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McIlroy supports Monahan, but looking for changes in golf

Jay Monahan Rory McIlroy Jay Monahan Rory McIlroy - Getty Images

Count Rory McIlroy as one who is satisfied with the job Jay Monahan is doing.

A day after the PGA commissioner’s performance became a hot topic in the media centre at the Players Championship, McIlroy threw his support behind the embattled leader of the tour.

“You look at what Jay has done since he took over,” McIlroy stated. “The media rights deal, navigating us through COVID, the strategic alliance with the DP World Tour. I would say creating PGA TOUR Enterprises, we were just able to accept a billion and a half dollars in the business.

“People can nitpick and say he didn't do this right or didn't do that right, but if you actually step back and look at the bigger picture, I think the PGA Tour is in a far stronger position than when Jay took over.”

McIlroy might be in the minority when it comes to fully backing Monahan. Since the blow-up of June 6 at the RBC Canadian Open when it was revealed the PGA Tour and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, the backers of LIV Golf, were in secret negotiations, Monahan has been trying to regain the trust of the players. The support has ranged from a full backing to those who wonder why he still has a job.

“Trust is something that's pretty tender,” said Xander Schauffele. “So, words are words, and I would say in my book he's got a long way to go. He could be the guy, but in my book, he's got a long way to go to gain the trust of the membership.”

The membership, of course, is large and wide when it comes to opinions. Trying to get everyone onside on any one issue is pretty much an impossible task.

McIlroy, for instance, feels there should be more money available for fewer players. It was a statement he made a week ago and for many, it came out like a burst of elitism. On Tuesday, he didn’t back down from his words, but he did attempt to provide more explanation.

“I think it's just the Tour has been a certain way for so long,” he said. “But I also think that the Tour hasn't necessarily evolved with the changing times to make it a more compelling entertainment product and sort of trying to fit in with the sort of modern media and sports landscape.”

In McIlroy’s opinion, there’s a lot of fan fatigue in golf right now. The big-money, small-field Signature Events worked last year in drawing attention, he said, but this year they’ve lost their lustre. Golf seems more mired in the battle between tours and the focus on enormous cheques rather than great drives and clinching putts.

“If I were to put my own perspective on it, I think it's because fans are fatigued of what's going on in the game,” he said. “I think we need to try to re-engage the fan and re-engage them in a way that the focus is on the play and not on talking about equity and all the rest of it.”

In his world, there would be a frequent turnover of eligible players, with the best knocking heads on a regular basis. If it’s the most competitive tour in the world, then it should be hard to get on. It should be equally hard to stay there. Complacency should be the enemy of anyone on the PGA Tour and a pipeline of younger, newer golfers should provide the incentive for every member to stay engaged. The theory is the best players attract more fans, which translates into more opportunities.

Part of this problem, he added, is that the PGA Tour is really a members’ organization, and the rules and decisions are made to benefit those members. That should change, with priorities given to the fans.

“I think what needs to happen is you need to create things for the fans, for the sponsors, for the media, and then you have to go sell that to the players,” said McIlroy. “Tell them to get on board with that, because if they get on board and we're all part of the business now, if the business does better, we do better. That seems pretty simple to me.”

Perhaps it is a rather basic idea, but trying to sell it to all the PGA Tour’s members won’t be so easy. Of course, when it comes to golf these days, it seems nothing is very easy.