I Tried to Draw a Chameleon From Memory

In turbulent tenure, Jay Monahan has been part commissioner, part chameleon

Over the last two complicated years, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has had to lead — and conform — on the wing.

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Yous’re a golfer. You know how it is. You lot have the oddest sort of memory. You recollect the holes y’all played and the shots you lot took like most people can remember their children’s middle names. Plus, the atmospheric condition.
Ever the conditions.

At the end of 2000, I had a semi-lengthy interview with
Tiger Wood.
He was going to beSports Illustrated’sSportsman of the Twelvemonth, the first person to get the accolade for a second time. My impression was he could not take cared less.

rory mcilroy at players championship

The weirdness at this never-ending Players Championship? It’south only fitting.


Michael Bamberger

When I asked him well-nigh his nine-shot win in the British Open at the Old Form, he kept going back to the atmospheric condition. He couldn’t believe how calm and warm information technology was for four directly days.

Enter Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner. This year’s Players Title volition terminate on a Monday, as it rarely does, but also grandly, as it always does. Merely for three days the only story was the atmospheric condition. And what Monahan could recall, at the drop of a hat, was the conditions on this occasion two years agone. Four warm sunny days, light breezes, no rain. One day of golf. The tournament was canceled after one round.

Rory McIlroy, now the chairman of the PGA Bout’s Player Informational Quango, said, “Information technology’southward going to get worse before it gets ameliorate.” That was prescient. McIlroy wasn’t talking about the weather condition.

McIlroy has Monahan’s ear and vice-versa. Both have a prissy sense of sense of humour. At a press conference before the tournament, McIlroy said that the Bout should be more open about announcing suspensions and fines. (It’s notoriously tight-lipped about these matters.) After, at another press conference, when Monahan had learned what McIlory had said, the commissioner said, “Constructive immediately, Rory McIlroy is suspended.”

Existence the PGA Bout commissioner has never been more complicated and it started getting really complicated two years agone, when the Players was called subsequently xviii holes, on account of Covid. None of Monahan’south three predecessors — Joe Dey, Deane Beman, Tim Finchem, all members of the Earth Golf Hall of Fame — take had the long series of challenges that Monahan has faced. Finchem’s 22-year run as commissioner, from 1994 to 2016, basically overlapped with Woods’ career.

In fact, Finchem was inducted just earlier Woods at the Wednesday-night ceremony in the Bout’s gleaming glass-and-rock headquarters that would be right at abode in Milan. You could say Finchem congenital the new headquarters, given how the Bout’southward revenues increased under his watch. But you could say Woods built it, besides. Monahan talked about both men at the ceremony.

Here’southward an abbreviated list of the issues Monahan has faced that no other commissioner has:

onset of the pandemic in March 2020.

George Floyd’s death in May 2020 and the racial-unrest awakening information technology wrought.

Multiple failed Covid tests at the RBC Heritage Classic at Hilton Head tournament in June 2020.

A total reworking of the 2020 schedule, on the fly, throughout 2020.

Patrick Reed’s embedded brawl controversy at Torrey Pines in January 2021.

Woods’ terrifying machine crash in February 2021.

Greg Norman’s reported planning of a rival international golf league over the grade of 2021 and 2022.

Phil Mickelson’s recent, published comments about the PGA Bout (the hand that has fed him) and that proposed league (the hand that could).


This is a roundabout way of saying that Monahan has had his hands full and then some. He has had to protect his turf and he has had to exist open to modify. And he has done both.

Joe Dey, before condign the first PGA Tour commissioner, had been the longtime executive director of the USGA. In 1968, when the PGA Tour was breaking away from the PGA of America, the fledgling Tour needed someone with unimpeachable credentials. Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus did not first the move for the touring pros to interruption away from the PGA of America. Doug Ford and Bob Goalby were much more than agile in the effort. But Palmer and Nicklaus played a pregnant role in bringing Dey to the PGA Tour. Dey, outset and foremost, was an ethicist. The starting point for the Tour’southward brownie with the public and with the corporate sponsors was that we believed the scores the players said they shot. That was the necessary starting point. He served from the start of 1969 through 1974.

Dey’southward successor, Deane Beman, had a 20-year run as commissioner. Beman was a one-time Tour role player with 4 wins. He idea like a Tour player. He knew what players, his constituents, wanted: more playing opportunities for more money. And that’s what he worked toward.

Harold Varner III

Harold Varner amiable as always subsequently up-and-down Players Championship get-go


Michael Bamberger

Beman’s successor, Tim Finchem, was a lawyer who had worked in the Carter White House as an economic science advisor. He approached his job as the most sophisticated type of politician and negotiator, keeping his cards close to his starched shirt and always was several steps alee of others.

Monahan became commissioner in January 2017. He came to the PGA Tour with a background in sales and marketing and assistants, and he rose on those things.

So consider this progression of the commissioners, and excuse the brevity:

An ethicist. A player. A political leader. A marketing man.

And and so came the concluding two years.

Baseball has had 10 commissioners: Kenesaw Mount Landis, Happy Chandler, Spike Eckert, Ford Frick, Bowie Kuhn, Peter Ueberroth, Bart Giamatti, Fay Vincent, Bud Selig and Rob Manfred. The showtime eight of them were, to unlike degrees, national figures because baseball game was the national pastime and each honored the needs of their three main constituencies: the players, the owner and the fans. Selig was a former owner and his allegiance, in this reporter’s opinion, was overwhelmingly to the owners. Manfred, I would say, but to a lesser degree.

The role of the PGA Tour commissioner is different. The commissioner serves at the pleasure of the players. The PGA Tour, under its charter every bit a not-for-profit organization, exists to promote professional person golf.

But something has changed over these past two complicated and hard years. Monahan must serve the players, but he must lecture the players, on the sanctity of the rules, the dangers of Covid, the threat of a competing tours. He has had to notice money and spend money to keep the players happy knowing that the about fans couldn’t be less interested and, if anything, are turned off by all these high-flying dollar-effigy numbers.

Monahan has had to go along corporate sponsors interested in trying times. He has had be to an ethicist. He has had to recollect like a actor. He has had to be a politician and a marketing human. He has had to be more like Landis and Ueberroth and Giamatti. Of class there have been bumps along the way. But he’s kept his hands on the handlebars. He’due south been a commissioner.

Michael Bamberger welcomes your comments

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Michael Bamberger Contributor

Michael Bamberger writes for GOLF Mag and Golf Before that, he spent nearly 23 years as senior writer for
Sports Illustrated. Later on college, he worked as a newspaper reporter, first for the (Martha’southward)
Vineyard Gazette,
later for
The Philadelphia Inquirer. He has written a diversity of books virtually golf and other subjects, the most recent of which is
The Second Life of Tiger Forest. His mag work has been featured in multiple editions of The Best American Sports Writing. He holds a U.S. patent on The East-Order, a utility golf club. In 2016, he was given the Donald Ross Accolade past the American Guild of Golf Grade Architects, the arrangement’s highest honor.


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