained momentum of late, and I wonder how much of a threat that has, for lack of a better word, that it has been to you guys, and to some degree how much does this new deal help you and guys like Rory coming out just the other day, what did that mean to you guys?
JAY MONAHAN: Well, listen, I think that it’s flattering when any entity is looking at what’s happening on the PGA TOUR and they see growth, they see momentum, they see a broadening reach to a larger fan base domestically and internationally, and it’s no surprise that someone is coming to try and take a piece of that. That’s the nature of business.

And so for us, I go back to the very point you’re making, which is an astute one. When you think about free to air television, to have CBS and NBC, CBS covering 19 events through 2030 on average, NBC covering both of those partners, with a rotating commitment to cover the FedExCup Playoffs, when you have the home of golf 24/7 in the United States committing to the PGA TOUR, Korn Ferry, PGA TOUR Champions, LPGA Tour, and the great talent that sits at the Golf Channel making that commitment through 2030, and then when you add ESPN+ and the full support of the ESPN family, which when you step back and I talk of broadening our fan base, when you actually look at the numbers, the great reach that our current partners provide, with the addition of ESPN, you’re talking about 50 million additional uniques that we’re going to be reaching over the course of the year.

So we have the support and the commitment of those organizations through 2030, and we feel great about moving forward with them. And then to know, looking back, they happen on a one-off basis, our tournament extensions, but to have 18 tournaments with seven plus years, it gives the PGA TOUR an opportunity — it gives us an opportunity to long-term plan. And coming back to our players and the original point I’m making, you look at the model of a player’s independence and you think about what we’ve done here in the U.S. from a media rights standpoint, you think of what we’ve added with Discovery, the value of their platform in that independent model is also going to grow up significantly because we’re going to be reaching a lot more people. So we feel really good about where we’re going to go with purses, where we’re going to go with the Wyndham Rewards Top 10, where we’re going to go with the FedExCup, and our players have always had the opportunity to play for meaningful prize money and for meaningful consequence out here, and that’s only going to continue to grow and will grow at a faster rate thanks to that great support that we have.

Q. Just going back to the earlier question about coronavirus, specifically is one of those organizations the PGA of America and a potential contingency of Sawgrass being able to host the PGA Championship should they have a need to move that event?
JAY MONAHAN: You know, I think — I’ll answer that question two ways. One, I’ve talked to Seth and Suzy a lot. Suzy is on our board. They are great partners. And like I said earlier, they are fully planning on proceeding with the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. But when you get in these extraordinary circumstances, you have to make yourself available to your partners, and you have to really work as closely together as you ever have to help each other get through this.

And so there is no plan at this point in time for the PGA Championship to be held here. It’s going to be held at TPC Harding Park. But I would just pledge to you, as we’ve pledged to everybody else, that in all of our tournaments week to week that we’ve got to — we’ve really got to listen and respond to the real information that we’re receiving on the ground, and it’s important for us to present a complete schedule, FedExCup schedule this year. And if we can do that, that’s what we’re going to do as good partners to the game.

Q. Have you spoken to Andy Gardner from the PGL?

Q. Is there room for another tour in the bigger sort of world tour picture?
JAY MONAHAN: Well, I think if — listen, you look at the PGA TOUR and you look at what Keith Pelley and the European Tour have been able to accomplish, and you look at some of the other international tours, the professional game is performing at a very high level across the world.

We’re about to get a lot stronger. We’re going to continue to go strength to strength, and that’s a question for you guys to answer. We need to stay focused on what it is that we can control. We think we’ve got a winning formula, or we know we have a winning formula, and that’s something that we’re now in a position to accentuate. We couldn’t feel better about our position and our ability to get stronger in the decade ahead.

Q. When Rory came out and spoke publicly, and I believe was one of the first to speak out about the league, what was your reaction? What do you think it told you about him?
JAY MONAHAN: I would tell you that it just reminded us all of how thoughtful and thorough Rory McIlroy is. He’s one of the top players in the world, and he had fully understood that model and what was being proposed, and he’s lived this one.

I think his comments — I wasn’t surprised. I was certainly proud and pleased on that given day, and candidly, as I’ve talked to a lot of top players in my one-on-one conversations, I’ve heard a lot of the same. But I thought that was a moment of leadership, and that was a special time, special day.

