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It would be preposterous to assume that being commissioner of the PGA Tour is an easy gig. But holy Fuzzy Zoeller, Jay Monahan doesn’t half make it look difficult.

Not since Kate Middleton learned how to use Photoshop has somebody demonstrated as many different facial expressions as the 53-year-old did during his hour-long sit-down with assembled Golf Media™ on Tuesday.

He looked, at various times and to varying degrees, furtive, irritable, exhausted, scared, uncomfortable and confused.

Of just as much significance, however, was the one thing he didn’t appear to be: in control.

The sad truth is that Monahan hasn’t looked that way for a while now. Years, even. The emergence of LIV Golf posed an existential threat for the PGA Tour that its main man was neither prepared for nor, apparently, equipped to deal with.

He has fumbled and stumbled through the whole debacle, zigging when he should have zagged and talking when he should have listened.

During his ‘State of the PGA Tour’ address, he swung at even the most straightforward inquisition with the conviction of a blind-folded batter and cut a tragicomic, Chaplin-esque figure as he insisted: “I am the right person to lead us forward. I know that. I believe that in my heart.” (The difference, of course, being that Chaplin never spoke. Perhaps he understood that’s the quickest and easiest way to make a fool of oneself.)

The trouble for Monahan is that very few of the professional golfers he presides over share his conviction. Not publicly, at least. Publicly, they’ve started to say the opposite.

A matter of hours after Monahan’s media meet concluded, Xander Schauffele sat in the same spot and said this about his commish.

“Trust is something that’s pretty tender, 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.”

Bang goes Jay’s assertion in the answer to the first question put to him that “we’ve moved on”.

Patrick Cantlay was up next and skilfully obfuscated when asked if he believes Monahan is the “right person for the job going forward”.

“I think it’s really important that we’re all rowing in the same direction,” he said. “I think with this PGA Tour Enterprises board, I think it’s really exciting that we do have a chance to kind of start with something new and all move together in the right direction.”

Not exactly an endorsement from a man who knows the value of such things better than most.

Rory McIlroy, who assumed the role of heatshield for the M.I.A. Monahan throughout much of LIV’s beta season, was asked the same question and replied with a non-committal “I think so”, before Viktor Hovland landed this haymaker.

“There were some things that were said that have been walked back on and then things have been very contradictory. As a leader of an organisation, I will want a person like that to take some ownership and say, hey, we made a couple of mistakes, but this is how we’re going to rectify it, instead of kind of sweeping it under the rug, which I felt like has been done to a certain degree.”

What you have there are the words of four of the world’s current top-seven golfers. One of the other three jumped ship for LIV during the post-season, which is, in its own way and to whatever extent, a damning indictment of Monahan’s tenure.

The so-called ‘rank and file’ of the tour are also unhappy. Lanto Griffin, Nate Lashley, Jimmy Walker and Chris Stroud are amongst those to have openly criticised the tour and its leadership in recent months, whilst as recently as December a mutinous cabal requested a special meeting of PGA Tour members to air a range of concerns.

Around that time, Monahan attended an event hosted by the New York Times where he insisted: “I believe that I am the best leader for the PGA Tour. I was the best leader before June 6, and I was going to be the best leader for the PGA Tour [after].”

At best, he appears to have fallen victim to the illusory truth effect. At worst, he’s gaslighting his own players, fans and sponsors.

Now, if Monahan truly does believe – in his heart or otherwise – that he’s the best man to lead the tour, who are we to argue? He’s entitled to his opinion. And be honest, would you give up a job that compensates you to the tune of a reported $18million per year?

But the fact remains that there’s a growing stack of evidence to suggest he’s not the best man for the job.

From the false equivalence he drew between LIV and the 9/11 terror attacks – a comment so crass, it’s hard to believe he actually said it – to his spectacular, 180-degree pivot to conspire with ‘The Enemy’ behind the backs of his membership, he long ago ceded the high ground. He has surrendered the trust and respect of many who play on, follow and, dare it be said, work for the PGA Tour.

To borrow a phrase from football, he has lost the dressing room. And whilst on one hand it’s testament to his fortitude that he thinks he can win it back, it is, on the other, utterly foolhardy.

Bottom line: if the route out of golf’s so-called civil war is peace and unity, it requires an unhealthy amount of cognitive dissonance to hand the controls to somebody so divisive, so polarising, and so central to the conflict. It’s for the same reason that Keith Pelley and Greg Norman wouldn’t be an appropriate choice to lead a unified men’s professional game either. The future calls for fresh leadership.

Pelley will soon move on and out of golf. Norman appears to be getting on with the day-to-day business of trying to make LIV work.
Monahan? Monahan continues to invoke KC Green’s cartoon of a dog sitting behind a table, surrounded by flames and with smoke billowing overhead, insisting: “This is fine.”

It’s impossible not to feel some sympathy for him. From Covid to LIV, he has faced unprecedented challenges. If nothing else, the toll that all of this reportedly took on his health last summer demonstrates his passion is real and that he cares. He is, demonstrably, not a bad guy. He is just the wrong guy.

Contrary to popular opinion, there’s no shame in calling it a day. The real shame, indeed, is in not knowing when it’s time.

Michael McEwan is the 2023 PPA Scotland ‘Columnist of the Year’ and ‘Writer of the Year’

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Michael McEwan is the Deputy Editor of bunkered and has been part of the team since 2004. In that time, he has interviewed almost every major figure within the sport, from Jack Nicklaus, to Rory McIlroy, to Donald Trump. The host of the multi award-winning bunkered Podcast and a member of Balfron Golfing Society, Michael is the author of three books and is the 2023 PPA Scotland 'Writer of the Year' and 'Columnist of the Year'. Dislikes white belts, yellow balls and iron headcovers. Likes being drawn out of the media ballot to play Augusta National.

Deputy Editor

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