Jay Monahan sends mixed signals with emphasis on playing opportunities

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Jay Monahan sends mixed signals with emphasis on playing opportunities

PGA Tour

Jay Monahan sends mixed signals with emphasis on playing opportunities

Jay Monahan is sending mixed signals and he may have no choice in the matter.

The PGA Tour commissioner, after all, works for players who expect to hear “maximizing playing opportunities” every third sentence Monahan utters.

But the commissioner also has to represent the interests of television networks, sponsors and the fans who watch PGA Tour golf.

It’s safe to say “maximizing playing opportunities” does not mean a thing to the modern sports fan or the company ponying up $8-12 million for a one-week sponsorship. And the television networks will not be eager to renew past 2021 for an oversaturated product watered down by too many playing options.

As Monahan indicated at Tuesday’s Tour Championship news conference, the season is going to end sooner starting in 2019, meaning the demise of at least three PGA Tour events between January and September.

“I think that you look at our schedule now and you look at the strength of the NFL and you look at the strength of our playoffs and we listen to what our fans are saying, if we had a scenario where we could culminate our FedExCup Playoffs in the strongest manner possible, that’s the direction we’re going to head,” he said.

Translation players: no one is watching golf once football starts. The season will end on Labor Day. We all know it’s for the best.

It’s pretty clear nearly everyone involved with the sport wants pro golf to have an offseason for everyone to recharge their batteries, even if it’s just for a few weeks.

In the same news conference, however, Monahan threw red meat to the base, those amazingly vocal pro golfers who live around 50th to 150th and blissfully unaware they do not sell tickets or elicit major corporations to cut big checks.

“I find the discussion about an offseason to be interesting because you go back to 1967, there were 47 events on our schedule,” Monahan said in making his case for the current schedule size he will soon be targeting with modest trimming. “The schedule started the first week in January, ended the second week in December. You go back 60 years ago there were 48 events on our schedule. So this schedule’s been pretty consistent for a long period of time and I expect it to be that way going forward.”

Actually a few things have changed.

The “playoffs” are a relatively new thing, forcing top players to compete at a high level in the late summer months following the PGA Championship. Before they could take a nice summer break after the majors.

Speaking of summer breaks, the budding player earning his PGA Tour card after an exhausting late summer Web.com Tour playoff run is expected to take a week off and begin earning points during the PGA Tour’s fall schedule. This is not healthy.

The sports fan is very different now, too. It is much easier than ever to track the American public’s eyeballs and since the advent of a “wraparound” calendar awarding FedExCup points to fall events, the ratings are no different than they were when the events were charming affairs featuring emerging talents and journeyman fighting for their existence.

But even as all signals pointing to the logic of ending by Labor Day and turning the fall back to the journeyman, the “playing opportunities” crowd clearly has Monahan’s ear.

“The fact of the matter is if you create an offseason you create openings and there’s so much demand from fans,” Monahan said. “You see it in Malaysia, you see it in Korea, you see it in China, you see it in new events that we’re adding, that gap will be filled and we think it’s our job to maximize playing and financial opportunities. We’re going to continue to focus on that and do it in the interest of the fan, but at the same time I think you have to listen to what players are saying. We don’t have an answer or solution, but we understand that this is going to be part of the discussion for some time to come.”

Yes it will as long as the lower rung of the PGA Tour understandably wants to play for money and rewards PGA Tour executives for growing opportunities.

But the fans have spoken: more will watch a re-run of Tin Cup than live fall golf. Monahan and his lieutenants know this and appear to be proceeding with plans to make the January to August schedule as strong and smart as possible going forward.

But if you’re in favor of a tighter scheduling window that takes into account what the fans and check-writers demand, it’s easy to be concerned by Monahan’s mixed signals. Be grateful you don’t have to answer to his constituency, which does not always think beyond their very understandable self interests.

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