Q. Scott Piercy made some news recently for some social media posts. What was your reaction?
JAY MONAHAN: My reaction was one of significant disappointment. You know, that post does not convey the values that we have as a TOUR, and certainly doesn’t convey our interest in making certain that golf is inclusive for all, an inclusive sport for all, and the fact of the matter is that what — that post itself is a violation of our policy. I’m not going to speak to the disciplinary action or the disciplinary side of this, but it’s something that we take very seriously. He knows that. I think he at some point in time will address that, and the fact of the matter is that, again, it doesn’t reflect who we are as an organization.

But when something like that happens, you need to use that as a teaching moment, and people need to get better and people need to understand the full consequence of something like that, and that’s where our focus is on right now.

Q. Specifically to two weeks from now in Austin, as you know they’ve canceled a fairly big festival there the week prior. Where does that stand? Is there any chance that that event would not go on? Can you just update us on how you’re looking at that?
JAY MONAHAN: I would say that right now, that’s one of the tournaments that’s on the focus list, given its proximity to where we sit right here. We are planning on — we are fully planning on being in Austin, Texas, for the WGC Dell Match Play. We are working very closely with, on the ground, Jordan Uplegger, who is our executive director, meeting with the mayor, the mayor’s staff, local public health officials, tied into our coronavirus task force. We feel like we have support to continue to move forward with the event, full support. But I would say, you used the word, any chance, or the expression, any chance. This thing is so dynamic that you just have to go hour-to-hour, day-to-day, but right now we’ve gotten — we have every assurance that we’ll be in Austin for the event.

And I also would add that — you mentioned another event that was canceled, and when you see these cancellations, they happen for different factors and different reasons, some of which aren’t applicable to us, and that’s where, when you see that news, there was an immediate — we started to get a number of phone calls from members of the media, from players, from our partners, and you step back and you actually look at the data, look at what’s happening on the ground there, if your local public health officials feel confident that everybody can enter into a safe environment and that we’re protecting the well-being of all folks on-site that we’re going to move forward.

Q. Would you describe some of the ways specifically that the viewer experience will be enhanced over the next nine years?
JAY MONAHAN: Yes. So you started to see a little bit of it this week with every player, every shot live. But one of the elements to yesterday’s announcement that I think is very important beyond the incredible commitment we have from those partners is that, when you look at the PGA TOUR today and you look at how global our sport is, our athletes are and the media interest is, by working — by taking greater control of the compound, by adding more feeds than we currently have on PGA TOUR Live today in the future, being able to not only provide more content here in the U.S. but also use that content internationally off of GolfTV with our Discovery partnership is one thing that I would point to and one of the things that excites us about that announcement is it’s not just, we’re moving to ESPN+, but we’re also creating more content that can serve our global fan base.

So that’s one. And then when you look at that, I talked about how we’ve set up where we are from a gaming standpoint and the strength of the ShotLink technology, that we invest tens of millions of dollars in each year. Now to be able to use that data and to be able to apply that not only to our platforms but potentially in the way that we stream and the way that we think about presenting our sport, again, these new deals start in 2022, we’re working with our current partners now on that, but I would expect us to have more specifics on that front as we go forward.

But I just think when you look at our sport and the fact that we cover 20 percent of the shots that are out here and there are over 30,000 in a given week and we’ve got more and more stars representing more and more countries, it’s just a chance for us to be able to showcase them more, and with new technologies emerging, it’s going to be easier to do it, and we’re going to have the infrastructure in place to be able to do it.

But when you — one of the things that we’ve really liked about where we are is there’s a spirit of — these aren’t unique deals. There’s a spirit of collaboration across the partners. There’s a commitment to evolve and innovating, and then there’s the complete lack of complacency about where we are and where we can go, just given all the opportunities with that set of partners.

Q. You made the comment, “doubling down on the First Tee.” What does that mean?
JAY MONAHAN: The First Tee — it’s actually hard to double down because it was maxed out under Commissioner Finchem as leadership from a TOUR standpoint. The one thing that we looked at was our partners in the industry have their own unique programs, but the governance of the First Tee was tied to the World Golf Foundation.

