PGA chief accepts 'hypocrite' tag as players call for resignation after LIV Golf merger

PGA Tour commissioner had what was described as an 'intense' and 'heated' discussion with players at Canadian Open following shock announcement of merger with Saudi-backed LIV Golf

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan held a 'heated' discussion with players at the Canadian Open following the announcement of a merge with the DP World Tour and LIV Golf Series. EPA
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PGA Tour chief Jay Monahan said he understood being branded a "hypocrite" after brokering the stunning merger with LIV Golf.

Monahan was accused of hypocrisy after announcing that the PGA Tour and DP World Tour had agreed a tie-up with the Saudi-backed LIV circuit in a bid to end golf's civil war.

The PGA Tour chief – who has railed against LIV since its inception while simultaneously lobbying star tour players to resist huge paydays to join the circuit – attended a tense meeting with players at the Canadian Open in Toronto on Tuesday, with some calling for his resignation.

In a media conference call later Tuesday, Monahan acknowledged that criticism directed at him was inevitable.

"I recognise everything that I've said in the past and my prior positions," said Monahan, who will be the chief executive of the new tour.

"I recognise that people are going to call me a hypocrite."

PGA Tour winner Johnson Wagner told Golf Channel that there was plenty of anger in the room after Monahan came to a merger agreement with LIV Golf and the Saudi Public Investment Fund without consulting with the players.

"It was contentious," Wagner said. "There were many moments where certain players were calling for new leadership of the PGA Tour and even got a couple standing ovations.

"I think the most powerful moment was when a player quoted commissioner Monahan from the 3M [Open] in Minnesota last year when he said, ‘As long as I'm commissioner of the PGA Tour, no player that took LIV money will ever play the PGA Tour again.' It just seems like a lot of backtracking."

Monahan, 53, insisted his staunch defence of the PGA Tour over the past year was in good faith, but that "circumstances do change."

"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," Monahan said.

"I accept those criticisms, but circumstances do change. I think that in looking at the big picture and looking at it this way, that's what got us to this point."

Monahan 'didn't talk specifics'

PGA Tour veteran and major champion Geoff Ogilvy of Australia told reporters the meeting was not informative, saying he got the sense that the tour rushed the announcement sooner than it wanted to make it.

"[Monahan] just sort of explained the structure, how it's going to look going forward," Ogilvy said. "Didn't really talk specifics. It was a tough meeting for both sides, I think for Jay and all the players, because nobody really knows what this is going to look like in the end."

Monahan, who has held the position of PGA Tour chief since 2017, defended the cloak-and-dagger nature of the merger talks with LIV that led to Tuesday's announcement.

"Given the complexity of what we were dealing with, it's not uncommon that the circle of information is very tight," Monahan said.

"In our case, we kept that information very tight ... we were not in a position to share or explain, as we normally would, and that was really a result of the commitment we had made to maintaining confidentiality through the end."

With the Saudi Public Investment Fund making a capital investment in the new entity formed by the merger of the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LIV Golf, PIF governor Yasir Al Rumayyan will be its chairman and Monahan is set to be the CEO.

As part of the deal, the sides are dropping all lawsuits involving LIV Golf against each other effective immediately.

Tiger and McIlroy kept in dark

The deal reportedly was negotiated over the course of the past seven weeks, and key players like Tiger Woods and Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy – one of the most outspoken critics of LIV Golf – were not let in on Monahan's decision until the last minute.

"Obviously Tiger and Rory's perspective is one that I understand very well, and it was part of my thinking throughout these conversations, and it will be a part of my thinking going forward," Monahan said. "Now that we're in a framework agreement, I look forward to talking to all of our players, including the two of them, to make certain that this comes off the right way."

Monahan said the agreement is only a framework and that he hasn't studied everything about the LIV Golf model.

Woods and McIlroy have yet to publicly comment. McIlroy, the defending champion of the Canadian Open, is scheduled to speak to the press Wednesday.

Former US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau, one of the most high-profile recruits to LIV Golf, described the agreement as “the best thing that could ever happen for the game of golf.”

He told CNN: “The fans are going to get what they want. I want the fans, the players and the game of golf to win. In the end, the game of golf wins in this scenario.

“We are better together and not apart.”

Updated: June 07, 2023, 11:42 AM