PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan ran the gamut of topics in his Players Championship press conference on Tuesday, addressing things like a rival golf league, embattled golfer Phil Mickelson and the future of the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine.
What Monahan isn’t having to address for the first time in two years is the cloud of a global pandemic that shut the sport down in 2020 and dragged on with safety precautions last year, too.
“We’re at The Players Championship. We’re back here, and we’re going to have full capacity, full crowds, the world’s best players, and we’re going to accelerate into our season of championships and continue to grow this Tour,” Monahan said.
For local fans, the biggest topic could be the potential for a change of the sport’s hall of fame venue.
And that’s a big one considering arguably the game’s greatest player, Tiger Woods, will be enshrined in the World Golf Hall of Fame on Wednesday night. The ceremony will be held at the PGA’s Global Home headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach. The actual Hall of Fame is in St. Augustine, where Woods will forever be enshrined with golf’s best.
Could there be a change of plans for the World Golf Hall of Fame? Monahan said that the Tour’s lease and its bond agreement with the state is up next year. There have been persistent rumors through the years that the Hall of Fame in St. Augustine could be headed elsewhere. Every time, those dissipated. But there’s a time component now that didn’t exist before.
“We’re committed to the World Golf Hall of Fame through 2023. We’re looking at all of our options as we go forward. We’re fortunate to have been in St. Augustine for 25 years and are proud of the presence that we’ve created there,” Monahan said.
“But to your point, the business of the Hall of Fame and the way that people consume Hall of Fames has changed, and we just want to make certain that any decision that we make about the next 25 years maximizes our ability to showcase the incredible careers and impact that every single member that’s in the Hall of Fame has had on our game.”
Mickelson was another hot topic for Monahan.
The popular golfer and six-time major champion is taking time away from golf after making a series of explosive comments to writer Alan Shipnuck about a rival golf league in Saudi Arabia.
“We know they killed (Washington Post columnist Jamal) Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay,” Mickelson said. “Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.”
Mickelson was widely lambasted for his comments and apologized for them before announcing he was taking time away. Monahan and the PGA Tour don’t announce punishment for players publicly and he largely toed the company line about Mickelson on Tuesday.
“He stepped away on his own accord, and he’s asked for time. He’s been given that time,” Monahan said. “We don’t comment on disciplinary matters, potential matters or actual matters. But every player is accountable for their actions out here.”
As for the upstart Saudi golf league that is being led by former golfer Greg Norman, Monahan said that the Tour’s position is clear and that he’ll continue to take every threat to the brand seriously. But numerous top golfers have spoken out in favor of the PGA Tour and their intentions to stay on it. Monahan said that the Tour is positioned to grow more than it ever has in the next 10 years and that he’s comfortable with where they’re headed, rival league or not.
“I think I’ve said this before. I wake up every day assuming someone is trying to take my lunch. That’s the way I operate. That’s the way we operate as a team,” he said.
“But we’re here at The Players Championship. The best players in the world have told you how they feel. I mentioned our partners firmly behind this Tour. I see the possibilities for what we are going to become and how we’re going to evolve. I see the incredible working relationship we have with our players.”