And so you had all of the golf organizations that were governing the First Tee. I think it’s fair to say that the TOUR was the majority, the lead partner in the First Tee. What we’ve done is to take the First Tee out of the World Golf Foundation, set up the PGA TOUR First Tee Foundation, and now the First Tee is essentially a business unit. Every employee at the PGA TOUR is responsible and accountable to help grow the First Tee. We took Greg McLaughlin, who did a wonderful job running PGA TOUR Champions, he’s now running the First Tee. He’s built a great team. We’re going to be embarking on a significant capital campaign that comes off the back of identifying what we think we need to do to change the curriculum or upgrade the curriculum and refresh it, what we need to be more technology centric with this younger generation and how we produce our content and a number of other steps that we’re going to take that we think will take the First Tee with additional resources, to the next level.

Q. I just wonder what you made of Rory’s thoughtful argument last week that there were too many tournaments in professional golf. That, in his words, we’d reached saturation points and were in danger of exhausting the fans.
JAY MONAHAN: Well, we have a wonderful PGA TOUR FedExCup schedule with 49 events this year, and there really are very few weaknesses on our schedule. And when you look at our model and the fact that players are independent contractors, for us putting the best tournaments forward week-in and week-out, recognizing that in our sport players like to play in certain conditions, certain markets, like to sequence their schedule differently, a lot of factors that go into the schedule that we have, and we’ve got great commitments from the markets where we play, and that’s what’s gotten us to here.

But I think when you look at — when players — this is not the first time we’ve heard this. When you’re in Player Advisory Council meetings, when we’re in board meetings, we’re constantly looking at how our schedule is performing. I talked a lot about where we are and where we’re headed, and it’s been reinforced by the marketplace, but I would say that because the schedule is so dynamic for our players, it’s also as dynamic for us as leaders, and that’s something that we’ll continue to look at and say, what are the things that we can do to improve our schedule. But I would tell you, we feel really good about where we are today and the flexibility we have going forward.

Q. Last week Phil Mickelson was asked about Rory saying he was out of the Premier League, and Phil’s response was, I don’t know if I would want to give away my leverage right away like that. My question to you is, have you felt pressure from top players to use the Premier League as pressure to leverage more benefits for the top players?
JAY MONAHAN: I feel pressure from top players to continue to make sure our product is getting better and better and better, the playing opportunities they have are the best in the world, the platform we provide them is the single best platform in the world that’s growing in value. So you always feel that pressure. It hasn’t just started here over the last couple of months.

So I wouldn’t say — certainly this is a unique circumstance or situation, but you don’t wake up and hear that and all of a sudden say, okay, we need to now start doing more. I’ll take you back to where I started, which is we have a really — we have such a great leadership team in here. We’re so committed to where we are and where we’re going. We’re thinking multiple years down the road, and we’re always thinking about our players and how we make things better for them, continue to make them better for them.

So long as we do that, I think we are going to continue to succeed.

Q. Once the dust settles on the health aspects of the coronavirus, the economic aspects are going to be long out there. Obviously you’re a corporate-driven organization. How does that concern you over the short-term and the long-term, A; and B, the current sponsors you do have, if in fact there was a need in some way, shape or form for concessions from you, would you be willing to do that as a partner?
JAY MONAHAN: Well, I wasn’t at the TOUR — I joined the TOUR in 2009, and one of the most impressive things I experienced was the way Commissioner Finchem and the leadership team at the time assessed what was a deteriorating economic environment. And the strength of this organization, given the incredible impact that we have in the communities where we play, is not such that a tournament or a sponsor is looking generally to leave the marketplace or to leave their tournament. We have so many that have been there for 10 or more years.

But you have to always be aware of your surroundings. You always have to be aware of the environment. And so to answer your question, if a sponsor is challenged or a sponsor needs us to be open-minded relative to things that we can do to help them, we will always be that way.

But I point to the fact that one of the reasons that we’ve built up the reserves that we have, that we have the strong financial underpinning we have is that so when you get to a situation like that, we continue to proceed with the schedule that we have and the tournaments that we have, and we would get to the back end where we are today with even stronger partnerships than we currently have.

But hopefully that answers your question, that it would be — in that situation, it’s very dynamic and you take each conversation on a one-off basis.

Q. In regards to the Premier Golf League again, in the aftermath of all of this, there’s been a lot of things proposed as ways of helping the so-called top-name players, the top-marketed players. Could you ever see appearance fees being allowed or some sort of a marketing pool used to sort of enhance their situation?
JAY MONAHAN: I would tell you that going back to the fact that we’re in a position here where, starting in ’22, you’ve got — we’ve got a meaningful increase in the overall dollars that we’re going to be allocating, that we’re going to look at all facets of our business model, and I think that you look at where we’re going to be from — and I’m excited to one day share with you where we’re going to be prize money-wise, Wyndham Rewards Top 10, where we’re going to be with the FedExCup. But I think you have to be mindful of where do we need to be 10, 15 years from now, and to say that we’re going to — that we’re looking at appearance fees at this time would be premature. We just had a board meeting last week where we finalized where we’re going to be with our media rights and where we think we’re going to go from an allocation standpoint and we’ll rely quite heavily on our Player Advisory Council and our governance process to decide how to look at the next 10-plus years.

