Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner, who went on medical leave last month as he and his organization faced outrage over a planned alliance with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, is expected to return to his position on July 17.
Although Monahan, the commissioner since 2017, did not detail his condition in a brief memo to the tour’s board on Friday, he noted that recent years had been “grueling for us all” and that he had “experienced that toll personally in the days following the announcement of our framework agreement and encountered adverse impacts on my health.”
He said that his health had “improved dramatically” since he went on leave on June 13. But Monahan’s timeline for his return means that he will miss, by six days, a Senate hearing in Washington to discuss the tentative deal with the wealth fund.
When Monahan’s future was publicly uncertain, the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations had agreed to allow two other witnesses to represent the tour: its chief operating officer, Ron Price, and a board member, James J. Dunne III, who was involved in the negotiations that led to the agreement.
According to two people familiar with the discussions, who requested anonymity to discuss the private negotiations, the tour suggested to the committee in recent days that Monahan would consider testifying if the Senate agreed to postpone the hearing. The committee declined and chose to move ahead with its plans for Tuesday.
Monahan is not the only leading golf figure who will be absent on Tuesday. Yasir al-Rumayyan, the wealth fund’s governor and one of the pre-eminent forces behind the LIV Golf circuit, which fractured the PGA Tour, declined to appear at the hearing, citing scheduling conflicts. Greg Norman, LIV’s commissioner, also said he was unavailable on Tuesday.
Senators have said they might question al-Rumayyan and Norman later, a possibility the subcommittee left open for Monahan after Friday evening’s announcement.
“We are glad to hear that Mr. Monahan is recovered and look forward to following up with him regarding any remaining questions after Tuesday’s hearing,” said Maria McElwain, a spokeswoman for Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut and the subcommittee’s chairman.
”We are excited and eager to speak with Mr. Price and Mr. Dunne on Tuesday,” McElwain added. “They are both positioned to have significant information to share, and we’re looking forward to a robust and revealing discussion.”
Price and another senior tour executive, Tyler Dennis, have overseen day-to-day operations for the tour since June 13, when Monahan and the board issued a short statement saying that the commissioner was “recuperating from a medical situation.” In the weeks afterward, tour officials repeatedly declined to describe Monahan’s condition or the circumstances that had led to his ceding of power at one of professional golf’s most turbulent moments.
By the time Monahan stepped away, though, he had absorbed days of harsh criticism over the pact with the wealth fund, whose money his tour had previously denigrated as tainted, an about-face that he acknowledged would prompt charges of hypocrisy.
The final details of the alliance have not been negotiated, but the tentative deal’s outlines call for the PGA Tour, the wealth fund and the DP World Tour, previously known as the European Tour, to bring their golf businesses into a new, for-profit company. Tour executives have argued that the deal, if it closes, will allow the Florida-based circuit to keep control of the sport because Monahan will be the new company’s chief executive and the tour will control the majority of board seats.
But al-Rumayyan will be the new company’s chairman. Moreover, the wealth fund is expected to have extensive investment rights in the new company, promising the Saudis significant influence.
Before June 6, when the deal involving the tour and the wealth fund was announced, Monahan was among the most unsparing critics of Saudi Arabia’s foray into professional golf.
“The PGA Tour, an American institution, can’t compete with a foreign monarchy that is spending billions of dollars in an attempt to buy the game of golf,” Monahan said in June 2022. “We welcome good, healthy competition. The LIV Saudi golf league is not that. It’s an irrational threat; one not concerned with the return on investment or true growth of the game.”
Last month, hours after he had sat alongside al-Rumayyan for a television interview, he adopted a decidedly different tone, in part because tour leaders had effectively concluded that their battle with the wealth fund was unsustainable.
“I recognize that people are going to call me a hypocrite,” Monahan said last month. “Anytime I said anything, I said it with the information that I had at that moment, and I said it based on someone that’s trying to compete for the PGA Tour and our players. I accept those criticisms. But circumstances do change.”
And the deal, he insisted, would allow the tour to work with the wealth fund in “a constructive and productive way.”
Criticism rained down anyway.
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