Five ThingsMarch 19, 2019

Q&A: PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan discusses the tour's latest stance on golf's rules, moving the Players to March and more

Jay Monahan
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesPGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan speaks to the media during a practice round for the 2019 Players Championship.

One of the traditions of the Players Championship is the PGA Tour commissioner addressing questions from the media ahead of the event. Jay Monahan, in his second year as PGA Tour commissioner, discussed a variety of hot-button topics last Wednesday before the tour's flagship event. Here's an excerpt of five of the most interesting questions and answers from TPC Sawgrass.

The new Rules of Golf this year have been a topic, and along the lines bifurcation has got brought up. Can you just give us your thoughts on though how you feel about two sets of rules, one for the professionals, one for the amateurs?

JAY MONAHAN: Well, I -- there has been a lot of discussion about the rules, and I would like to use this moment to kind of step back and talk about what's happened over the last six years. We the PGA TOUR, along with every other golf organization, had really been really encouraging a review of the rules and really encouraging a modernization, a simplification. And the USGA and the R&A responded, and they responded with great zeal.

And there was a process that we went through. We identified a number of rules that we felt got us there, got the game there. And that was the approach that we were taking. We got back the initial draft, we had an opportunity to reflect on that and share our opinions there. And then we turned the clock into this new year. We were fully supportive of the new rules because we were a participant in creating them. We had equal share, just alongside the other organizations.

And then when we got together in Hawaii, I said that, you know, when you go through a period where you haven't had a lot of change, and then you roll out 50 changes, there are going to be some things that work really well and some things that might create debate. Lost in some of the discussion is all the things that are working really well, and the list is long, and I think it's right that we're two and a half months in and there's some rules, some existing rules that are causing debate and discussion. Again, exactly where we thought we would be.

So I spent two hours this morning with members of the R&A, the USGA, the LPGA, the European Tour, the PGA of America, Augusta National. We're doing what we should be doing as leaders of this industry, which is talking about, one, where we are in the current state of rules. And again, everybody agrees where we thought where we would be.

But more importantly, I think what's happened here the last few weeks has just exposed a weakness in our working relationship, which happens when you got a lot of different organizations. So we're going to tighten that up, and we're going to move forward in a way that is going to be good for the game and certainly is going to get us to the right place over time with these new rules, and I think we're in a really good place right now.

If I could follow-up on the rules question. Over the past several weeks, probably borne out of frustration, several players or a few players at least have wondered why does the TOUR not make its own rules like other sports leagues might. Just curious if that has ever seriously been considered, and if not, have you had that discussion with players and explained to them your side of that and maybe why that wouldn't have happened or isn't a serious consideration.

MONAHAN: We have two fantastic professional governing bodies of the game. We have always played by their rules and we will continue to play by their rules. And we are not going to be playing by our own rules. We think that the game is best served with everybody playing by the same rules and the same standards. We think it's a source of inspiration for the game. So as I was saying earlier, I just think this spot that we're in, that we haven't been in before, has caused a lot of conversation, and I think it's fair that these kind of subjects are brought up. We're going to make certain that our players understand where, how we're working with our industry partners, what our thinking is that we're sharing with our industry partners, and this game will continue to be well served by having, again, two great professional governing bodies.

Could you talk about the move; was it a tough sell to convince people to move this back to March and also the PGA to May, and did one of those dominos have to fall first so the other could fall?

MONAHAN: Well, the first domino was trying to get our FedExCup Playoffs and our season to end prior to the start of college football and the NFL. And then obviously to do that, the PGA Championship, which has been in August, we could have played the PGA Championship and gone into a playoff run, but that did not make a lot of sense, and we had been talking and are always talking to the PGA of America and brought this concept forward.

So I think the difficulty or the challenge at that point was equally shared because they had been in their traditional date and we had been playing here in May. And as we started to talk about what it meant for the game and what it meant for our respective championship, we both got comfortable over a period of time. But I think the complicating element to this is you got to make certain that while you feel it's the right thing for the product, when you're moving your schedule, your players understand the thinking and what we're doing to try and use this great set of athletes and schedule we have to put this game and our TOUR in a better competitive position or stronger competitive position.

And so that was a lot of discussion, a lot of dialog, and obviously that's something that we were very comfortable moving forward with. But it's hard to say that one domino was heavier than any other, because it wasn't just those. Then you have a lot of moving parts throughout the course of the rest of the schedule. You had a lot of events that were moving from their traditional dates and were fortunate to have great sponsors and great partners that supported the effort we were undertaking.

What is your definition of this tournament and how it sits with the other significant events in the world of golf, the four majors? What do you want this to be considered? Where do you think it is now? How would you characterize it?

MONAHAN: Well, when you look at THE PLAYERS, we want to focus on what the event is and what it brings forward and what it represents. And to us, you look at the depth of field and just look outside, look at the range, look at the field list, this is as strong as any field as you'll ever see. And stepping back, we're a membership organization, so this is our flagship event. It was created for the players and the people that I mentioned earlier. We're trying to continuously build the best championship. That's going to be reflected in who plays, and it's a remarkable field.

That's going to be reflected in the quality of the golf course, and this is a comprehensive test, and I think that will be on full display the next four days as it has been through the years. This experience that Pete, Alice, Deane created, the stadium experience, is as good as any as you'll find from a spectating standpoint in all of golf, and we have a rich history of champions, great champions, certainly through the years and certainly through the last decade plus.

So that's what the championship is, and as it relates to its other -- its position relative to the major championships, I think we all have to recognize that when you look at the major championships, they're competitors and they're also partners, and the beauty of our game, some people might say, well, you got a lot of different organizations involved in the game of golf. The beauty of the game is we are all trying to build, do the same thing, build the best possible championships. As we compete, I think we're moving the game forward, we're growing, we're improving, and candidly we're watching each other and those championships inspire us and hopefully in some way we inspire them. But in the long run we're hopeful that the game is benefiting.

So that's what the PLAYERS stands for and that's the way that we look at our relationship to the others, and we're going to continue to operate with that spirit in mind.

You mentioned some things you wanted to sort of button up with the other organizations. Can you give an example of something where you feel like the relationships have been strained and need fixing, and is some of that related to your view on distance versus what they're kind of building to with their distance study?

MONAHAN: I think -- so the way I'll characterize that is that if you look at -- let's talk about slow play, my favorite subject. There's a lot of discussion about slow play. And when you have six or seven different organizations that have different policies and different perspectives and we're not each fully aware of what those are, that may not be serving the best interests of the game. So how do we learn from each other on a subject like that? How do we diagnostically look at something that is getting a lot of discussion and ultimately can we improve? So that would be one.

Driving distance is another. How do we fully understand each other's perspectives, and then how do we have good debate and discussion about what the solutions, what the opportunities or where we go from here. But I just think that -- and I want to be clear that this is on us, too. We just need to be more transparent, more forthcoming about our thinking across the board, and I think that's going to get us to a good place.

And that's the way -- that's the spirit of those relationships. I just think it got away from us a little bit here.