Q. Can you share where you think you’re going to be?
JAY MONAHAN: I think we’ll be — listen, here we were excited to move to a $15 million purse. I see us getting to $25 million, and I see that certainly through the term, if not earlier in the term. I think when you look at the Cup, when we were here in ’18 we were at $35, we move it to $70, 60 plus the 10 with the Wyndham Rewards Top 10. There’s a day in the not-too-distant future where that Cup will be worth significantly more, perhaps $100 million or more. That’s not a commitment, but that’s, generally speaking, the kind of growth that I expected for us to see for our athletes.

Q. I also wanted to ask you what you see as the future of the Hall of Fame, specifically the building structure.
JAY MONAHAN: Well, we have a big meeting tomorrow from 10:00 to 12:00 where we’ll select the 2021 class, and then as it relates to the building and the structure, we are committed to being in that building through 2021. We are looking at, with Greg McLaughlin’s leadership and my industry partners or our industry partners, what life looks like continuing in that building, and then what all of our options are as we go forward.

I think that building has served the Hall of Fame exceedingly well in St. Augustine and may continue to be the case, but with the world changing and the world, the way people consume media, consume content, we want to make certain that we come out the back end of this that we’ve done everything we can to celebrate the incredible accomplishments of everybody that’s in that Hall of Fame, so we’re looking at a lot of different options, and we haven’t settled on where we’re going to be at this point.

Q. Everyone is going to be driving by the new headquarters building on the way in this week. Can you just update on the status of that, when you expect to be moving in and also when you might be adding some of the jobs that were promised with that?
JAY MONAHAN: We will be in that building on January 1st, maybe 2nd or 3rd, whenever we come back in the new year. I would tell you that we don’t start adding jobs when we go into the new building. We’ve been adding jobs to grow and diversify our fan base and our technology business and platforms, adding jobs in our tournament business affairs group to support the work we do with all of our tournaments across all of our tours. We’ve done that over the last couple years. We’re going to continue to do that as we go forward, and we feel very confident that the commitments that we made to the community will be honored. And we’re really excited to go from 17 buildings in this town, and you think of the moment that Deane came down here and played across the street in the Father-Son, did not — had an opportunity with Sawgrass Country Club, he and the board decided that wasn’t the right opportunity, and then he negotiated long and hard for the dollar that he spent to have the opportunity to build this unbelievable property. But they started in a condo, which led to three condos, and now that three condos has gone to 17 different locations in Ponte Vedra.

When you think of a global organization with all the resources that we have, everybody being in the same building, one culture, it’s such an exciting time for the organization, it’s something we can’t wait to get to, and Deane, Tim, thank you for getting us here.

Q. There’s a great picture of Tiger from last year over your right shoulder, and I know it’s great to have his participation, but given the great young influx of talent and all the different names that are a part of the game now, how has the TOUR’s dependence on his participation changed?
JAY MONAHAN: Well, listen, any time you have Tiger playing, not only does it make an impact on golf fans and core golf fans, it makes — it reaches all tentacles of the sports marketplace worldwide. He is a global icon. As we sit here today, his presence, his excellence, what he’s been able to accomplish over the last couple years, obviously we’re disappointed he’s not here this week, but he told you all, I think the expression was the new normal, and he used it 18 to 24 months ago. And I think him being smart about understanding his body and only playing when he thinks he can win is the new normal.

But in terms of our dependence, Ben Crane said it best: He said, when Tiger Woods — when young kids started watching Tiger Woods, they stopped playing baseball, football, hockey, and they started playing golf, and now he’s out here and he’s competing against the very athletes he created. And so his presence is here, literally, even if he’s not here playing in the tournament.

And the way I look at Tiger is that will always be the case. His legacy is something that will always be celebrated the next 30, 40, 50 years or in perpetuity, and his impact, it’s all around this property.

