PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan was called a hypocrite in a heated meeting with players at Oakdale Golf and Country Club in Toronto on Tuesday, hours after the tour announced it was forming a partnership with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and the DP World Tour.
Australian golfer Geoff Ogilvy told reporters that a player called Monahan a hypocrite during the meeting, which lasted for more than an hour at the site of this week’s RBC Canadian Open.
“It was mentioned, yeah, and he took it,” Ogilvy said. “He said, ‘Yeah.’ He took it, for sure.”
PGA Tour winner Johnson Wagner told Golf Channel that there was plenty of anger in the room.
“It was contentious,” he said. “There were many moments where certain players were calling for new leadership of the PGA Tour and even got a couple standing ovations.”
In a news conference with reporters later, Monahan said he realizes he might be criticized for agreeing to form a new entity with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund after he had questioned the source of the LIV Golf League in the past.
“I recognize everything that I’ve said in the past and my prior positions. I recognize that people are going to call me a hypocrite,” Monahan said. “Anytime I said anything, I said it with the information that I had at that moment, and I said it based on someone that’s trying to compete for the PGA Tour and our players. I accept those criticisms, but circumstances do change. I think that in looking at the big picture and looking at it this way, that’s what got us to this point.”
At last year’s RBC Canadian Open, Monahan was asked about the Saudi Arabian monarchy’s connections to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks during an interview with CBS Sports.
“I think you’d have to be living under a rock not to know there are significant implications,” Monahan said at the time. “I would ask any player who has left or any player who would consider leaving, ‘Have you ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour?'”
Monahan on Tuesday said that the PGA Tour had been in talks with Public Investment Fund (PIF) officials for about seven weeks. He said PGA Tour policy board members Ed Herlihy and Jimmy Dunne had the initial meeting with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of the sovereign wealth fund.
There were four in-person meetings as well as a number of video calls and phone conversations.
During Tuesday’s meeting with Monahan, several players complained about being kept in the dark during the negotiations.
Many players found out via social media on Tuesday before ever seeing a memo that was sent by Monahan.
A source told ESPN that Monahan didn’t reveal many details of the plan with PIF and the DP World Tour and stood in the front of the room “and took everything the players gave him.”
“When you get into these conversations, and given the complexity of what we were dealing with, it’s not uncommon that the circle of information is very tight,” Monahan said. “In our case, we kept that information very tight. … The fact of the matter is that this was a shock to a lot of people because we were not in a position to share or explain, as we normally would, and that was really a result of the commitment we had made to maintaining confidentiality through the end.”
Monahan said he understood players being frustrated about being blindsided by the news.
“Obviously, it’s been a very dynamic and complex couple of years, and for players, I’m not surprised,” Monahan said. “This is an awful lot to ask them to digest, and this is a significant change for us in the direction that we were going down.”
Others reacted more positively to the news, including Jack Nicklaus, who called the agreement “good for the game of golf.”
“I am certainly interested in seeing the details,” Nicklaus told The Palm Beach Post. “Jay indicated that this all will happen in 2024, so very soon the proof will be in the pudding. Whatever is best for the game of golf enjoys my full support.”
The agreement ends all litigation between the parties and “combines PIF’s golf-related commercial businesses and rights (including LIV Golf) with the commercial businesses and rights of the PGA Tour and DP World Tour into a new, collectively owned, for-profit entity to ensure that all stakeholders benefit from a model that delivers maximum excitement and competition among the game’s best players.”
According to the release, a board of directors will oversee the new entity’s golf-related commercial operations, businesses and investments. The groups will work to establish a cohesive schedule. PIF will be the exclusive investor in the new entity and will have the “exclusive right to further invest in the new enterprise, including a right of first refusal on any capital invested.”
The PGA Tour will remain a 501(c)(6) tax-exempt organization, according to the release, and will retain oversight of the sanctioning of events, administration of competition and rules.
Al-Rumayyan will join the policy board of the PGA Tour, which continues to operate its tournaments. Al-Rumayyan will be chairman of the new commercial group, with Monahan as the CEO and the PGA Tour having a majority stake in the new venture. The PIF will invest in the commercial venture.