PGA Tour Commissioner Says Talks to Unify Golf Have 'Started Anew,' Offers No Specifics

Jay Monahan, in his first public comments since March, said last year's framework agreement is still relevant but the negotiation process is "building from the ground up."
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan issued his first public comments since March.
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan issued his first public comments since March. / Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA

More than a year after the controversial “framework agreement” that has yet to be consummated between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said Wednesday that parts of the original outline are still in play as negotiations continue—but that everyone “started anew.”

Monahan offered no specific details on the negotiations, which he categorized as positive in remarks to reporters at the Travelers Championship outside of Hartford.

“I would say that the framework agreement is still relevant,” Monahan said in his first public comments since the Players Championship in March. “There are aspects of it that certainly continue to be in play.

“But I would put it more back towards we've kind of stepped back, we've all stepped back and we started anew. And particularly with the introduction of the transaction committee, our players' involvement, and I would say that the vast majority of what we're talking about, we're building from the ground up. But any time you're building from the ground up, part of what you've talked about, part of the history of those conversations is important context.”

The original framework agreement outlined a new board of directors that included Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of the PIF, which backs LIV Golf. That has not occurred since there is no agreement yet.

The Tour also funded its new for-profit PGA Tour Enterprises via Strategic Sports Group, a private equity company made up of various professional sports owners and groups. While other investment was part of the original framework agreement, it was unclear to what level. So far, SSG has put $1.5 billion into the new endeavor and the Tour has announced an equity ownership plan for existing and past players.

The transaction committee was formed outside of the board to negotiate directly with the PIF and includes Monahan, Tiger Woods, Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy and board members Joe Gorter and John Henry, who is with SSG and Fenway Sports Group.

“I will go back to the meeting that we had just two Fridays ago in New York, where our entire transaction committee, including Tiger Woods and Adam Scott being in person and Rory dialing in from the Memorial Tournament, alongside Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the Governor of the PIF and representatives of the PIF,” Monahan said. “It was a very productive discussion. As we've said, progress was made and we continue to be in regular dialogue. I had a 10 o'clock call this morning with the PIF, and we're doing that multiple times a week.”

Monahan added: “People seem to think that there are things that are happening that aren't happening, but ultimately we're the arbiters of that and ... I understand there's a lot of attention and there's going to be a lot of opinions and there are probably going to be a lot of rumors. And as part of the position I and all of us find ourselves in, is we're focused on trying to get to the right outcome, the right outcome for our players, for our fans, for the game of golf, and that's where our focus is.”

Asked about comments McIlroy made two weeks ago about the Department of Justice and how complicated the discussions can be, Monahan said:

“I think that our approach on this is that the number one focus is making this agreement pro-competitive for players, for our fans, for all of our constituents. That's a shared commitment that we all have. And there's no question that as we go through this process they're (the DOJ) going to be an important party to the discussions.”

Monahan also addressed the new exemption given to Tiger Woods, who will be eligible for all of the limited-field signature events starting next year without needing a sponsor exemption.

Woods, who missed the cut at the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship, played in his own event, the Genesis Invitational, on a sponsor invite in February.

The Player Advisory Committee recommended the move, which was approved by the Policy Board. It also approved a plan to assure a minimum of 72 players per signature event, with discussion ongoing about adding 36-hole cuts to all eight of the signature events. Just three events—the Genesis, Arnold Palmer and Memorial—have them now.

“I think it was important to our membership, it's something we talked about with the PAC, it was important to our player directors, it was important to our board,’’ Monahan said of the Woods’ exemption. “It's important to me because as the exemption says, has won more than 80 events, and I think being able to give him the opportunity to compete in these events—any event he's ever played in he's made it bigger, he's made it better, he's drawn more eyeballs to it, and I think just as an organization we wanted to celebrate his exceptionalism in that manner.”


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Bob Harig

BOB HARIG

Bob Harig is a senior writer covering golf for Sports Illustrated. He has more than 25 years experience on the beat, including 15 at ESPN. Harig is a regular guest on Sirius XM PGA Tour Radio and has written two books, "DRIVE: The Lasting Legacy of Tiger Woods" and "Tiger and Phil: Golf's Most Fascinating Rivalry." He graduated from Indiana University where he earned an Evans Scholarship, named in honor of the great amateur golfer Charles (Chick) Evans Jr. Harig, a former president of the Golf Writers Association of America, lives in Clearwater, Fla.