Q. We have quite some presence and partnership in countries like China, Korea and Japan where the coronavirus is highly affecting them. Has it ever been on your agenda to start some initiative and charitable campaign to help the local government and the people, especially we’ve seen some other sports and organizations, like NBA, they have done a lot to help them and also like growing the presence in international markets is one of the things you talk about a lot.
JAY MONAHAN: Yes. Well, you know, obviously one of the things that we did right away was to postpone the start of our PGA TOUR China Series Qualifying School and the start of that season. I think for us, recognizing that we’re going to be in the marketplace later this year hopefully, and with our people on the ground, there are a number of things that we’re doing to support our employees and there are a number of things that we’ll be doing to support everybody on the ground. That’s part of the DNA of this organization.

So I feel really good about where we are and what we’ll continue to do to be supportive on that front, and any time you get into a situation like this where there’s a worldwide — you’ve got worldwide impact, generally speaking, we feel really good about the story we can tell when everything is said and done. We’re less vocal about what we’ve done up front, but I feel very good about what we’re doing.

Q. Going back to the TV deal for a second, one of the elements of that was the TOUR taking on production responsibilities. Two questions about that. Why, and secondly, what that means for golf on television, sort of what it looks like going forward.
JAY MONAHAN: I think the simplest way for me to answer it is, a couple years ago, we were in business with NBC, The Golf Channel and with CBS. We had Discovery and you built a direct-to-consumer platform in every market ex-U.S. and now we’re placing our rights as they come up market to market. We’re producing a lot more content than we’ve ever produced internationally.

You add the expanded partnerships with CBS, NBC, Golf Channel, you add ESPN+, and you add the fact that our fans are seeking more content, what we decided, and Rick Anderson and his team did a wonderful job of identifying this, and candidly our partners have been great in responding and adapting to it, is that we’re going to need to produce more content, and we need to have a singular look at how we do that, given the commitments we have across a number of partners, including our own platforms.

So that’s why we’ve done that. It gives us a greater ability to effect that and honor the commitments we have in this extraordinary period of time that we’re in.

Q. One of the most recent major discussions has been on the bifurcation of the golf ball. It’s been discussed for over 10 years by the USGA and the PGA. Now, this weekend we’re going to have warm weather and we’re going to have firm fairways, and your TV announcers are going to say the ball just went 340 yards. The USGA is going to come back and say, the ball is going too far. Do you have any thoughts on that?
JAY MONAHAN: Do I have any thoughts? I would say, first of all, the USGA and the R&A, I commend the work that they did, stepping back and fully assessing the subject of distance. We are, as an industry partner, we’re committed to the process that they’ve outlined. And not only committed, we’re fully invested in it, and we want to make certain that, not only are we invested in it and understanding all the various options that they’re thinking about, but we’re also looking at it selfishly from the perspective of what’s in the best interest of the PGA TOUR and also what’s in the best interest of the game.

So for me to take a position before that process has started and before we’ve been into more formal discussions I think would be getting ahead of the process itself. But I think it’s pretty obvious, when they sent out the report and they introduced the concept of exploring a local rule, that spooked a few people out. So we need to all get together, get in a room and really understand this subject, all of its implications and be good industry partners, and that’s what we plan on doing.

Q. Does that include the ball manufacturers and the cost it’s going to be to a ball manufacturer to change —
JAY MONAHAN: Well, the Vancouver protocol very specifically states that it will. We’ve got great partnerships with all the manufacturers, and they’re going to be a part of the process. We’re also going to continue to talk to as many people that are impacted and affected by this industry, so that we’re as fully knowledgeable as we can be.

Q. If the tournament can’t be held in Austin, would the WGC just be canceled or is there a backup place in plan now?
JAY MONAHAN: Well, as I said earlier, we fully expect that the tournament will be held in Austin. That tournament is two weeks away. We’re all in and making certain that we’re able to operate that event.

Now, there are various iterations or there are different ways of operating an event based on the circumstances in terms of fan involvement and how we operate the event, but we’re still confident that we’d be able to operate the event.

LAURA NEAL: Any parting thoughts before we head out?

JAY MONAHAN: Well, I would just say thank you, as I said up front, to everybody in this room. I think about how our organization continues to evolve. I think about the strength of our membership and the strength of our athletes and our tournaments and where we are, and I just couldn’t be more excited to walk forward into the next decade with all of you here and to work to grow the greatest game on the planet. So thank you very much.

Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

March 11, 2020

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports