New commissioner Monahan makes quick connection with players
By DOUG FERGUSON
KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) Six days into the job, the new PGA Tour commissioner made a quick impression with the players.
Jay Monahan was in blue jeans.
"I don't think I've ever seen Tim (Finchem) in jeans before," Rod Pampling said with a laugh as he recalled the Saturday night dinner for players at Sansei, a popular seafood spot at Kapalua that the PGA Tour took over for the evening. "It was a little bit refreshing."
They did not solve pace of play. There was talk about the future schedule and television, but that was the case when Finchem took over in 1994, and those will be topics when the next commissioner comes along.
This was more of a meet-and-greet, and by the sound of it, there was plenty of both.
"He was going around the room individually trying to talk to everybody," Jordan Spieth said. "I think everyone is really excited. What Tim Finchem has done, it's going to be difficult shoes to fall into. I think he wants to meet with me, he wants to meet with a lot of guys - different ages, different tiers of the tour. I think he's got big ideas he wants to move on quickly. But he's going to everybody to figure it out."
On the surface, there would not seem to be much to fix except for the endless task of keeping tournaments sponsored (the FedEx Cup is up for renewal this year), staying current with television and digital rights that have allowed prize money to approach $300 million and making sure players only make news on the course.
That's not as simple as it sounds, and it won't be easy for Monahan, either.
But the excitement about a new leader was palpable during the first week of the new year in Hawaii because the 46-year-old Monahan is a great listener, which is tantamount to being a great communicator.
Jason Bohn, who is on the PGA Tour policy board, was at the TPC Sawgrass last month when Finchem bid farewell to the staff.
"I noticed the difference in speaking," Bohn said. "When Tim was speaking up there, the monotone ... Tim is a bright guy and he's done a lot of great things for our tour. But when Jay got up to speak and accept the job, the way he handled the 300 people in the room and the way 300 people reacted to him, there was laughter, there was excitement. There was a different vibe. He has a great idea where we're going. He's trying to make the tour better for the players and the fans."
Monahan hasn't shared many details of his vision, though it's evident there is a strong focus on identifying fans and getting them involved.
That's one area where the tour has lagged.
It took until 2011, for example, before the PGA Tour allowed fans to have phones on the golf course, and only then with plenty of strings attached. Monahan took a trip to Silicon Valley last summer to meet with social media giants, and he came away with the sobering realization that "we're taking away from our ability to grow."
"As much progress as we've made with our platforms, we weren't moving fast enough," he said. "We had ... a tendency to think about what we didn't want to have happen at tournaments."
He cited Stephen Curry as an example at the NBA Finals last year, video of him making half-court shots and his dribbling drills.
"All that stuff is posted, and it's gotten an enormous following," Monahan said. "And that enormous following precedes the live broadcast. And then it's content that you're seeing for days and weeks and months on end. But I think they have a lot of resources, and they're very aggressive in testing and trying out new things."
Monahan wants to try what hasn't been done before.
"Some of them work and some won't," he said. "Some, you'll look at us and say, `Huh?' And some will probably be very logical."
It will take more than one year to measure Monahan as a commissioner. Pampling was most impressed at the player dinner about the way Monahan worked the room, compared with how Finchem would be "happy to sit in one spot and have people come to him."
"Then again, 22 years of having pros complain to you might harden you," he said.
Monahan is new. Optimism is high. Some of that is because the public personalities of the two commissioners are so different.
"Tim did a lot behind closed doors for the PGA Tour," Charley Hoffman said. "I think Jay is going to do really well in front of the media, in front of the players, and hopefully he does just as well behind closed doors. ... If Jay does half the job Tim did, he's going to be an amazing commissioner. Everyone sees that."
Updated January 10, 2017