PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan talks slow play, gambling and television contracts

January 05, 2020
PGA Championship - Preview Day 2

Sam Greenwood

KAPALUA, Hawaii — The next six months on the PGA Tour stand to be quite busy with a number of developments, including the completion of the new television deal, the introduction of the revamped slow-play policy and IMG Arena’s delivery of a gaming platform that is part of an expanded relationship with the tour.

An announcement on the next international site for the Presidents Cup also is expected by no later than summer.

Those were among the topics Jay Monahan, the tour’s commissioner, covered on Sunday morning at what has become a traditional media briefing at the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort ahead of the final round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Beginning his fourth year as commissioner, Monahan said that he wants the tour “to continue on the path we’re on, and I think we're on a really good path.

“If we can continue to attract more fans and engage more fans, and we can help everybody understand not only that our athletes are tremendous golfers but the personalities behind the players … which we've put a lot of effort into over the last couple years, I think continuing on that path is going to be really important.”

The 2019-’20 PGA Tour season began in September as part of an expanded schedule of 49 official events, and it will see the second modern edition of golf in the Summer Olympics in Tokyo starting in late July.

The following is a brief rundown of key topics Monahan covered.

On the pending television deal:

Some details recently have been reported. While Monahan didn’t discuss any specifics, he said the hope was to complete negotiations in the first quarter.

“We have more work to do. Probably more work than has been suggested,” Monahan said. “But I've been bullish on our prospects before we entered the process, and I'm as, if not more, bullish as we get through it.”

He said that much more attention is being given to the delivery platforms as opposed to a straight television deal. “I’m probably more focused on that than I am anything else,” he said. “Making certain that … we continue to provide our content to our fans in the way that they want to consume that content.”

On slow play:

The PGA Tour Policy Board passed a new pace-of-play policy in November, and the full plan will be unveiled to the membership in two weeks, at the American Express in La Quinta, Calif., Monahan said.

Monahan confirmed that the one of the changes, reported initially by Golf Digest in November, includes a focus on individual player violations as opposed to pace of play of a group. Monahan added that the primary objective is not necessarily to speed up play appreciably. “A focus on time creates other problems,” he said while noting that there have been nine changes to the tour’s pace-of-play policy since 1994.

On gambling:

The tour in September announced an expanded agreement with IMG Arena to allow the distribution of ShotLink data and scoring to betting operators in North America. In October, Monahan announced the Tour would allow gambling at its events. IMG Arena is helping the tour develop a betting program that can be accessed on mobile devices, and Monahan said “we’re close” on delivery of the system within the first six months of the year. He doubted there would be physical gambling establishments at tour events.

Other topics touched upon included the Patrick Reed rules imbroglio at the Hero World Challenge. Monahan addressed a question about whether or not Reed should have faced further disciplinary action beyond the two-stroke penalty he received for improving his line of play in a waste area during the third round of the event Tiger Woods hosts in the Bahamas.

“Golf is a game of honor and integrity, and you've heard from Patrick,” Monahan said. “I've had an opportunity to talk to Patrick at length, and I believe Patrick when he says that [he] did not intentionally improve [his] lie. And so you go back to that moment, and the conversation that he had with [rules official] Slugger [White], and the fact that a violation was applied and he agreed to it, and they signed his card and he moved on. To me that was the end of the matter.”

Monahan began the 45-minute Q&A session praising the new 10-year agreement Sentry signed on for to sponsor the Tournament of Champions at the Plantation Course through 2030. The tour now has 11 sponsorships of that duration when there were none as recently as 2013.

“We're very fortunate to have great companies that support our tournaments and are making long‑term commitments,” Monahan said, “and the reason that that is so helpful is it's like any other business. If you think you've got three years to plan and you don't know what happens after three years versus if you have 10 years to plan, you're going to investment spend, you're going to be … more aggressive, you're going to be able to engage your community with confidence and from a position of strength.”