PGA Tour Commissioner Monahan Pressed for Answers on SSG, PIF Deal

At The Players, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan was pressed for answers on the proposed entity between the Tour and SSG ( Strategic Sports Group) and PIF ( Saudi Public Investment Fund), should they all combine to form a new entity. 

Jay Monahan - THE PLAYERS Championship
Jay Monahan - THE PLAYERS Championship / Richard Heathcote/GettyImages

Monahan was asked for answers that he did not yet have or that he did not want to divulge because of ongoing confidential conversations.

For instance, what should happen to former PGA Tour players who left for LIV? Are the SSG/LIV/PGA TOUR parties getting along? What did he think of Rory McIlroy’s desire for some events with only 80 to 100 players? What were the most important reasons to do a deal with LIV?  What would happen if the PGA Tour did not do a deal with them?

In other words, he was grilled. Politely, because it’s golf, but Monahan was pelted with questions for an hour, and he answered every question that didn’t cause him to divulge a confidence.

What was revealed is that regarding a potential new entity, all the parties have met.

“We made the decision on December 7th, as a board, unanimously, to move forward with SSG,” he said about what happened. “It was important for SSG, and it was important for the TOUR to engage directly with the PIF prior to finalizing any deal, which is why I joined principals from SSG on a trip to Saudi Arabia to meet with Yasir and members of PIF, and that's why we continue to have productive discussions.”

They met in January.

Regarding the potential success of the meetings, Monahan said he felt that the participation of SSG makes it more likely, not less likely, that a deal with PIF included will be the end result. The reason, he said, is that the people involved in SSG have many years of experience in sports ownership and management, both in the U.S. and internationally. 

“I think that that is attractive to the PIF, and I think that we all -- when you step back from it and you just look at where we are, and for some of the reasons I stated earlier, with the game booming, becoming cooler, becoming more mainstream, it's truly global,” he added.

According to Monahan, the PGA Tour is “limited in our ability to invest back into some of those growth opportunities” that are available. Having the financial support of SSG and potentially of PIF gives the organization the ability to grow with the formation of the new company, PGA Tour Enterprises.  

“I think an ultimate deal would be in the best interest of the game and ultimately would be in the best interest of the TOUR, if it can be done,” Monahan said. “That's the spirit with which we approach the conversations and the negotiations, and I think that that goes both ways.”

On McIlroy’s interest in fewer Tour cards, Monahan admitted that topic has come up in meetings, but that there are other players who do not feel the same way.

“Part of the dynamic of being commissioner of the PGA TOUR is balancing the perspectives of not only our entire membership but perspectives of our board members,” he answered.

Perhaps the most interesting comment is one where Monahan was answering a question about whether he was concerned about past stars who have left the PGA Tour. 

His answer was that " we consistently, as an organization, regenerate talent and create stars.” 

Then he repeated something Jason Gore, former PGA Tour player now an Executive VP and Chief Player Officer with the Tour, said about stars that left: “A star on the PGA TOUR can be born in three weeks.”  

Monahan insisted that they are making progress behind the scenes, but that he’s not at liberty to share any details. Patrick Cantlay, who is on the policy board, is aware of several things that are going on behind the scenes. 

“I just don't think it's appropriate really for me to be saying, because I'm not in the room,” Cantlay said.

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Monahan believes that whatever deal finally emerges will probably not totally satisfy everyone, but that he will try for the “best possible outcome” for the PGA Tour and for the game of golf.

“I do think that’s achievable,” he said.