GULLANE – PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan returns to work next week and some top players believe he has to regain their trust after leaving members in the dark over an about-face deal with the Saudi Arabia wealth fund behind LIV Golf.
“I'd say he has a lot of tough questions to answer in his return,” Xander Schauffele said Wednesday at the Scottish Open, where he is the defending champion. "And yeah, I don't trust people easily. He had my trust and he has a lot less of it now.
“So I don't stand alone when I say that.”
A week after Monahan announced a commercial partnership with the Public Investment Fund, the tour said a “medical situation” led Monahan to turn over daily operations of the tour to two executives.
He sent a memo to players last week saying he would resume his role July 17. Monahan did not take part in the Senate hearing Tuesday in which documents outlined some of the conversations that led to the framework agreement.
Players were sent a 275-page file of the documents Congress obtained ahead of the three-hour hearing. Some watched part of it or read through a few excerpts of the documents. Jordan Spieth chose to play golf at North Berwick instead.
When asked if Monahan would have trust issues with the players, Spieth replied: “Quite a bit, just based on conversations I've had with players. And I think he realizes that. I'm sure he's preparing for a plan to try and build it back."
Scottie Scheffler said he watched part of the hearing and didn't learn very much. Then again, the world's No. 1 player isn't sure how much he knew in the first place.
Monahan and two board members — Jimmy Dunne and board chairman Ed Herlihy — negotiated the agreement announced June 6 with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.
“As a player on tour, we still don't really have a lot of clarity as to what's going on, and that's a bit worrisome,” Scheffler said. “They keep saying it's a player-run organization, and we don't really have the information that we need. I watched part of it yesterday didn't learn anything.”
Rory McIlroy chose not to say anything.
McIlroy has been seen as the strongest voice in the PGA Tour's battle against Saudi-funded LIV Golf. He said he felt like a “sacrificial lamb” when he spoke to the media a day after the deal was announced, during the Canadian Open.
McIlroy gave two television interviews ahead of the Scottish Open, which starts Thursday at The Renaissance Club. And then he walked past a dozen reporters. When asked if he had time to talk, his manager intervened to say McIlroy wouldn't be speaking about the hearing.
McIlroy's name surfaced in a Dec. 8 email to Dunne from Roger Devlin, a British businessman involved on the PIF side of helping repair the fractured state of golf. Devlin said he arranged for McIlroy to meet with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of PIF, last November in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Devlin described the meeting as “very cordial and constructive.”
“Rory made it clear that in accepting the meeting he was speaking only for himself although he believes his views are broadly shared by Tiger (Woods) and the other top players,” Devlin wrote. “He also emphasized he was seeking no personal financial gain, he was simply trying to unify the game.”
McIlroy briefly mentioned the meeting after the first round of the Canadian Open when he said he had met Al-Rumayyan.
“I played a pro-am with Yasir in Dubai a few years ago,” McIlroy said last month. “I was with him at a Formula One race randomly a couple years ago in Austin. I saw him in Dubai at the end of last year. So he’s obviously been in and around the golf world and obviously the wider sports world. ... He runs in the same circles as a lot of people that I know.”
Schauffele said he glanced through some of the documents and started to watch a link to the hearing until he decided sleep was more important.
He referred to this as “one of the rockier times” on the PGA Tour but said it would be less unsettling if the players stick together. But his biggest beef was more transparency and players being more involved.
“There isn’t much communication right now and things are a little bit unsettling and there is a bit of a divide between management and the players, if you want to call it that,” he said. “And my hope is that a positive thing coming from that will be more communication, more transparency, and sort of understanding which direction the tour will go with us being sort of the ambassadors of it.”
Meanwhile, the Scottish Open is about to start and the British Open is next week, the final major of the year, with the FedEx Cup playoffs a month later.
“I just try to keep my head down and play golf,” Scheffler said. “I don’t get too involved in a lot of that stuff. I love playing golf on the PGA Tour and that’s the spot for me. I’m hoping that’s going to exist for a long time. I felt like we were doing a good job before and then the agreement happened and now we have to navigate the whole deal.”
He said while he appreciates the private nature of the negotiations, “I just wish that definitely our player reps need to be more involved in the process.”