BEDMINSTER, NJ – Can we agree that in a discussion ranking extraordinarily successful CEOs, such as Jack Welch (General Electric), Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and Elon Musk (Tesla), the name Jay Monahan, CEO of the PGA Tour, is sure to never come up.
In fact, the slow dismantling over the past 12 months of the PGA Tour with Mr. Monahan at the helm is alarming, and quite disturbing. You certainly don’t need a degree from Harvard Business School to assess the damage incurred. If you follow golf, it seems the only topic discussed lately is LIV Golf-related, with the conversation being twofold: the big-name player (or players) who’ve recently signed with the LIV Golf Invitational Series, and the ones rumored to be in the pipeline.
Since that fateful Sunday, June 12, during the final round of the 2022 RBC Canadian Open when Monahan joined CBS’ Jim Nantz in the broadcast booth on national TV and proceeded to whiff at every softball question lobbed his way, the state of the PGA Tour has never been more confusing.
That date is noteworthy since the PGA Tour and its reputation has never been the same. What was supposed to be damage-control propaganda turned into a shipwreck series of events over a period of seven weeks.
Since that day, dozens of the world-class, marquee players, including Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed, and Paul Casey have deserted the PGA Tour for the LIV Golf Invitational series.
More importantly, the Department of Justice has confirmed an investigation into the legitimacy of the PGA Tour status as a “non-profit” and whether it operates as a monopoly.
Additionally, it was learned that the DOJ is looking into whether collusion is taking place among Official World Golf Rankings’ board members. (Without world-ranking points, LIV Golf members would be unable to qualify for major championships.) One board member is Monahan. Another is Martin Slumbers of the R&A, who went on a tirade against LIV Golf ahead of the 150th Open. The others are representatives of the USGA, PGA of America, the Masters, and DP World Tour, which are all on the record of either opposing LIV Golf efforts and/or pledging allegiance to the PGA Tour. I mean, has a deck ever looked so stacked?
There’s more: just last week, CNBC reported that the PGA Tour paid a firm named DLA Piper $360,000 to lobby Congress and the White House on their behalf for multiple topics including “Saudi Golf League proposals.”
“The PGA Tour in 2019 took in $1.5 billion in revenues and paid out $110 million in salaries and wages to its own officials and hundreds of millions more to players,” wrote U.S. Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.), author of legislation filed to take away the PGA Tour’s “non-profit” status.
“The Tour ended up with a profit of more than $250 million from 2016 to 2019 – and if it were considered a normal company, it would have paid about $80 million in federal taxes.”
The tsunami of negative news that followed Monahan’s trainwreck appearance with Nantz has certainly been noteworthy, but D-Day for the PGA Tour is officially scheduled for Sunday Aug. 28. That’s when the 2022 FedEx Cup season concludes with the final round of the Tour Championship, in what can politely be described as its worst season ever.
This day is also expected to kick off another wave of marquee names who will exit East Lake and head straight to Boston for the LIV Golf Invitational event on Labor Day weekend – ironically a holiday and locale that was long associated with the PGA Tour, and specifically Monahan, who got his start managing the now defunct Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston on Labor Day weekend.
It’s not a coincidence that Greg Norman, LIV Golf Commissioner and CEO, will be showcasing former FedEx Cup playoff stars like Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson in Boston on Labor Day weekend. It’s the proverbial salt in the wound of rival, Monahan.
And speaking of FedEx: the Memphis-based company currently underwrites about $70 million each year in bonus earnings for Tour players. Ever wonder what would happen if FedEx, or other corporate America brands, started to bail on the PGA Tour?
To avoid more turbulence, this week the PGA Tour indicated they intend to pay every player the proper money earned when the FedEx Cup money list is finalized, even those who were suspended.
Can we agree on one more thing? No one should feel sorry for Jay Monahan, whose annual salary for 2022 reportedly approaches $12 million. My fuzzy math shows that to be a weekly paycheck of about $230,000! It’s obvious that he’s in way over his head and never really had the qualifications to be a major-league CEO. Being a good schmoozer and kibitzer, classifying as Mr. Nice Guy, is far different than being the leader of a multi-million-dollar business.
One thing Monahan has accomplished, though: he’s made former PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem (1994-2016) look even better, historically speaking. As Commissioner, Finchem expanded earnings opportunities for PGA Tour players both domestically and internationally. In 2006, the total PGA Tour purse was $256.8 million, up from $56.4 million in 1994. That remarkable growth had a lot to do with Tiger Woods, but Finchem deserves credit.
Finally, is anyone listening to the winless Will Zalatoris when he proclaims that the PGA Tour “is the best tour?” It may be for him. But do Zalatoris, Patrick Cantlay, Tony Finau, Cameron Young and Max Homa really move the needle? They are headlining the PGA Tour’s Rocket Mortgage Classic this weekend in Detroit.
Meanwhile, opposite Zalatoris and company, 48 invited golfers will compete in the LIV Golf Invitational at Trump National GC Bedminster (NJ), offering a purse of $25 million. The field will include proven major-winning needle movers in DJ, DeChambeau, Mickelson, Stenson, Reed, Koepka and Sergio Garcia, among others. They will compete for three days, over 54-hole stroke play, while simultaneously battling as part 12 four-man teams.
The LIV Golf Invitational Series’ eight-event season finale is scheduled for October 28-30 at Trump Doral with the same format. The purse will be doubled to $50 million.
Tom Gorman is reporting live from LIV Golf’s stop at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.