McKINNEY, TEXAS | Wearing a white Presidents Cup-logoed golf shirt and gray slacks, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan easily fit in among the swing instructors, agents and fitness gurus on the range Wednesday morning at the AT&T Byron Nelson.
But when he emerged entourage-free from the player tunnel next to the practice green at TPC Craig Ranch, Monahan exhibited a stronger vibe. He clearly meant business. Less than 12 hours after he issued a statement denying releases to players who sought to compete in the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational Series event next month near London, Monahan doubled down on his PGA Tour edict.He offered quick handshakes to Matthew Wolff and his caddie and a few nods to players who seemed startled to see the PGA Tour’s top boss in person on a practice day.“Our players get it,” Monahan said in a brief interview with Global Golf Post. “They know we have a good thing, and they want to build on their legacy. Not everybody is going to stay, and we can’t keep them, but the (tournament) sponsors are with us and the player agents are here, and their sponsors are loyal to the tour.”
"We were talking on the range as players: If you want to leave, then just go. Take off. Nobody is keeping you here.”
David Winkle, whose Hambric Sports Management represents major champions Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, among others, said the surprise onsite visit by Monahan was a calculated and savvy move.
“The commissioner is a smart man, very smart to be here,” Winkle said after an animated conversation with Monahan and others.
“I don’t know if it was a flex or not, but it was a good move for him,” said Ryan Palmer, a native Texan and four-time tour winner, after his discussion on the range with Monahan. “After what happened with Sergio (García, saying that he couldn’t wait to leave the PGA Tour) last week, and his statement denying the releases, I think he wanted to come out and see everybody and see if they had any questions. It was pretty clear. We were talking on the range as players: If you want to leave, then just go. Take off. Nobody is keeping you here.”
Though Monahan spent close to an hour talking with players as they prepared for their pro-am rounds, not everybody was thrilled to see the PGA Tour boss.
“Don’t even start with that,” England’s Ian Poulter, a reputed recruit for the new tour, said with both hands up in the air, when asked to comment about Monahan’s visit. “Don’t even start with me. I want to read his entire statement formally before I react.”
Poulter later declined further comment, as did countryman Lee Westwood, who also has been linked to the new tour.
“I understand their stance and see where they’re coming from, but I’m a little disappointed to see they didn’t grant a few releases at least for the first event,” said Kelly Kraft, another Texan and a former U.S. Amateur champion. “Nobody asked me to play, but $25 million (the purse for each of the eight LIV Golf events) is a nice payday. If somebody did, then you have a decision to make.
“We are independent contractors, after all; that’s what it’s called.”
Xander Schauffele, standing about 30 feet from where Monahan was conducting his one-man charm offensive, was non-committal about his stance on the PGA Tour and any rival tour.
“All I can do at the end of the day is play good golf and increase my stock as a player,” Schauffele said.
Asked whether he meant on the PGA Tour, Schauffele added, “Wherever I’m playing at the time. All I can control is how I react and how I do on the course. That’s all I’m concentrating on at the time.”
Monahan, who was on his way to visit the PGA of America’s new headquarters about 10 miles west in Frisco, said he received “good response from the players so far.”
“We’re going to be just fine."